The 2023 college baseball season has crowned a champion. LSU defeated Florida 18-4 in Game 3 of the Men’s College World Series, but the score doesn’t illustrate exactly how great this entire season, and entire series, was.

Records were set all over the place, games came down to the ninth inning, and the players kept showing out game after game.

But was this the best MCWS of all time? And which teams and players can we expect to light it up next season? Our college baseball experts break down this year’s memorable series and take an early look at 2024.

end rule - Replay Madness

1. What was your favorite part of the MCWS? Has this been the greatest series ever?

Mike Rooney: This College World Series had everything. Star players who excelled in the spotlight and under-the-radar heroes who made history. Record crowds in Omaha, Nebraska, and record ratings from viewers at home. Matchups to die for and games that backed them up. College baseball’s upward trajectory accelerated in 2023, and this version of the Men’s College World Series was one for the ages.

Ryan McGee: I am such a College World Series history nerd that I will spend a lot of time over the next few weeks going back through old brackets to see where this one ultimately ranks. But, as I wrote in my story following the championship, it will always be in the conversation. A lot of people who have been to a lot more of these games than I have agreed with that when I asked. As for my favorite part, that has to be the last Wake Forest-LSU semifinal game. That’s the best game I’ve ever seen, no matter the level of baseball you’re talking about. I still can’t believe it happened. I think years from now people will mistakenly remember that as the championship game. Like the Miracle on Ice or NC State snapping UCLA’s basketball championships streak in 1974. Both of those were semifinals, too.

Chris Burke: I can’t imagine a Men’s College World Series that had more to offer than this one. There were the three Golden Spikes finalists (Jac Caglianone, Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes), potentially the top three picks in the MLB draft (Skenes, Crews, Wyatt Langford), eight one-run games and three different pitchers hitting 100 mph. We had the most homers ever in a finals game (six), the farthest homer ever (Langord, 456 feet), an inside-the-park homer (Oral Roberts, Matt Hogan) and a player who had four homers on the season set the CWS record with five homers for the week (Ty Evans). The list of superlatives was absurd!

Kiley McDaniel: I think it has clearly been the best MCWS, from a number of standpoints. I feel like the broad interest has been wider than I’ve ever seen, the level of competition has been the best, and my focus, the prospects, is the most loaded it has ever been, by a mile. Getting to see these guys face each other with real stakes when most likely in a month they’ll face each other in a sleepy pro ballpark is a real factor for evaluation.

2. Can LSU and Florida make it back to Omaha again next year? What are the chances of LSU repeating?

Rooney: In the 1990s, LSU earned the moniker “Program of the Decade.” Five national titles in a 10-year span will do that. In the 2010s, I would argue Florida was the program of that decade. Seven trips to Omaha and a national title (2017) made a loud statement. And the current versions of these programs are uniquely positioned for continued excellence. These are two of the premier destinations for both high school recruits and transfers. Both programs will be a handful going forward. Most importantly, these two fan bases will likely enjoy many future Junes in Nebraska.

McGee: They could both most definitely make it back. My gut instinct on LSU is that when you lose the first two picks in the MLB draft, well that is a lot of numbers to have to fill. But Jay Johnson rides that transfer portal maybe as well as I’ve seen any coach in any sport, so expecting him to plug those holes doesn’t seem like much of a reach. That being said, our friends at Mississippi State and Ole Miss will both tell you that it is 100% possible to struggle mightily right after receiving your rings.

Burke: Florida and LSU have been and will continue to be mainstays in Omaha. With world-class coaching staffs and incredible recruiting resources, I could see both of these teams back in Omaha next year. That said, LSU has to deal with life without two of the greatest players in program history in Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes, and Florida loses arguably its program’s best-ever hitter in Wyatt Langford and its two best starting pitchers. That’s a lot for any program to immediately bounce back from.

McDaniel: I think we’re going to see a minimum of five of the eight teams in Omaha every year going forward coming from the 15-25 teams with all the resources and fan support from the major conferences. I’d bet both LSU and Florida hosting super regionals but wouldn’t bet on those two specific teams both making it, or any team repeating.

3. Which team that missed the MCWS field in 2023 will make it next year?

Rooney: Texas Tech pushed national runner-up Florida to a seventh game in the Gainesville Regional. And it did it with a very young team. Rising junior Gavin Kash put up 26 home runs and 84 RBIs. Center fielder Gage Harrelson showed star upside in his freshman year. Ace left-hander Mason Molina returns to lead what was a young but very talented pitching staff. Skipper Tim Tadlock has guided the Red Raiders to four Omahas in the past 10 seasons. This program has pedigree and a roster built for a run.

McGee: We all remember that nightmare of a play for Texas at Sunken Diamond, right? That’s how close they came to returning to Omaha for the third straight year. The fact that LSU just broke its longtime tie with Texas for second on the all-time MCWS championships list will not sit well in Austin this offseason.

Burke: Arkansas. The Hogs were co-SEC champs this year and got upset in their own regional by TCU. Dave Van Horn won’t stay down long. The Razorbacks have been to Omaha three out of the past five years, and my guess is they will be back next year.

McDaniel: Georgia. Easy call with Wes Johnson coming in and the promise of the portal to remake a good-not-great club with huge resources.

4. Who’s your way-too-early pick for player of the year in 2024?

Rooney: It is hard to walk past Jac Caglianone here, but I’ll go with Nick Kurtz of Wake Forest. The 6-foot-5 left-handed hitter combines elite command of the strike zone with prodigious power. Kurtz piled up 63 walks, 24 home runs and 69 RBIs in his sophomore season. His defense is big league. And his presence in the Demon Deacons’ lineup was instrumental in their run to a No. 1 ranking headed into the postseason.

McGee: It has to be Jactani. Remember earlier when I said I believed LSU and Florida could both get back to Omaha? The reason the Gators will return is this dude right here. And then a few weeks later, he will be the No. 1 pick in the MLB draft.

Burke: I’ll go with LSU’s Tommy White. How about this start to a career: In his freshman year he had 27 homers, sophomore year he had 24 homers and 105 RBIs (national leader). Wild to think what Tommy Tanks has in store for us in Year 3, whatever it is, I’m guessing it will put him squarely in the mix for the Golden Spikes Award.

McDaniel: I’ll go with Vance Honeycutt of UNC over Caglianone. Some other strong candidates: Jacob Cozart of NC State, Nick Kurtz of Wake Forest, Travis Bazzana of Oregon State, Charlie Condon of Georgia, J.J. Wetherholt of West Virginia and Malcolm Moore of Stanford.

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Recapping an eventful 2023 MCWS and a way-too-early look ahead to next year