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NCAA regional hosts was largely an expected group with one exception: West Virginia

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Big 12 West Virginia Oklahoma St Baseball

West Virginia's T.J. Lake is congratulated by teammate Darius Hill, No. 31, after scoring against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament championship.

Browse through the list of the 16 regional hosts announced Sunday night and you’ll find one obvious outlier.

It’s a group largely made up of traditional powers, upstart dynasties and brand-name giants. Five of the 2019 hosts reached last season’s College World Series and six others have played in Omaha at least once in the past six years.

But there’s an exception: West Virginia.

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The Mountaineers (37-20) will host NCAA tournament games for the first time since 1955. The program that is two seasons removed from snapping a 21-year regional drought is now a top 16 caliber team.

Even after losing in the Big 12 tournament final Sunday, coach Randy Mazey had to pause during his postgame press conference to marvel at the program’s progress.

“No one in the world would have ever saw this coming seven years ago,” said Mazey, who was hired before the 2013 season. “There’s so many people that have a hand in this. You can’t be prouder of where the Mountaineers are.”

They find out which teams will join them in Morgantown when the full 64-team bracket is announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU. The 16 hosts will be seeded Nos. 1 through 16 as well.

Several of those top 16 teams are in familiar positions.

Eight squads that hosted last year will again play postseason baseball at their own ballparks: Georgia (44-15), East Carolina (43-15), Arkansas (41-17), Texas Tech (39-17), Oregon State (36-18-1), Stanford (41-11), North Carolina (42-17) and Ole Miss (37-25).

After a one-year hiatus, LSU (37-24) and Louisville (43-15) are hosting.

Mississippi State (46-13) gets a regional in Starkville for the first time since 2016. Oklahoma State’s last home regional came in 2015 — the Cowboys (36-18) won the Big 12 tournament Sunday. Georgia Tech (41-17) snapped an eight-year regional hosting drought.

There appear to be contenders vying for the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.

Pac-12 champion UCLA (47-8) has been ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 for 10 consecutive weeks. The Bruins are on a 10-game winning streak.

But Vanderbilt clinched its first SEC tournament title since 2007 — the Commodores (49-10) rallied from a 9-1 deficit and won with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth Sunday.

The celebration won’t last long, though. It rarely does. Even those who left their respective league tournaments with a loss this past weekend can’t afford to spend time stewing.

After Arkansas got bounced from the SEC tournament Friday — in what was the Razorbacks’ ninth straight game against a ranked opponent — coach Dave Van Horn delivered a line that 63 of his colleagues will probably repeat after the bracket is unveiled Monday.

“Time to get ready for that regional,” Van Horn said.

Reporter - Creighton athletics

Jon covers Creighton athletics, the College World Series and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JonNyatawa. Phone: 402-444-6611

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