1. Indiana State- The Sycamores put together quite an impressive season posting 42 wins and winning both the MVC regular season and tournament title. However, their sub-500 mark (12-13) against quad 1/2 teams, that includes getting swept at home by Northeastern and at Kentucky, is a big red flag for a national seed looking to make a deep run. The offense lacks firepower ranking 182nd in average and 171st in runs per game and will be put to the test against Iowa, North Carolina, and Wright State who all rank in the top 60 in ERA.
2. Stanford- The Cardinal offense is one of the best in nation ranking in the top 20 in average, home runs per game, and runs per game. Pitching, on the other hand, has been a big question mark posting a 5.99 ERA (157th nationally), while allowing 5.07 walks per game (200th nationally). It yielded 32 runs in 3 Pac-12 Tournament games including 14 in a 7 inning 10 run loss to Arizona in the semifinals. Although they won the conference regular season by 5 games their margin for error was small posting a 9-3 record in one run and extra-inning games.
3. Iowa- The two-seeded Hawkeyes made some noise early in the season knocking off Indiana State, Kansas State, and LSU. Their resume in Big 10 play, however, wasn’t anything special dropping both series against Maryland and Indiana while beating up on weaker conference opponents. Four of their 42 wins on the year came against non-D1 schools and their non-conference strength of schedule ranked outside the top 160. The pitching staff’s achilles heel is walks, allowing 5.33 per game which ranks 235th nationally. They open against a North Carolina lineup that ranks in the top 40 in walks drawn.