The College World Series is a baseball tournament that features eight teams and two formats.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Final Four is like the Kentucky Derby. Everybody understands the way the Final Four works in college basketball. Ditto for the bowl system in college football. Two teams, one game. Over.
But the College World Series is different. It's bigger. Eight teams participate. It's longer. It can extend nearly two weeks.
It's foreign to Kentuckiana. This is only the second trip the University of Louisville baseball program has made, and it's the first time the Indiana University baseball program will be spotted in Omaha, which, for the record, is tucked about three hours north of Kansas City in eastern Nebraska.
So you have questions. I have answers. Batter up!
1. The World Series most baseball fans know is a two-team, best of seven-game series. Eight teams will play in Omaha. How does this work?
This could actually be questions one, two and three, because to everybody I know, it's a confusing system. You don't have to be Tony LaRussa to understand the format, but it would help.
Here goes: The CWS is actually two, four-team pods that end with a best-of-three series between the two teams that survive those pods. (Click here to see the bracket.)
Louisville, Indiana, Mississippi State and Oregon State are on one side of the bracket. They're grouped into a double-elimination tournament that will begin Saturday and end either June 21 or 22.
The format is the same as the one used during the regional events that U of L and IU hosted on the first weekend of the tourney, with one major difference: There is a day off between games.
Louisiana State, UCLA, North Carolina State and either North Carolina or South Carolina will compete in the other pod. This is the group that begins play on Sunday. The winner of one pod plays the winner of the other in the CWS finals.
The two-of-three format for the finals is the same one used during the Super Regionals that U of L won at Vanderbilt and IU won at Florida State. The finals are scheduled to begin Monday June 24 at 8 p.m. (EDT), and end no later than June 26, weather permitting.
TIP: Pack a lot of clothes – or bring a roll of quarters for the Laundromat. If your team wins, it's a long trip.
To win the CWS, a team will have to win at least five games, and maybe six. Of course you could also lose once in the opening round – and once in the finals -- and still win the trophy.
I told you it was confusing. I'll stop there.
2. Who's favored?
I could be flip and say Vanderbilt. But actually that's not being flip because before the tournament started, the Commodores were a sensible pick. In fact, they were my pick.
But this is baseball. The difference between teams can be one throw in the dirt, or one hanging curveball. Among teams of relatively equal ability, the best ones do well to win 60-65 percent of their games.
So everybody is in play. Everybody. Look at all the top teams -- Vanderbilt, Virginia, Florida State and Oregon -- that are already on the sidelines.
But if you want a pecking order, this is how the teams are currently ranked in Warren Nolan's Nitty Gritty Report, a go-to web site for college baseball fans (click here to view).
North Carolina – 1 (but the Tar Heels must beat South Carolina today).
Louisiana State – 2.
Oregon State – 5.
N.C. State – 6.
Mississippi State – 8.
Indiana – 11.
South Carolina – 12 (must beat UNC).
UCLA – 13.
Louisville – 14.
If you believe in the power of tradition, South Carolina (2010-11), LSU (2000, 2009) and Oregon State (2006-07) are the teams to fear. All three have won the CWS twice since 2000.
3. Jacoby Ellsbury (Oregon State, Red Sox), Ryan Braun (Miami, Brewers), Lance Berkman (Rice, Rangers) and Todd Helton (Tennessee, Rockies) are current major-league players who played in the CWS.
Are there any must-have autographs to chase in Omaha?
The MLB First-Year Player draft was last week: Here are the guys who were drafted during the first two rounds:
North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran, sixth by Miami; Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe, 13th by San Diego and LSU pitcher Ryan Eades, 43rd by Minnesota.
That's not many, but that is the list. Three guys, although most teams have players who will be top picks in 2014 and 2015. Indiana's top two hitters -- Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis -- fall in that category as does U of L closer Nick Burdi.
4. Which team had the most players selected?
That would be the same team that will have the most fans in Omaha and be the likely favorite – Louisiana State. Nine Tigers will have the chance to go from Omaha to the minor leagues, if they choose to sign.
But do you remember Jonah Nickerson (Oregon State, 2006), David Moroul (Texas, 2005) and Jason Windsor (Cal-State Fullerton, 2004)?
Neither do I. All three were all named the Most Outstanding Player at the CWS but never made the big leagues. It's baseball. Anybody can be the star.
5. Isn't Rosenblatt Stadium considered one of the must-see venues in baseball?
Don't go to Rosenblatt Stadium. The CWS isn't played there any more. The party -- and the famous college baseball statue -- moved to T.D. Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha for the 2011 CWS.
It's a thoroughly modern baseball venue with suites and improved concession stands and restrooms. The place has 24,000 permanent seats but can expand to 35,000. Think of it this way: Rosenblatt had the feel of Old Cardinal Stadium, but the experience at Ameritrade will be like going to Louisville Slugger Field – but driving 11 hours to get there.
See you in Omaha. Remember: Pack a lot of clothes.