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NCAA baseball Super Regionals preview: Who advances to Omaha?

Sixteen teams remain alive in the NCAA tournament, but only eight can secure a spot in the College World Series. Who will advance to Omaha?

Two viewer-unfriendly themes dominated the opening weekend of the NCAA baseball tournament: rainouts and blowouts. The storms that soaked the southeastern United States affected the schedules of nearly every regional host site and pushed the deciding games of three regionals to Tuesday afternoon. Once the tarps came off, many games got ugly in a hurry. In all, 15 ended with double-digit margins of victory, including two decided by at least 20 runs thanks to particularly merciless performances by Texas A&M against Wake Forest (22-2) and by South Carolina against Rhode Island (23-2).

With seven of the eight national seeds advancing to Super Regionals and this year’s Cinderella candidates turning in some fearless performances, the tournament’s second weekend brings the promise of a more consistently competitive product, even if everyone will still be subject to the whims of the weather. The gameplay should also feel more like authentic college baseball than the disarray of the first round’s double-elimination tournaments: Each Super Regional is a best-of-three series hosted by the higher-seeded team, making pitching matchups and lineup construction a more reasonable task for managers.

Who will be packing their bags for Omaha when the dust settles? Read on for breakdowns and predictions of all eight matchups that will determine the 2016 College World Series field.

No. 1 Florida vs. Florida State

Game 1: June 11, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: June 12, 6 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): June 13, TBD

How They Got Here: Florida (50–13) swept through the regional it hosted in Gainesville, downing Bethune-Cookman, UConn and Georgia Tech. Florida State (40–20) cruised through the Tallahassee regional with easy wins over Southern Miss, South Alabama and Alabama State.

Winner:Florida. The top-seeded Gators were in good shape to reach Omaha even before they welcomed junior first baseman Peter Alonso back from a broken hand last week. Alonso tore up the Gainesville Regional, finishing 8 for 13 with three home runs and eight RBIs, and if he stays hot, this series could be over in a hurry. The Seminoles need a reprisal of the top-to-bottom outburst that helped them average more than 14 runs per game during their regional, and they won’t sniff that pace against Florida’s rotation.

No. 8 LSU vs. Coastal Carolina

Game 1: June 11, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: June 12, 9 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): June 13, TBD

How They Got Here: Coastal Carolina (47–16) faced a two-run deficit with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth before rain suspended its deciding game against NC State. When play resumed on Tuesday, the Chanticleers struck for four runs to escape Raleigh with their third Super Regional berth. Hours later, LSU (45–19) rallied past Rice with a pair of late-inning home runs to claim the rubber match between the Baton Rouge Regional’s top two seeds.

Winner: Coastal Carolina. It’s hard to bet against the Tigers and their voodoo at home, but the Chanticleers have a more experienced lineup that has already shown it won’t back down in hostile territory. They were also able to survive Tuesday’s drama without asking too much of junior No. 1 starter Andrew Beckwith, while LSU had to coax six scoreless innings out of junior lefty Jared Poche’ in relief.

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No. 5 Texas Tech vs. East Carolina

Game 1: June 10, 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: June 11, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 3 (if necessary): June 12, 3 p.m.

How They Got Here: Texas Tech (45–17) held off Dallas Baptist on Tuesday, 5-3, to advance to the Super Regionals. East Carolina took the Charlottesville Regional by storm, dispatching Bryant and walking off against defending national champion Virginia before topping William & Mary for the Pirates' first regional win away from Greenville.

Winner: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders can be a bit of a streaky team, and they need to support sophomore centerfielder Tanner Gardner from elsewhere in the lineup. That starts with senior first baseman Eric Gutierrez, who had just two hits last weekend. Expect him to get going right around the time the Pirates run out of magic.

No. 4 Texas A&M vs. TCU

Game 1: June 10, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: June 11, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 3 (if necessary): June 12, 9 p.m.

How They Got Here: Texas A&M (48–14) never trailed at any point in winning three games last weekend against Binghamton, Wake Forest and Minnesota, respectively. TCU (45–15) used an eighth-inning rally to get past Gonzaga in its second game and then turned on the afterburners against Arizona State in the regional final, winning 8-2.

Winner:Texas A&M. No team has looked stronger so far than the Aggies, who should have too much pitching for their in-state rivals to overcome: Texas A&M struck out 35 batters in 27 innings and held its three opponents to two runs each at the College Station Regional.

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No. 2 Louisville vs. UC Santa Barbara

Game 1: June 11, Noon (ESPN2)
Game 2: June 12, Noon
Game 3 (if necessary): June 13, TBD

How They Got Here: Louisville (50–12) ran through its regional, allowing just five runs all weekend in wins over Western Michigan, Ohio State and Wright State. UC Santa Barbara (48-18-1) knocked off Washington with a 14th-inning walk-off home run and then beat Xavier twice to reach the program’s first Super Regional. Both the Cardinals and the Gauchos had their paths forward shaken up when Vanderbilt—UCSB’s regional host and Louisville’s bitter cross-conference rival—bowed out of the tournament before facing either.

Winner: Louisville. The Cardinals’ three starting pitchers—junior Kyle Funkhouser, freshman Brendan McKay and sophomore Drew Harrington—combined to allow 12 hits and one earned run with 21 strikeouts in 21 innings last weekend. The Gauchos’ pitching staff racked up 39 strikeouts in the team's three wins so far, but keeping things close with one of the country’s most complete teams is another matter entirely.

South Carolina vs. Oklahoma State

Game 1: June 11, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2: June 12, 3 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): June 13, TBD

How They Got Here: After dropping the opening game, South Carolina (46–16) worked its way through the loser’s bracket and claimed back-to-back victories over UNC-Wilmington in the final to win its own regional. Oklahoma State coasted through the Clemson regional, with two convincing wins over the host to punctuate a perfect weekend.

Winner: Oklahoma State. This series could have some offensive fireworks in store: The Cowboys hit .385 at the Clemson Regional, and South Carolina scored 34 runs in its final three games. It will be on Cowboys senior outfielder Conor Costello to keep setting the pace in the heart of the OSU order after going 8 for 12 with two doubles and two home runs last weekend. But after knocking off a national seed, the Cowboys have good reason to be confident against a Gamecocks squad that might be gassed after a long regional.

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No. 6 Mississippi State vs. Arizona

Game 1: June 10, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: June 11, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 3 (if necessary): June 12, 6 p.m.

How They Got Here: Mississippi State topped Southeast Missouri State, Cal State-Fullerton and Louisiana Tech in succession for a weekend sweep in Starkville. Arizona survived doubleheaders on consecutive days, edging Sam Houston State after being sent to the loser’s bracket by Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday, then exacting revenge on the Ragin’ Cajuns with a pair of wins on Monday.

Winner: Mississippi State. Arizona coach Jay Johnson has wrung every possible pitch out of senior staff ace Nathan Bannister, who started in the regional final on two days’ rest to keep his team alive and threw an alarming 198 pitches over 14-plus innings last weekend. The Wildcats would need Bannister to come up big again to have a shot, but it’s hard to believe he will have enough left in the tank to navigate a balanced Bulldogs lineup that provides precious few easy outs.

No. 3 Miami vs. Boston College

Game 1: June 10, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 2: June 11, Noon (ESPNU)
Game 3 (if necessary): June 12, Noon

How They Got Here: Miami won three nip-and-tuck games at home, capped by consecutive one-run wins over Long Beach State, to move on. In the Oxford Regional, third-seeded Boston College handled Tulane, Utah and then Tulane again without having to face regional host Ole Miss.

Winner:Miami. The Hurricanes will be hard-pressed to solve Justin Dunn, the BC junior who led the ACC in ERA this season and struck out 11 over seven innings of work in his regional start. The upstart Eagles are a good bet to push this series to Game 3 before being worn down by junior catcher Zack Collins, junior outfielder Jacob Heyward and Miami’s patient lineup, which worked 20 walks in three games last weekend.