The college baseball season officially begins next week, and it is time to release our first Field of 64 projection of the year. With expanded rosters and the shortened MLB Draft, college baseball is deeper than ever and that task of narrowing the deserving teams down to just 64 is tougher than ever. We have made our best effort here and will update the projections as the season progresses.
Florida, the top-ranked team in College Baseball Nation's Preseason Top 50, is the projected overall number one seed. Joining the Gators in the Gainesville Regional are projected Big Ten champion, Indiana, Atlantic Sun champion, Stetson, and MAAC champion, Rider. Seven preseason college baseball rankings have been released, and the Gators rank number one in all seven. It is rare to have such a clear national championship favorite, but Florida will be playing with that target on its back for the 2021 season.
Projected Pac-12 champion, UCLA, and Big 12 champion, Texas Tech, fill the next two slots in the bracket, followed by the SEC's Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. Ole Miss finished the shortened 2020 season at number one in College Baseball Nation's final rankings. Projected ACC champ, Louisville, TCU, and Arkansas round out the top eight seeds.
Two other conference champions are also projected to earn hosting rights. The American's East Carolina is projected to win its third conference championship in the past six seasons and earn the 14th overall seed. UCSB, out of the Big West, is projected to finish on the hosting bubble and is currently set to occupy the 16th and final Regional host position. The Big West is poised to earn two regional bids for the first time since 2017 with Long Beach State as a projected two-seed.
West Virginia, Iowa, Boston College, and South Carolina mark the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. The appearance would mark the first for Boston College since 2016. The Eagles currently have three players ranked within the top 50 college prospects for the 2021 MLB Draft and could be one of the biggest risers in the ACC.
Texas State, Alabama, Oregon State, and Kansas State earn the unfortunate honor of being the first four teams out. Preseason #38 Alabama, as the projected seventh team (of seven) in the SEC West is a victim of its division. Despite the long odds of competing at the top of its division, Alabama has a path into the NCAA Tournament should it win 13 or 14 SEC conference games.
The SEC (11) has the most teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. Eleven teams in the tournament would break the record of ten currently held by the SEC and ACC. The ACC is second in projected regional teams with ten, while the Big 12 comes in third with seven of its nine baseball members projected to play in a regional. Kansas State, currently on the bubble, could make that eight teams, which would be a Big 12 record. The American, Pac-12, and Big Ten are each projected to have three regional teams each, while the Big West and West Coast Conference are projected to have two teams apiece.