The field of 64 has been whittled down to the "Lucky Eight," and we've seen 56 dreams die along the way. Normally, you might call the remaining teams the Elite Eight, but let's face it, if a team has actually made it through the muck and mire of the past two weekends and arrived at the College World Series, consider that school lucky as much as good.
The carnage was bad during regional play while the super regionals were a little tamer. It can be argued that six of the eight teams going to Omaha could have been considered as favorites in their super regional matchups. And honestly, Ole Miss fans would say the Rebels deserved a national seed to begin with. By my estimation, UC Irvine was the only real upstart to reach the College World Series. There you go, Omaha: The Anteaters are the underdog you always like to pull for.
Five takeaways from the super regionals
1. The Big 12 flexes its muscle: Four of the five teams that made the NCAA tournament field from the Big 12 advanced to the super regionals, and three of those teams -- Texas, Texas Tech and TCU -- advanced to the College World Series.
The Longhorns gave up 18 hits in the two games, but they still had little drama in disposing of Houston. Texas Tech could muster only two runs in 18 innings, but you have to score just one run to win a baseball game. And TCU? Well, the Horned Frogs had the wildest time of the three, having to stage a furious ninth-inning rally to soak the Pepperdine Waves in Monday's winner-take-all game.
The Big 12 is 19-7 through two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
2. Who's not going to Omaha? The fallout from the rash of upsets is certainly noticeable when you consider that only two of the top eight national seeds are still alive: No. 3 Virginia and No. 7 TCU. It's the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999 that there aren't at least three national seeds playing in the CWS. It's also weird to see that this will be the first time since 1996 that there won't be a Pac-12 team in Omaha. It's also the second straight year that no team from the state of Florida will be represented.
Of the top 20 teams in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, only three are still alive: No. 6 Virginia, No. 8 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Louisville. So next season, if your team isn't included in the preseason rankings, just respond by saying, "Good."
3. There's nothing wrong with the SEC after all: If you had predicted two teams from the SEC would make it to the College World Series, you probably would have gotten mostly shrugged shoulders and an affirming "Yep." And here we are, with Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the Lucky Eight.
Ole Miss won the SEC West Division with a record of 19-11, but the Rebels went into their super regional matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette with a 13-11 record away from Swayze Field, which did not bode well going into the environment they saw at Tigue Moore Field in Lafayette. No matter, the Rebels won the decisive Game 3 10-4 to reach their first College World Series since 1972.
Vanderbilt is widely regarded as the most talented team remaining in the field, but it has shown flashes of inconsistency at the wrong times this season. The Commodores finished 17-13 in SEC play and were badly outscored in two losses in the SEC tournament. Still, if they play to their potential, they will bring home the hardware.
4. Road teams showed a lot of heart in losing efforts: Maryland, Pepperdine and Stanford were way off the radar entering the NCAA tournament, especially the Waves and Cardinal, who each came in as No. 3 seeds and nearly won their way to Omaha. All three programs pushed their home opponents to a third game in the super regionals by laying an impressive loss on their hosts. The Terrapins showed a lot of courage and were able to hand Virginia ace Nathan Kirby just his second loss of the season in Game 1 on Saturday; the Cardinal beat Vanderbilt with a walk-off home run Saturday; and if not for a miraculous ninth-inning rally by TCU on Monday, we would be looking at the Waves back in Omaha for the first time since 1992. Both Pepperdine and Maryland were playing in their first super regional and played like veterans.
5. The winning formula for the NCAA tournament: We all know how the last three teams in Omaha have won national titles, right? Pitching. Defense. Situational hitting. Fundamentals. That style of play was all over the place this weekend, especially in the way UC Irvine took down jittery Oklahoma State and Texas Tech put the clamps on College of Charleston, advancing with a pair of 1-0 wins. Texas surely fits that style. The Longhorns gave up 18 hits in their two wins over Houston but committed just one error and issued four walks in 18 innings.
Of the eight remaining teams, seven are in the top 21 in team ERA, led by No. 1 TCU and No. 3 Virginia. Only Texas Tech does not have a team ERA in the top 50, but we saw how good the Red Raiders pitched to College of Charleston. Also, seven of the eight teams in Omaha are in the top 50 of team defense, led by Virginia, which also has the No. 3-ranked fielding percentage.