The first games of the 2015 College World Series begin on Saturday, which inevitably means teams will start losing on Saturday. Teams will be dropped into the losers bracket and, before long, eliminated. Seasons will end and grown men will cry. How very disappointing.
But as of Friday, all eight teams are still undefeated in Omaha, which means all eight of them (especially your team) still have a great shot to win the national championship.
Sure, some have better chances than others: if you're picking a favorite, the smart money is somewhere in the SEC heavyweight triumvirate of Florida, LSU and Vanderbilt. But none of those three is a particularly overwhelming favorite, plus this is baseball, a sport where momentum and rhythm mean just as much (if not more) than talent and ability. Every team in the field has a legitimate shot to run the table and lift the trophy.
Record: 40-23 (17-12 SEC)
Why they can win it all: (Mugatu voice) The Hogs, so hot right now.
After starting the season 14-14, Arkansas has been on an absolute tear. The Razorbacks didn't lose a single SEC series over the final eight weeks of the regular season, won their first two games in Hoover, ran through the Stillwater Regional undefeated and knocked off nationally-seeded Missouri State in the supers. They're on fire, and it doesn't hurt that Player of the Year candidate (and, as of Monday, No. 7 overall pick of the MLB Draft) Andrew Benentendi lurks in the middle of the lineup.
Record: 39-22 (15-15 ACC)
Why they can win it all: Because you never count out Wahoos skipper Brian O'Connor. Ever.
Virginia was so injury-depleted in March that O'Connor had to go to the school's club team shopping for warm bodies. There was a stretch the middle of the season when the team had lost 13 of its last 22 games and just making the field of 64 seemed a sketchy proposition. Yet here they are. O'Connor dug around in his pockets and Macgyvered his club back to Omaha. Don't ask questions, just wonder at his wizardry.
Record: 49-16 (19-11 SEC)
Why they can win it all: The Gators are just beating the breaks off fools in the postseason. Not only are they undefeated in the NCAA Tourney, they've outscored their five opponents 53-12 and clobbered all but one of them by at least five runs (the exception being a 2-1 win over Florida Atlantic to clinch the regional). The super regional with Florida State was supposed to be a showdown of historic rivals -- instead, the Gators spent two days making the Noles play fetch in the outfield. Including its championship run through the SEC Tournament, Florida hasn't lost in almost four weeks. They may not lose again in 2015.
Record: 49-15 (23-8 ACC)
Why they can win it all: The Hurricanes can straight up bash. They rank top five nationally in batting average, on-base percentage and scoring. What's truly frightening about this lineup is its balance: the seven, eight and nine batters are hitting a combined .304 with 90 RBI and nine homers, giving Miami's order more thump at the back end than a Beyonce concert.
Record: 53-10 (21-8 SEC)
Why they can win it all: This may be one of the most balanced teams Paul Mainieri has fielded in Baton Rouge. Only one guy in the everyday lineup is hitting below .500 and all nine have at least one homer (five of them have left the yard at least four times). Freshman ace Alex Lange sports a nasty 1.98 ERA and with Jared Poche rounding back into form (he gave up one earned run and fanned seven in 7.2 innings in the clinching game of the super), the Tigers have one of the better one-two starting pitching combos in Omaha. And while there was a time you could knock the bullpen as a potential weakness, it's been lights-out in the postseason.
Record: 49-13 (18-5 Big 12)
Why they can win it all: The Frogs bullpen is deeeeeep. Even with Pre-Season Player of the Year Riley Ferrell struggling (seven earned runs and two blown saves in his last 1.2 innings pitched) and three of the last four games going to extras, the other six relievers have allowed just one earned run in 26.1 tournament innings. In the six-hour marathon to clinch the super over A&M, Brian Howard and Mitchell Traver combined for a one-hitter in six extra innings. TCU's ability to wage siege warfare makes them the team most suited to bounce back from an early loss, and if Ferrell can somehow find a rhythm in Omaha, forget about it.
Cal State Fullerton
Record: 39-23 (19-5 Big West)
Why they can win it all: The Titans had a strong enough season to host (and sweep) a regional. But they were kind of an afterthought heading into a super against No. 3 national seed Louisville, a team a lot of folks had pegged as a national championship favorite. But Fullerton's pitching ended up being too much for the Cardinals, outlasting them in a pair of extra-innings showdowns. If you can out-duel Louisville, you can out-duel anybody.
Record: 47-19 (20-10 SEC)
Why they can win it all: By the standards of the MLB Draft, this is the most loaded team in Omaha. Vandy had three players taken in the top 24 picks and six in the first six rounds. That includes No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, the holy-crap-did-he-really-just-do-that shortstop, who heard his name called literally 15 minutes after the Dores dogpiled in Illinois and No. 8 overall Carson Fulmer, the ace right-hander with a 1.82 ERA and a SEC-leading 152 strikeouts. Most of that drafted talent -- five of eight total selections -- is stockpiled in the pitching ranks, giving head coach Tim Corbin a staff bristling with pro talent.