Previewing the Norman Regional

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The Road to Omaha continues this weekend with NCAA regional action.

We take an in-depth look at all 16 NCAA regionals.

THE TEAMS
TeamConferenceRecordBerthLast NCAA appearance
1. OklahomaBig 1244-15At-large2009 (Norman Regional)
2. CaliforniaPac-1029-23At-large2008 (Long Beach Regional)
3. North CarolinaAtlantic Coast36-20At-large2009 (College World Series)
4. Oral RobertsSummit35-25Won Summit2009 (Tempe Regional)
THE BREAKDOWN
The favorite: Oklahoma
1. Oklahoma
2. California
3. North Carolina
4. Oral Roberts
After losing several players to the MLB draft last summer, Oklahoma entered this season with a plethora of question marks. It didn’t take long for OU to prove they had more solutions than we previously thought, though. The Sooners put together a solid regular season campaign and enters the postseason with a .314 batting average. OU also has done a respectable job on the mound, where Jeremy, Erben, Ryan Duke, Zach Neal and Bobby Shore lead the way. OU will be fine this weekend barring a surprise.
The dark-horse contender: North Carolina
The questions about the Tar Heels are pretty simple. Will the North Carolina that showed up against Virginia Tech be the one that shows up in Norman, or will the UNC that showed up (offensively) the previous weekend against Virginia show up? That is the question that we’ll get an answer to this weekend. The Tar Heels enter regional play hitting .310 as a team with Levi Michael (.355,8,50) leading the way. On the mound, the Tar Heels have an impressive 4.21 ERA with Matt Harvey, Patrick Johnson and Colin Bates as the headliners. UNC has the talent to make a run in the tourney.
Best hitter: Oklahoma 3B Garrett Buechele
The Sooners have had a solid season at the plate and Buechele is the catalyst. The sophomore is having an All-American type season for the Sooners. He enters the postseason hitting .393 with 15 doubles, two triples, 15 homers and 61 RBIs. He also is slugging .679 and has a .463 on-base percentage. The Sooners are in business this weekend if Buechele and others continue their offensive ways.
Best pitcher: North Carolina RHP Matt Harvey
After losing some key pitchers after last season, the Tar Heels desperately needed the talented right-hander to rise to the occasion this season. He has done just that with a season that has increased his MLB draft stock. Harvey has started 13 games, thrown two complete games and has a 3.10 ERA in 90 innings. He also has struck out 93 and walked 32 and teams are hitting him at just a .227 clip. Harvey will be a mighty tough matchup for California in opening round action.
The buzz
The Sooners are an intriguing team to watch. Though Buechele is the headliner at the plate, the offensive lineup has done a solid job from top to bottom. Danny Black is hitting .331 with five homers and 44 RBIs, Chris Ellison is hitting .331 with four homers and 28 RBIs, Cameron Seitzer is hitting .330 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs and Caleb Bushyhead is hitting .327 with five homers and 34 RBIs. OU’s balanced lineup could be an issue for opposing teams this weekend … North Carolina had plenty of new faces entering the season, but newcomer Dillon Hazlett has become a household name with a strong first campaign for the Tar Heels. Hazlett is hitting .342 with 13 doubles, a triple, three homers and 51 RBIs. He also is slugging .468 and has a .403 on-base percentage. The offense is the only strike against North Carolina, so it will be up to guys such as Hazlett and Michael to get the job done … California surprised many when it actually made an NCAA regional, much less earned a No. 2 seed. But this team has enough talent to win a few games this weekend. Freshman left-handed pitcher Justin Jones has been one of the biggest surprises this season. Jones is having a banner year. He has made 14 starts, thrown two complete games and has a 3.77 ERA in 98 innings. He also has struck out 73 and walked 27 and has limited opposing teams to a .268 batting average. Others to watch for the Golden Bears include sluggers Tony Renda (.365,3,35), Chadd Krist (.344,10,43) and Marcus Semien (.333,4,34) … Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway once again will play the program that jump started his career. The Sooners have a huge edge on the mound against the Golden Eagles. However, the Eagles can swing it and enter the weekend with an impressive .325 batting average. Nick Ballgod (.396,11,53), Tyler Saladino (.381,17,73) and Seth Furmanek (.317,22,64) are the key offensive cogs to watch. ORU enters the postseason with just a 5.97 ERA.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010