Here we are, roughly two-and-a-half weeks into the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tournament. We've gone from 64 teams down to eight and played 122 games in that span. Now begins Omaha, the final push to the national championship.
Now, some of you may have gotten a little overwhelmed with all that baseballin'. Some of you may have tuned out for a bit. Some of you may just be tuning in. In any event, we've put together a quick refresher course to get you caught up and keep you from getting embarrassed when your buddy asks you what you think of Indiana's chances against Louisville.
Below are the biggest and most important story lines of the tournament so far.
Favorites roll in regionals
For those looking for upsets and Cinderellas, the first round was a disappointment. Host teams dominated the action, winning 14 of the 16 regional sites. All but one of the eight national seeds advanced (Oregon was the only one bounced), and five of those swept their regionals in three games. The only lower seeds to move on were No. 2s Oklahoma and Rice.
National seeds fall in supers
Just when you thought the tournament was stuck in a rut of predictability, all hell broke loose in the second round. When the dust cleared, four of the seven national seeds that entered the super regionals were headed home, with only North Carolina, LSU and Oregon State on their way to Omaha. Louisville pulled off a shocking sweep in Nashville to eliminate No. 2 Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State rolled through No. 5 Virginia in two games.
The Commodores were exposed by a loss to Georgia Tech in the regionals, but pulled it together to advance and were still considered a serious national championship contender. Instead, they got swept by Louisville in the supers, losing 5-3 and 2-1 on back-to-back days. It's a disappointing end for a team that showed a ton of promise during the season. One can't help but be reminded of the über-talented '07 Vandy squad led by David Price that fell short in the super regionals.
Indiana is the tournament sweetheart
They're no Stony Brook (a four-seed who fought their way into the 2012 CWS), but the Hoosiers are the closest thing to a fairy-tale team left in this field. It has been a tournament of firsts for them: they won their first regional title, then won their first super regional to advance to Omaha for the first time. They may be the closest thing to a Cinderella, but that doesn't make them a shabby underdog -- Indiana is legit. They are batting .309 as a team in the tournament and lead all Omaha clubs with 47 runs scored.
North Carolina squeaking by
It has been a dramatic couple of weeks for the top seed. The Tar Heels fell to Florida Atlantic once in the first round, then barely managed to scrape past them in a thrilling 13-inning rematch. Twice North Carolina was down to its last two outs, and twice they mounted last-ditch rallies to extend the game. They finally pulled out the winning run in the 13th in what has been by far the best game of the tournament, if not the entire college baseball season. After losing Game 2 of the super regionals to South Carolina, they needed another walk-off win to get past the Gamecocks in the deciding Game 3.
LSU is really, really good
The Tigers struggled a bit out of the starting blocks against Jackson State and Sam Houston State in round one, but they rolled into the super regionals undefeated. There they met Oklahoma. Game 1 was close, as LSU's Aaron Nola outdueled OU's Jonathan Gray in a tense 2-0 game that has been the best pitching matchup so far. LSU then cruised in Game 2, putting up six runs in the ninth inning to pull away 11-1. This team is clicking on all cylinders both offensively and defensively, and it's hard to spot any weakness. They're in their first CWS since '09, when they won a national championship trophy. We'll have more on LSU's title chances later Thursday.
Here are the eight teams left competing, paired with the team they'll face first (national seeds in parentheses):