As the NCAA Division I college baseball regular season is winding down, teams are trying to position themselves for their conference tournaments. With the global pandemic cutting off the 2020 schedule and forcing the cancellation of the College World Series, the 2021 season holds special importance.
Many of the best programs managed to bring back their stars and this post season has the potential to be the most thrilling one yet. In order to get a good picture of this exciting college baseball season, it’s important to know where college baseball teams rank ahead of the 2021 World Series. Let’s take a look at the state of college baseball ranking through five main lenses.
- The Top 10
- Conference Coverage
- Past Powerhouses
- Traditionally Strong Squads
2021 College Baseball Rankings: The Top 10
The Top Five
The Baseball America rankings are loaded with traditional DI powerhouses. The SEC has a ridiculous four out of the top five slots and eight teams listed, overall. The Arkansas Razorbacks have been #1 for much of the season and are hoping to stay there for the remainder, potentially tying the North Carolina Tarheels for most consecutive weeks ranked #1. Currently the Tarheels hold onto the title with 13 consecutive weeks in the top spot.
Holding the most recent victory in DI baseball championship history, The Vanderbilt Commodores are hot on the Razorbacks’ tails. Kumar Rocker continues to dominate SEC hitters, and keeps the excitement in Nashville rocking.
The Top Five teams in DI college baseball right now are:
- The Arkansas Razorbacks
- Vanderbilt Commodores
- Mississippi State Bulldogs
- Texas Longhorns
- The Tennessee Volunteers
The Next Five
The Big 12 Conference is also well represented in the Top 10 rankings of both Baseball America and in the weekly USA TODAY Sports baseball coaches poll. They definitely like to do things big down in the Lone Star State, posting three teams (the most of any state) in the Top 10 list.
The rest of the teams in the Top 10 of DI college baseball right now are:
9. Oregon Ducks
The PAC 12 is holding their own, as well. Traditional powerhouses like Oregon, Stanford and Arizona are well-positioned to make a splash in the DI college playoffs, and UCLA makes the Top 25 DI baseball ranking list, depending on which ranking you look at. The 2018 National Champion Oregon State Beavers are just outside the rankings, and itching to claw back in.
The ACC is also well represented in the current DI college baseball rankings. Notre Dame is leading the Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the national rankings. Louisville, Pitt, and Florida State round out the conference’s ranked squads.
Of course, the ACC has not produced many national champions in baseball. Virginia is the only ACC team to win a national championship in the TD Ameritrade Park era and the first national champion out of the conference since the 1955 Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The Miami Hurricanes have traditionally been a college baseball powerhouse, but the Ron Fraser dynasty predates the U joining the ACC. This year’s squad is positioned just out of the top 25, but look to be making a move recently to try and enter the rankings.
The South Carolina Gamecocks are another dynastic program of the past, playing in three consecutive College World Series (2011, 2012, 2013) and four times in a decade (2003-2013). Former Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner is now the Athletic Director at South Carolina and thinks highly of second-year head coach Mark Kingston. Kingston had been building a strong program at USF and has quickly turned the Gamecocks around.
Big 10 baseball has not been a consistent factor in the past, but Indiana is having a strong season and has risen in the rankings in recent weeks. The Hoosiers’ 23 and 10 record is very respectable. Both Michigan and Nebraska are on the verge of cracking the college baseball rankings, helping to solidify the Big Ten conference’s impact on the NCAA selection committee.
College baseball might be one of the most equitable sports in Division I athletics. Mid-major programs like Coastal Carolina, UC Irvine, Fresno State and Wichita State are baseball powers and will certainly find a way into the playoff brackets. The Irvine Anteaters have just cracked the top 25 and you can bet that no one wants to find them in their regional grouping.
The American Athletic Conference and C-USA have strong representation in this week’s top 25. East Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi and the UNC Charlotte 49ers face tough conference schedules on the weekends and are holding their own in mid-week contests. Baseball America and USA Today recognize the high level of baseball being played in these two conferences, but, with automatic bids only for their conference tournament championships, they all need to stay in the NCAA top 25 to make sure the selection committee rewards them with a home regional round.
The Fairfield University Stags out of the Metro Atlantic have held onto the 25th spot on the Baseball America College Baseball rankings for another week. The Stags have a gaudy 33-1 record and went 4-0 just last week to take the MAAC Championship. Are they the Cinderella story of 2021? They’ve earned an invitation to the regionals, but will they have impressed the committee enough to be chosen to host?
Traditionally Strong Squads
On the cusp of the top 25 are some familiar faces. The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos have been a growing baseball program and have made the tournament in the past. They look to be on their way, again. Georgia Tech is playing well in the formidable ACC and Oklahoma State is also sticking around in the Big 12. Dallas Baptist, LSU and Arizona State are also collecting votes on the coach’s poll.
Teams know well the advantage of hosting a regional. They also know that being one of the eight “National Seeds” chosen by the college baseball championship selection committee guarantees them a home series if they make it to the Super Regionals. Anything that makes the road to Omaha a little easier helps. Teams will need to win the best-of-three Super Regionals to go to the College World Series.
College baseball fans will see teams jockey for positions as the regular seasons close and the conference tournaments play out over the next couple of weeks. The selection committee will be watching closely to see what teams live up to their rankings and which ones falter. The results will lay out the roadmap for the teams’ journey to Omaha for the 2021 College World Series.