The second season is now in session for four Big 12 teams as 64 college baseball teams around the nation set out on the Road to Omaha in hopes of becoming one of the eight select schools that will make it through two weeks of rugged regional action and punch their ticket to the 2012 College World Series.
Big 12 regular-season champion Baylor and conference tournament winner Missouri lead the four Big 12 squads earning bids to the NCAA Baseball Championship. Oklahoma and Texas A&M also earned the right to advance to postseason play.
The action gets under way on Friday at 16 different regional sites around the country. Baylor and Texas A&M by virtue of their top 15 national ranking, will host two of the regionals, where they will be the top seeds among the four participating teams. Missouri is in Tucson, Ariz., while Oklahoma is the No. 2 seed in Charlottesville, Va., home of the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers. The Sooners upset the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, two years ago to advance to the 2010 College World Series.
Baylor, ranked No. 2 in the country by USA Today/ESPN will start off against No. 4-seed Oral Roberts on Friday. Dallas Baptist (39-17) and the University of Texas-Arlington (36-23) are the other two teams in the Waco Regional. Baylor is hosting its fourth NCAA baseball regional and is making its 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the double-elimination Waco regional will move on to play the winner of the Houston Regional (Rice, Arkansas, Sam Houston State or Prairie View) in a best two-out-of-three super regional next weekend.
At College Station, Texas A&M (42-16) is paired against Dayton (31-28), which is making its first appearance in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. That regional also features TCU (36-19), which will be playing in the Big 12 next season, and Ole Miss (35-24) out of the Southeastern Conference. TCU is making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and its ninth in a row. The winner in College Station will meet UCLA, San Diego, New Mexico or Creighton, who are playing in the Los Angeles Regional.
Missouri (32-26) draws the most difficult opening-game assignment, having to take on Arizona (38-17), ranked No. 11 in this week's USA Today/ESPN college poll, on the Wildcats' home field in Tucson. Arizona is making its 37th all-time NCAA appearance, while Mizzou is making its 22nd tournament appearance and eighth in the last ten seasons. The Wildcats will be taking on a Missouri team that hit a collective .359 in winning its first Big 12 Tournament championship, where the Tigers defeated Oklahoma. The other teams participating in Tucson are New Mexico State (35-22) and Louisville (39-20).
Whichever team comes out of Tucson will next meet the winner of the North Carolina Regional, where the host Tar Heels (44-14) the fifth-ranked team in the country are matched up with East Carolina, St. Johns and Cornell, the winner of the Ivy League title.
Oklahoma (38-22) is hoping for the same success the Sooners enjoyed the last time they played in the NCAA Tournament in Charlottesville, Va. The Sooners are paired with Appalachian State (39-16) in the opening round. The Mountaineers are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1986. To come out of Charlottesville as the regional champion, however, OU is going to have to beat out 15th-ranked Virginia (38-17-1), the host team and top seed. Army (41-13) comes to Charlottesville as the champion of the Patriot League tournament and the team with the best overall record, but all that earned the Cadets a date against host Virginia in the opening game
The survivor out of the Charlottesville regional earns a super regional date next weekend against the winner of the Columbia, S.C., Regional: two-time defending champion South Carolina, the No. 8 overall seed in the 2012 Championship, Costal Carolina, Clemson and Manhattan.
Follow the NCAA Baseball Championship and the Road to Omaha at SB Nation Kansas City.