The 2021 NCAA Tourney Bracket was announced on Monday. As always, there are some angry fan bases and some happy ones. Before I get to my reaction to the bracket, we launched this Barstool Omaha shirt in the Barstool Store on Monday! I like the design and the shirt has me fired up for my 1st trip to the College World Series in Omaha. If you order one the next couple of days, it should arrive just in time to support your team in Omaha at the CWS!
All 16 regionals have 4 teams each and play a double elimination tournament. The 16 winners play in 8 Super Regionals next weekend that are best 2 of 3 games to decide who makes the CWS in Omaha.
The Arkansas Razorbacks are the #1 seed and that is no shock to anyone. The SEC Regular Season Champs went ahead and won the SEC Tournament in Hoover on Sunday 7-2 over #4 Tennessee. This team is loaded with a deep and powerful lineup plus they have the best closer I have seen possibly in college baseball in Kevin Kopps (66.1 innings 10-0 10 saves 105 Ks). The Razorbacks put Kopps in the game in the 6th or 7th and it is literally over. His slider is absolutely devastating. They will take on NJIT in the Fayetteville Regional Friday.
The #2 seed in the Fayetteville Regional is the Nebraska Cornhuskers who won the Big 10. Their fans are super salty about getting shipped to Fayetteville as many people felt Nebraska was good enough to host a regional. The Huskers got hurt with their draw because the Big 10 did not have a conference tournament. They are a pretty strong #2 seed and have good pitching. They also have a 5,000+ seat stadium that would have been great for hosting a regional.
The Texas Longhorns ended up holding onto the #2 national seed despite getting knocked out of the Big 12 Tourney. David Pearce has done a fantastic job restoring the Longhorns to an elite level. The Fairfield Stags are the #3 seed in Austin. They are from Connecticut and went a whopping 35-3 (34-1 regular season!) but played only conference games. Winning 34 of 35 is insane no matter who they played!
The Tennessee Volunteers are the #3 national seed and one of the top stories in the country. Coach Tony Vitello has led the Vols to new heights this season capturing the SEC East Championship and finishing runner up to Arkansas in SEC Tourney.
Vols fans are not thrilled about their regional draw. They will take on #4 seed Wright State who is averaging over 10 runs a game. #2 seed Duke just won the ACC Tournament (beat NC State 1-0) and is coming in red hot. #3 seed Liberty knocked Tennessee out of the 2019 NCAA Tourney as well.
The 2019 national champion Vanderbilt Commodores are the #4 national seed. Led by the dominant 1-2 starting pitching combo of Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, they will be a nightmare to beat in a 2 of 3 Super Regional. Vandy is looking for their 3rd national title in last 8 years. Indiana St. is a pretty good #3 seed in Nashville region.
The Pac 12 Champion Arizona Wildcats are the #5 national seed. Led by freshman Jacob Berry (64 RBI), this team can mash the baseball. The committee did them no favors with their regional draw. #3 seed Oklahoma State finished runner up in the Big 12 Tourney and their pitching staff health has recently improved. The UCSB Gauchos are a solid #2 seed and Grand Canyon is a strong #4.
TCU is the #6 national seed after winning the Big 12 Tournament. The Horned Frogs lost their final three regular season series to Texas, UL-Monroe and Kansas State but totally redeemed themselves in Oklahoma City! They have a deep lineup and score a lot of runs by putting pressure on other teams defense.
Dallas Baptist is always good and is the #2 seed. Big shoutout to #4 seed McNeese State who won the Southland. Lake Charles got wrecked by Hurricane Laura and they had to overcome a ton to get in the tourney. They did not even have batting cages this season. Lake Charles deserves a break after all it has been through and it has hard to not cheer for Justin Hill’s Cowboys.
Mississippi State held onto the #7 national seed despite struggling down the stretch some. The Bulldogs won 20 SEC games which will earn a top 8 national seed almost every year. They had a brutal SEC Tourney getting run ruled by both Tennessee and Florida by a combined 25-4 but their resume was still strong enough to get a national seed.
The Bulldogs got an extremely favorable regional draw with VCU, Campbell and Samford. VCU has won 21 games in a row and is the Atlantic 10 Champion. Despite this, I thought they were a #3 seed coming from a weaker league. The tremendous homefield advantage at Dudy Noble will also play a big role against these smaller schools who have not seen anything like it. I expect the Bulldogs to roll.
The final national seed is #8 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are the only team in the country to host 5 straight regionals. Tim Tadlock just signed a lifetime contract. UCLA is the #2 seed coming out of a good Pac 12. #3 seed North Carolina got in the tourney with a 27-25 recored because of their high RPI and strength of schedule.
If any of these top 8 seeds win their regional, they automatically host a Super Regional next weekend to get to Omaha.
Stanford had a good year in the Pac 12 and is the #9 seed. They have an all West Coast regional with UC-Irvine (always feisty) Nevada and North Dakota State.
I was a little surprised Notre Dame was not a national seed. The #10 seed Irish won the ACC regular season and have had a fantastic year behind a stout pitching staff. They have an interesting regional with their rival #2 seed Michigan, the Big East Champion UCONN Huskies as #3 and the MAC Champs Central Michigan as the #4 seed. The Chippewas have an ace pitcher with a 1.20 ERA that could cause the Irish fits on Friday.
Old Dominion is the #11 seed but the regional is being hosted by #2 seed South Carolina in Columbia at Founders Park. They are one of the nation’s leaders in home runs and hit 7 in the CUSA semifinal Saturday! The Monarchs won the CUSA Tourney 7-5 in a 10 inning thriller over Louisiana Tech in Ruston on Sunday. Gotta give props to Robbie Petracci who pulled a Tim Elko and homered with a torn ACL pinch hitting in the 8th.
This is a huge break for South Carolina hosting in front of their rabid fan base. Old Dominion has a squad but this regional feels pretty wide open with #3 seed Virginia as well.
The Ole Miss Rebels are the #12 seed and are hosting a ball breaking regional in Oxford. The Rebels finished the season strong winning series over #4 Vandy and at Georgia then won 3 games in the SEC Tourney in Hoover. The return of senior captain Tim Elko and his torn ACL has provided a needed spark. The pitching staff had a big week in Hoover giving Rebel fans more confidence about their postseason chances.
#2 seed Southern Miss barely missed out on the #16 national seed losing not one but two heartbreakers to Louisiana Tech in the CUSA Tourney on Saturday. They blew an 8-0 lead in game 1 then a 5-2 lead in the 9th in game 2 when their 2nd baseman missed a pop up in shallow right! The Golden Eagles had a pitcher in at the end who had never pitched in college which was a little head scratching. USM does have some quality arms and the was the best pitching staff in CUSA.
#3 seed Florida State has a phenomenal baseball tradition coming out of the ACC and will not be an easy out. Legendary coach Mike Martin hung it up and the Notes are now coached by his son. Keep an eye on power hitting C Matheu Nelson and his 20 homers this season. I have my eye on this Southern Miss/Florida State game Friday afternoon as it should be a good one. #4 seed SE Missouri State has a good ace pitcher the Rebels have to deal with on Friday too.
The American Athletic Regular Season Champs East Carolina are the #13 seed and host in Greenville, North Carolina. They are consistently one of the top G5 programs and coach Cliff Godwin does a fantastic job. Connor Norby is a helluva player. Their fans love college baseball and this should be a good atmosphere.
#2 seed Charlotte was top 25 most of the season but faded late in CUSA regular season and tourney. #3 Maryland is one of the hottest teams in the country coming out of the Big 10 and snuck into the field.
The Oregon Ducks are the #14 seed and host a fascinating regional in Eugene. The Ducks were ranked as high as #6 but faded some late allowing Arizona and Stanford to jump them in Pac 12 standings. #2 seed Gonzaga was projected to be a regional host but came up just short. They won the West Coast Conference and also proved their mettle with a road trip against tough Texas teams in March.
The #3 seed is the LSU Tigers who squeaked into the tourney. Head Coach Paul Mainieri announced his retirement over the weekend and this is his farewell tour. He won a national title in 2009 and finished runner up to Florida in 2017. He also led the Tigers to Omaha 5 times. The Tigers might make some noise led by ace pitcher Landon Marceaux and have a shot in this regional.
The Florida Gators are the #15 seed and host a regional in their new ballpark in Gainesville. The Gators had an uncharacteristically slower start in the SEC but came on strong late. They made a pretty big run to the semis in SEC Tourney falling to Tennessee. Jud Fabian is a strong power hitter for the Gators to watch out for.
Miami is the #2 seed in Gainesville and always a tough out in the tourney. This is not the best Hurricanes team I have seen but they can still never be written off with lots of talent. #3 seed South Alabama won the Sun Belt and #4 seed South Florida made an improbable run to the American Athletic Tournament Title.
Finally, Louisiana Tech pulled off a historic feat as the #16 seed and will host at the new Love Shack In Ruston. In April 2019, a tornado ravaged their old ball park and the town. The Bulldogs were forced to play on the road and at Ruston High School while the new stadium was being built. The first year in the new park Lane Burrroughs led this senior laden team to hosting a regional. This is a fantastic story and I have thrown a lot of support behind these guys all season. The Bulldogs have the best hitting team in CUSA. The two comeback wins against Southern Miss on Saturday were pure insanity at the Love Shack!
They will be joined in Ruston by #2 seed North Carolina State who started a wretched 1-8 in the ACC and somehow finished 2nd in the regular season! What a heater. The Wolf Pack finished as the runner up to Duke in the ACC Tourney. #3 seed Alabama snuck into the field at 31-24. A lot of people thought LSU would get sent to Ruston but it is probably for the best that Tech fans get to enjoy this historic achievement for the school without their stadium being overrun by Tiger fans.