Pour one out for Stadium View this weekend, one of the big casualties of the move downtown (though I have heard rumors that Piv and his brand of beer "distribution" may have found themselves a new home close to the new park)
The college baseball world has descended upon the city that holds it heart, and while the residents deal with Nature's wrath (possibly a revenge for the great injustice that has occurred) the rest of us are gearing up for the best two weekends of baseball of the year.
A refresher for those of you unfamiliar with the CWS, the 1st weekend reverts back to the Regional-style double elimination brackets which will last until at least next Friday, with the winner of each bracket moving on to a best-of-three series starting the following Monday. The entire tournament is on either ESPN or ESPN2 and also streamed on ESPN3.com
Traditionally, the CWS field is made of at least a few of the unknown-to-outsiders teams; the CS-Fullerton's, Pepperdine's, and Wichita State's of the world. But this year will see the rare sight of an all-BCS field (with a chance for a significant ratings boost from the casual viewer) with some built-in story lines of it's own. Vandy is the only team that's never made it this far before, but they certainly aren't alone in the underdog camp of the bracket. Cal, who is the last team in all of college sports who will ever wear the words "PAC-10" on their jersey, has fought through total program annihilation itself to reach the promised land. The Aggies have waited nearly 2 decades to return to Omaha, while the 'Hoos of Virgina will also returning to fight for the honor of the ACC.
And then there are the lumbering behemoths of the sport. Augie Garrido and the Longhorns are trying to tie LSU at 2nd place all time if they get their 6th title. North Carolina is trying to prove that it can finally make it to the 2nd weekend despite being a CWS team for much of the last decade. Defending champs South Carolina and a dominating Florida squad will both try to make it 3 straight for the SEC.
As they are all BCS squads, we've got the great luck that they all have representation in the SBNation network. For each team i've listed links to the relevant coverage from their home blogs which should make for a great preview. I'll also be adding links as more stories and previews come out. Be sure to also check out SBNation's coverage on the national site. I'll also continue my wildly inaccurate prognostication (5-3 last weekend!) and give my heart and head picks for each bracket.
Rooting Interests: SEC of course, with a special pull for Vandy, who has reached the top 8 in a major sport for the 1st time ever. Traditionally, it's difficult for new teams to go very far in the CWS, but Vandy hasn't had anything resembling a close game since the 1st game of the Regional weekend and have stayed very healthy. That's a perfect combination for a team looking to make a run.
PodKATT's Picks: But they may just be running into a brick wall. Nevermind North Carolina, Florida-Texas is a Finals matchup in any other year. With the hilarious end to UC-I's postseason, Texas remains the only team I can harbor genuine hate for, but Augieball remains as successful as ever. It will go to the 2nd eleimination game, but I see Texas just squeezing by Florida to make it to the Finals
Rooting Interests: SEC again, but make some room for the miracle that is the Cal Bears. If you had told anyone in January that this team would even still exist in June, let alone be playing in Omaha, they wouldn't have believed you. But here they are, triumphant conquerors of their own administration, making a mockery of anyone who dared to think of removing their funding.
PodKATT's Picks: South Carolina has been a dominate team all year long and may even be getting superstar outfielder and 2010 CWS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. back around mid week after his recovery from hand surgery (where have we heard that story before) Virgina and A&M will both be tough outs, but South Carolina will advance to defend their title.