North Carolina is the No. 1 national seed in the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament. Four Pac-12 schools are in the field — Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State.
OMAHA, Neb. — As good as the record-setting Vanderbilt baseball team has been this season, North Carolina has been a little bit better.
That was the opinion of the NCAA Division I tournament selection committee, which Monday picked the Tar Heels as the No. 1 national seed for the 64-team event.
“It was really a close, close call,” committee chairman Dennis Farrell said. “I’m not so sure I can really articulate what the determining factor was.”
The tournament opens Friday with 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals. Best-of-three super regionals will begin next week, with those winners moving to the College World Series in Omaha.
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The national seeds behind North Carolina and Vanderbilt, in order, are: Oregon State, Louisiana State, Cal State Fullerton, Virginia, Florida State and Oregon.
Oregon State (45-10) and Oregon (45-14) are among four teams from the Pac-12 in the tournament. They are joined by UCLA (39-17), which will host its regional, and Arizona State (35-20-1), which is the second seed in the Cal State Fullerton regional.
Arizona (34-21) won’t get a chance to defend its national title. The Pac-12 Wildcats were left out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years despite winning five of their last six to finish 15-15 in conference play.
North Carolina (52-8) won its first Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship since 1990, and its 48 regular-season victories were a school record. The Tar Heels lost two straight series to end the regular season, but they remain the only team in the nation that hasn’t lost consecutive games.
In the ACC tournament, they needed 14 innings to beat Clemson and 18 to defeat North Carolina State before they won the title with a 4-1 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday.
The Tar Heels are averaging 8.2 runs a game, and their .867 winning percentage is the best in the country. They have the conference pitcher and player of the year in left-hander Kent Emanuel and third baseman Colin Moran.
The No. 1 seed is a first for coach Mike Fox’s program. The Tar Heels have been a top-eight seed six of the last seven years.
“It’s exciting,” Fox said. “It’s just important to be one of the top eight, really. Just try to be a national seed, so if you’re fortunate enough to win a regional, you know you’re playing at home the next weekend.”
Vanderbilt (51-9) looked to have a good shot at earning the No. 1 seed after winning a record 26 regular-season games in Southeastern Conference play. The Commodores feature pitcher Tyler Beede, who is unbeaten in 14 decisions.
Vanderbilt had the nation’s No. 1 RPI after the regular season, ahead of North Carolina. That was merely one of the criteria used by the selection committee, Farrell said.
Farrell said the decision to pick the Tar Heels over the Commodores was made before the end of Vanderbilt’s 5-4, 11-inning loss to LSU in the SEC tournament championship game Sunday.
The 1999 Miami Hurricanes are the only top-seeded team to go on to win the national title, and that was in the first year of the current tournament format.
The SEC led all conferences with a record-tying nine bids.
The ACC has eight, and the Sun Belt tied the Pac-12 for third with four bids.
Information from the Pac-12 office was used in this report.