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November 25, 2008

Midwest programs make their mark

Known as the nation's heartland to most, the Midwest is home to hospitable people. It also is home to many good baseball programs, including Nebraska, Missouri, Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Oral Roberts.

With three regional appearances and a super regional berth the last three seasons, Oklahoma State is the best program in Oklahoma. OU also deserves some recognition, while coach Rob Walton has done a phenomenal job at Oral Roberts.

Kansas is highlighted by perennial power Wichita State, while Missouri is the best program in the state of Missouri followed by Missouri State, which made a College World Series appearance earlier this decade.

Nebraska is a two-program race between Nebraska and Creighton, while Northern Iowa and Iowa certainly leave much to be desired in the state of Iowa.

We rank programs in the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa.

Oklahoma

1. Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson really has done a nice job during his tenure in Stillwater, Okla. The Cowboys finished last season with a home NCAA regional and an overall record of 44-18. They also finished the '07 campaign with an overall record of 42-21 and a super regional berth, and finished '06 with a regional berth and an overall record of 41-20. The Cowboys still are looking for their first CWS appearance since 1999, and Anderson likely will make that happen in the near future. OSU is the state's best program.

2. Oklahoma

Choosing the Sooners over Oral Roberts was tough, but they recently appeared in a super regional and regional. The Sooners finished '06 with an overall record of 45-22 and a super regional berth. They failed to make an NCAA regional in '07 with an overall record of 34-24, but squeaked into a regional last season with an overall record of 36-26. The Sooners have appeared in regionals two of the last three seasons, but could be doing better.

3. Oral Roberts

In my eyes, Oral Roberts is dangerously close to overtaking Oklahoma. Coach Rob Walton may not have a wealth of resources, but has done a great job of establishing consistency. The Golden Eagles finished '06 with an overall record of 41-16 and a super regional berth. They also finished '07 with an overall record of 40-17 and a regional berth. Last season the Golden Eagles went 48-14 with yet another NCAA regional appearance. Give Walton credit for making ORU a program to contend with in Oklahoma.



Kansas

1. Wichita State

The state of Kansas is Wichita State and everyone else. The Shockers have continued their impressive tradition the past few seasons. WSU finished last season with an overall record of 48-17 and a super regional berth against Florida State. They also finished the '07 season with an overall record of 53-22 and a super regional berth against UC Irvine. In '06, the Shockers finished with an overall record of 46-22. WSU is one of the nation's most consistent programs.

2. Kansas

The Jayhawks certainly have failed to impress the last two seasons, but reached an NCAA regional not too long ago. The Jayhawks finished last season with an overall record of 30-27. They also finished the '07 campaign with an overall record of 28-30. In '06, they went 43-25 with an overall record of 43-25. They also appeared in the Corvallis regional. It'll be interesting to see if coach Ritch Price can somehow get the Jayhawks back on track.

3. Kansas State

We're still waiting for coach Brad Hill to get it going at K-State. Hill, before going to KSU, had a wealth of success. However, his tenure in Manhattan, Kan., has been anything but successful thus far. K-State finished last season with an overall record of 29-29. They also went 34-24 in '07 and 31-20 in '06. K-State certainly is a tough place to win on the baseball diamond, but it's far from impossible.



Missouri

1. Missouri

Missouri coach Tim Jamieson continues to do a solid job in Columbia, Mo. Jamieson has yet to guide the Tigers to the College World Series, but his program has established consistency. Missouri finished last season with an overall record of 39-21 and an NCAA regional berth. The Tigers also finished '07 with another regional appearance and an overall record of 42-18, while going 35-28 with a super regional berth in '06. The Tigers still hope to get to Omaha under Jamieson.

2. Missouri State

The Bears reached the College World Series earlier this decade, but have since somewhat declined. The Bears could've made an NCAA regional last season with an overall record of 40-17, but were left out of the mix on Selection Monday. The Bears finished at the bottom of the Missouri Valley standings in '07 with an overall record of 23-34 and finished '06 with an overall record of 33-22. Can MSU rebound after getting snubbed from a regional last season?

3. SE Missouri State

The Redhawks have been far from good the past two seasons, but certainly have done better than Saint Louis. SEMO finished last season with an overall record of 26-26. They also finished '07 with a respectable overall record of 32-24. Additionally, the Redhawks finished '06 with an overall record of 23-33.

4. Saint Louis

The Billikens hope Darin Hendrickson eventually is the savior. SLU finished last season with an overall record of 24-29. Prior to Hendrickson's arrival, the Billikens finished '07 with an overall record of 16-37. Interestingly, they found a way to reach an NCAA regional in '06 with an overall record of 32-29.



Nebraska

1. Nebraska

The Huskers haven't advanced past an NCAA regional the last three seasons, but have had little trouble reaching the postseason. The Big Red finished last season with an overall record of 41-16 and an NCAA regional berth. The Huskers finished '07 with an overall record of 32-27 and another regional berth, while they finished '06 with an overall record of 42-17 and a regional berth. Can the Huskers find a way to break through this spring?

2. Creighton

Creighton coach Ed Servais has done a great job in Omaha. Though the Bluejays have some disadvantages against some programs in the region, they still have managed to establish some consistency the past few seasons. Creighton finished last season with an overall record of 37-21 and an NCAA regional berth. They also finished '07 with an overall record of 45-16 and a regional berth. CU finished the '06 season with an overall record of 31-21. Give Servais credit for turning the Bluejays into a consistent winner.



Iowa

1. Northern Iowa

The Panthers may not be the biggest name in the state of Iowa, but have been slightly better than flagship institution Iowa the past few seasons. Northern Iowa finished last season with an overall record of 30-24. They also finished '07 with an overall record of 23-28 and '06 with an overall record of 28-27. It'll be interesting to me to see if UNI can build off a respectable '08 campaign.

2. Iowa

The Hawkeyes soon hope to establish some consistency. Iowa finished dead last in the Big Ten last season with an overall record of 22-33. They also finished '07 with an overall record of 31-23 and '06 with an overall record of 23-33. Overall, the Hawkeyes are 3-3 against in-state foe Northern Iowa the last three seasons. Iowa must find a way to become a consistent player for the Big Ten title.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.



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