Here is your complete guide to the teams of the 2016 Men's College World Series:
Omaha History: Four CWS Titles, 17 CWS Appearances
Overview: When the Wildcats won the title in 2012 they walked into Omaha with a dominant pitching staff and a team full of gap power. This year's version scrapes by on grit and determination. They're the CWS version of MacGuyver. It's not always pretty, but the Wildcats are fantastic at making something out of nothing. They're one of the most patient teams in the country, ranking in the top 15 in walks. They scrape together hits, and they've mastered the art of hitting with runners in scoring position. In a down year for the Pac-12 they only managed to finish third, so they were far from dominant. However, it's a team that has mastered it's motto. They know when to "Bear Down" and make the crucial plays.
Road to Omaha: The Cats took the road less traveled. They didn't host a regional or a super regional. They clawed their way out of the Lafayette region. Then, they traveled to Starkville and swept Mississippi State in one of the toughest places to win in the country. Against Mississippi State they trailed late only to battle back and win in extra innings in a performance that typifies the type of team they've been all season.
Players To Watch:
Bobby Dalbec - He's one of the most versatile players in the game. At the plate he swings for the fences with little regard for contact. Arizona plays in a big park, so his six home runs might not seem that impressive. But, he was a 4th round pick, because major league scouts think his raw power is as good as anyone in the country. He also has a cannon at third base that he converts into a sniper rifle on the mound. He can pump pitches into the low to mid-90's, and the Cats use him as a closer. He struck out seventy batters and racked up seven saves this year. It's the fact that he can hit and pitch that makes him more rare than Adamantium in the Marvel Universe.
Nathan Bannister - Pitching and defense can carry you a long way at TD Ameritrade Park, and Bannister gives Arizona one of the most consistent arms in the field. He tossed nearly 127 innings this year and only walked 28 batters while striking out 93. He leads the team in ERA, and he can go deep in games to help keep the bullpen fresh in a tournament format.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If the Wildcats can continue to play plucky baseball and grind out at-bats they could be a true threat. The CWS often rewards teams that stay alive and scrap. As the pressure mounts mistakes become more likely, and the Wildcats are very good at taking advatage of their opponents' missteps.
Two And Barbecue if...: If Arizona is forced to dig deep into their staff this could be a quick visit to the Cornhusker state. Their pitching gets rocky pretty quickly, and with just an average offense they can't afford to find themselves facing big deficits early.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Omaha baseball fans are pretty familiar with scrappy teams that play solid defense and grind out at-bats. There's a team that plays its home games at TD Ameritrade that uses that style as their modus operandi. So, if you're a Creighton fan looking for a team that reminds you of the Bluejays, this could be a good option.
Omaha History: Four CWS titles, 25 appearances
Overview: The Canes are back for the 25th time, and they're still a swaggering, bat-flipping, home run-smashing juggernaut. Miami's offense hits opposing pitchers like Mike Tyson in his prime. It's a pure carnage attack with only pitcher's mental health bills left in its wake. This version of Miami also features a plethora of arms and enough speed on defense to make getting hits exceedingly difficult. They're one of the most complete teams in the country, and they feature plenty of big game experience after making the trip to Omaha just last season.
Road to Omaha: Miami cruised through regional play before running into a stiff challenge from Boston College. The series went the distance with the Hurricanes running away with it in the third game. Tempers flared towards the end of the final game, and it might help Miami to play in such a fiercely contested series before heading to the big stage.
Players To Watch:
Willie Abreu - He made this spot last year, and he's on here again this year. Abreu turned up his already prodigious power this season to the tune of 12 homers and 56 RBI's. He's also a fan favorite with an infectious attitude that's present in everything he does. Miami's a team that feeds of each others emotions and Abreu wears his on his sleeve.
Zack Collins - The 10th overall pick in this year's MLB Draft annihilated pitchers with a bat more vicious than a pack of wolves who haven't eaten in days. He cracked 15 home runs while hitting .357 and slugging a ridiculous .649. Collins also improved behind the plate this season. He's better at blocking behind the plate and improved his throws to second. He's a player with very few flaws and a penchant for exposing those of any pitcher that dares to put a pitch within his swing radius.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If the Hurricanes can continue to hit and play defense at the level they have all year they could very well raise a fifth banner. Miami's a battle-tested force that was able to put up gaudy numbers while playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country. There's not a team in the tournament that can throw more at them than they faced during the regular season.
Two And Barbecue if...: If Miami's bats can't find the distance in the cavernous dimensions of TD Ameritrade Park they could find themselves in a pitching duel. The Canes have talented arms, but it's far from their strong suit. And, playing outside of your comfort zone is a recipe for getting beat.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: This is a tough one. The Husker-Hurricane football rivalry seems to spill over to the diamond whenever they come to the CWS. But, if you like swagger and entertainment, Miami brings that in bunches.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Omaha History: 1 CWS Title, 20 CWS appearances
Overview: Oklahoma State used to be a regular attendee at the College World Series, but this year marks their first time back since 1999. It's like they've emerged from a little slumber...if they were also Rip Van Winkle. This iteration of the Cowboys wins with pitching and defense. They have the eighth best fielding percentage in the NCAA, and a pitching staff with more arms than U.S. military. They've got a bona fide ace, a great number two, an elite closer, and plenty of options out of the pen. Plus, their offense appears to be kicking into gear at the perfect time. The Cowboys didn't host a regional, and they weren't one of the favorites to make it this far But, they have proven to be a very dangerous team.
Road to Omaha: The Cowboys went on the road in regionals and shut down one of the most prolific offenses in the country in Clemson. Then, they traveled to South Carolina and managed to win two straight games in one of the toughest road environments in the nation. They're playing as good as anyone in the country right now.
Players To Watch:
Thomas Hatch - The Big 12 Pitcher of the Year dialed his performance up a few more notches during the NCAA tournament. Against Hatch, Nebraska and South Carolina bats existed only as rumors. He decimated opposing lineups with a great mixture of stuff and accuracy. Opponents only managed to hit .231 against him this season. His ERA is just a hair over 2.00, and he struck out 105 batters while walking just 30.
Conor Costello - He battled injury this season, but when he's healthy he's one of the best bats in the Big 12. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State's opponents, Costello is now healthy. Husker fans are familiar with his work as he shredded their pitching staff like mozzarella. He's the rare breed of hitter that can hit for contact without sacrificing power. His overall homer total of five is depressed by injury, but his bat control is real. Costello hit .367 this year with an OBP of .462.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If they can continue their recent hot streak there's no reason to think they won't be dogpiling in the infield. Sometimes sports is just about catching fire at the right time, and Oklahoma State has all the makings of a team putting it together at the right moment. They're pitching has been superb all season, but their bats have made incredible progress over the past two weeks. Maybe just maybe this is your team of destiny.
Two And Barbecue if...: If their pitching staff has a couple off games the Cowboys improved offense doesn't quite have the firepower to win many shootouts.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Nebraska fans love to think about the past, and that nostalgia could get them reminiscing on the good old days in the Big 12. They might even take it further back and remember the Big 8. Oklahoma State played with the Huskers in both of those conferences, and there's plenty of Big 8 loyalists that still reside in Omaha.
UC Santa Barbara
Omaha History: First CWS Appearance
Overview: The Gauchos might be the most unusual name in this year's CWS, but don't let anyone convince you they don't have a chance. UCSB didn't rack up 42 wins in the always tough Big West by accident. They fought through that minefield of a conference by being consistently good in every phase of the game. They can hit, pitch, and they're one of the few teams in the field that deploy a dangerous running game on the bases. They had three players rack up double-digit numbers in steals this season, and just about every batter on their team managed to steal a couple bases. The threat of the running game makes every runner they get on base just a little bit scarier.
Road to Omaha: Santa Barbara earned a two-seed in regional play, and advanced out of a tough group with Vanderbilt, Washington, and Xavier. Their reward was the number two national seed, Louisville. They promptly and impressively dispatched of the Cardinals in two games in Louisville. In the second game they won in the most improbable fashion imaginable. Santa Barbara eliminated Louisville with a walk-off, pinch-hit, Grand Slam in a game which they trailed by three. It was a finish so unexpected that it would have seemed ridiculous even in a Disney sports movie.
Players To Watch:
Austin Bush - The sophomore first baseman led Gauchos in home runs (11) and RBI's (49), but with a .269 average he was also a little bit all-or-nothing in his approach. Players like this can sometimes disappear at the CWS due to the larger dimensions of TD Ameritrade Park. But, Bush was able to put up big power numbers in a conference with plenty of deep fences. He also possesses good gap power which could come in handy over the next few weeks.
Shane Bieber - Despite an unfortunate last name Bieber's a pitcher who is all album cuts with no singles. He's not flashy. He doesn't blow batters away with otherworldly stuff. He surgically dismembers them with a scalpel. He lives on the black and wins with location and change of speed. Bieber carved hitters up with 103 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 126.2 innings. He tossed four complete games and consistently pitched into the late innings. He's the type of workhorse pitcher who can end up making a name for himself in a tournament format.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If they can use their pitching to keep games close, and then use their speed on the basepaths to force errors the Gauchos could become a first time winner in their first ever Omaha appearance. First-timers are always at a disadvantage, but with a pitcher like Bieber anchoring their staff they could easily find themselves in the winner's bracket. And, winning this even is much easier with a victory in the first game.
Two And Barbecue if...: If UCSB lets the moment overwhelm them like it does so many first-time teams then they'll be quickly packing for a return trip to California.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: The Gauchos are here for the first time, and there's plenty of local fans that have a long standing tradition of supporting teams making their first trip to the Big O.
TCU Horned Frogs
Omaha History: Four CWS appearances
Overview: It wasn't too long ago that the Horned Frogs were strangers around these parts, but this is now their fourth trip since 2010. Everyone in the city is now familiar with how to make the Horned Frogs hand sign. TCU's another team that made it this far with pitching and defense. They own the best team ERA of any team in the field, and they have the deepest staff of any club here as well. TCU has 11 pitchers that they are comfortable deploying at any time. This makes them exceedingly dangerous in a tournament that often puts a massive strain on pitching staffs. Despite their pitching and defense rep the Frogs can rake at the dish too. Evan Skoug, Luken Baker, and Josh Watson give them plenty of pop. They hit 51 home runs as a team, and still maintained a team batting average over .300.
Road to Omaha: TCU won the Big 12 tournament. They hosted a regional and won that. Then they went on the road to the SEC tournament champions' house and won that super regional as well. They're one of the hottest teams in the country at the moment.
Players To Watch:
Luken Baker - The freshman behemoth was nicknamed Thor due to his size likeness to the God of Thunder. He stands 6'4, weighs in at 265 pounds, and he atomizes baseballs with one swing of his bat. Baker crushed Big 12 pitching with a .379 average that included 9 home runs and 57 RBI. He's also patient. He racked up an OBP of .488. That means he reached base nearly fifty percent of the time he came to the plate! Baker is the English language and pitchers are Sylvester Stallone.
The Bullpen- This is a first time occurrence. In the seven years I've been writing these primers I've never put a group of players as a "player to watch". In this case it's warranted. It's tough to pick just one guy out of a group that's dominance is due to there being a group of them. Durbin Feltman, Drew Gooch, Ryan Burnett, and Brian Trieglaff all own sub 3.00 ERAs and a penchant for sitting down batters at will. Jared Janczak has started more recently, but he was also a very good option out of the pen for a large chunk of the season. TCU's the extremely rare breed of team that gets more dangerous when their starter leaves the game.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If TCU can get a lead early in the game then they can operate like last year's Kansas City Royals with the bullpen making comebacks nearly impossible. Their later inning staff puts the pressure on their opponents.
Two And Barbecue if...: Two straight losses for the Frogs feels unlikely, but TCU could be in trouble if the fall behind early. While they have the offense to come back from a large deficit, trailing late makes their bullpen strength less important.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Sound the local connection siren!!!! TCU's Ryan Merrill is a Millard West product who also played JUCO ball at Iowa Western. He provided a steady bat and solid defense for the Horned Frogs middle infield this season. He ripped a key RBI double in TCU's game one win over Texas A&M in super regional action.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Omaha History: 2 CWS appearances
Overview: The Big 12 regular season champions are back for the second time in three years after never making it once before 2014. Three teams from the Big 12 have made their way to this year's CWS, so the fact that Texas Tech won the league title speaks volumes. The Red Raiders are an offensive juggernaut. They feature a lineup that has six of nine batters with an average over .300. Three players cracked double-digits in home runs, and they hit 140 doubles as a team this year. There's no places for pitchers to take a breather against the Red Raiders. Their lineup is like a horror movie villain...it just keeps coming.
Road to Omaha: The Red Raiders used their Big 12 championship to earn a national seed. Then, they bullied their way through regionals before running into some trouble in the super regionals. Texas Tech lost their first game against East Carolina then outlasted them in an extra-inning thriller in game two. Finally, the Red Raiders went "Guns Up!" into the third game for a blow-out win to re-gain momentum heading into the CWS.
Players To Watch:
Eric Gutierrez - If the Red Raiders need something...a hit, a sacrifice, a key defensive play, a ghostbuster there's only person to call and that's Gutierrez. He led the Red Raiders in home runs and RBI's. He was second on the team in batting average and OBP. He only made three errors all season. He seemed to be involved in every key moment in their season. And he solved world hunger. Only one of those things is false. Gutierrez is the best bat in one of the most explosive offenses in college baseball.
Cory Raley - There's several more celebrated hitters in the Red Raider lineup, but there's no one whose game is more tailored to TD Ameritrade than Raley. He gets on base and knows how to use his power to the gaps. He hit 13 doubles and two triples this year, and he possesses elite baserunning skills. Raley went 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts this season. In a park where runs are at a premium and every base is important the art of stealing a base and a run gets multiplied.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If Texas Tech's lineup continues to wear out pitching staffs with a non-stop barrage of hits they'll pummel their way to their first ever championship. Last year we saw offense on the upswing at the CWS, and if that continues it would be a great thing for the Red Raiders.
Two And Barbecue if...: If the Texas Tech bats meet the fate of so many other offensive juggernauts at the CWS they don't have a deep enough staff to win multiple pitcher's duels.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Do you enjoy making finger guns and yelling "Guns Up!"? Of course you do! It's like hopping into a time machine and playing Cowboys and Indians with your best friend from across the street. And who doesn't want to cheer for a team that makes you remember how much fun it was to be a kid?
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Omaha History: First CWS appearance
Overview: According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge on the internet) a Chanticleer is a "proud, witty rooster". I'm not exactly sure how a rooster gets those descriptors, but I do know that it's important knowledge to have during this very strange CWS cycle. Here's another fun fact about the first timers from Coastal Carolina, they led the country in home runs. They bashed 94 home runs as a team. They have four players on their squad with over 15 home runs. Maybe, just maybe they can find a way to bring Gorilla Ball back to the CWS. Playing that style at TD Ameritrade has always been risky, but this might be the most firepower that's ever made a run at it.
Road to Omaha: They made their way out of the Big South as a two seed in the Raleigh regional. There they managed to make a late rally to knock-out the host school from North Carolina State. Then, they swept historical power LSU...IN Baton Rouge. College baseball fans know that wins in Baton Rouge against LSU are more rare than unicorns and a Michael Bay movie without gratuitous explosions. And that's interesting, because Coastal Carolina's offensive attack can basically be described as "gratuitous explosions."
Players To Watch:
Zach Remillard - The Chanticleers win by swinging big sticks. In Remillard's case he might as well be swinging an entire tree. Remillard led the nation's leading home run hitting team with 19 blasts over the fence. He produced 69 RBI's which also led the team, and he slugged a cool .633. It's pretty clear that Remillard's approach to hitting is bringing a nuclear bomb to a knife fight. It should be a lot of fun watching him attempt to defeat TD Ameritrade's reputation for depressing power numbers.
Connor Owings - Not shockingly their other player to watch also resides on the side of the ball that tries to score. Owings smashed 16 homers this year, but he also showed an ability to put the ball into the gap by putting together 18 doubles. It's that ability that might serve him the most during the CWS. He also led the Chanticleers in batting average with a stellar .379 mark. Owings also went 14-of-15 on stolen base attempts, so if he does just hit a single he's very capable of quickly making it a double.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If the Chanticleers can find a way to clear the fences at a consistent rate they would be a decided advantage against a field that doesn't come close to the type of power Coastal Carolina possesses.
Two And Barbecue if...: If the wins are blowing in and TD Ameritrade continues to turn home runs into warning track flies Coastal Carolina's first trip to Omaha could be a short one.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Are you willing to cheer against a first-time team whose mascot is literally a "proud, witty rooster"? No, you're not. The Fightin' Foghorn Leghorns will definitely be a popular choice among locals this year.
Omaha History: 10 CWS appearances
Overview: The Florida Gator machine is back in the College World Series for the fifth time since 2010. They were the number one overall seed, and put together a great season in one of the best conferences in the country. Teams don't come much more complete than the Gators. They can hit with anyone in the country, and their pitching staff is full of MLB draft picks. Whether it's a pitchers duel or a slugfest the Gators should be able to compete which makes them the toughest team to beat in this tournament.
Road to Omaha: The Gators finished just short of winning the SEC tournament falling in the championship game. They dominated their regional, and then fought back from a first game loss to beat their rivals from Florida State. Few teams enter the field more battle tested than the Gators.
Players To Watch:
Peter Alonso - It's hard to standout in a stacked offense like Florida, but that's just what Alonso did. The Mets' draft pick led a potent Gators lineup in home runs, batting average, and total bases. He also drove in 58 runs while slugging .652 this season. He's a unique bat with the ability to hit it over the fence and drive it to the gaps. Alonso also smoked 18 doubles this season, so his production isn't totally reliant on the long ball.
Alex Faedo- Just about every pitcher in the Gators' staff is worthy of being selected here, so it might seem weird to pick a player that wasn't taken in the first two rounds of the draft. But, I love strikeouts and no one racks up the K's like Faedo. He sat down 124 batters in 97 innings of work. He's got swing-and-miss stuff, but he's also pin-point with his location. Faedo only walked 21 batters all year. However, I do need to hand out honorable mention to Shaun Anderson, AJ Puk, Dane Dunning, and Logan Shore who were all MLB draft picks. In an arms race the Gators have the competition lapped.
Celebrating In The Old Market if...: If the Gators play up to their talent they'll walk home with the crown. This is the most loaded team in the field, and they have the experience and make-up to finally hoist their first title.
Two And Barbecue if...: If everything goes seriously wrong. It's hard to imagine a likely scenario for the Gators to get bounced in two games, but baseball is a weird sport and a couple weird bounces could bounce anyone.
Why They Could Become Omaha's Bandwagon Favorite: Sometimes its fun to cheer for the favorite, and even though they're the number one overall seed that doesn't guarantee a win. The last number one overall seed to win the CWS was Miami in 1999. So, maybe it's time to cheer for a little chalk among the yearly chaos.