It's college basketball's biggest time of the year, with the NCAA tournament beginning in earnest on Thursday.

But many of the 64 remaining schools have generated their fair share of Major Leaguers, in addition to fielding successful hoops programs. With that in mind, here is an "Elite Eight" of NCAA tournament teams, in terms of baseball talent produced.

South Region


The Reds got a seven-time All-Star and likely future Hall of Famer when they drafted a shortstop from this school in the 11th round of the 1989 Draft. Sound familiar? If it doesn't, that's because Trevor Hoffman changed teams twice and switched to pitching before his career took off with the Padres. He eventually recorded 601 saves, second only to Mariano Rivera. It's a long way from Hoffman, but Mark Melancon is another former Arizona pitcher who has found his home as a closer, leading the league with 51 last year.

Kenny Lofton was a two-sport star for the Wildcats, playing in the school's first Final Four as a backup point guard behind Steve Kerr. A 17th-round pick by the Astros, he became a terrific defensive center fielder and six-time All-Star with nearly 2,500 hits and more than 600 stolen bases. Other former players to attend Arizona include J.T. Snow, Scott Erickson and Indians manager Terry Francona, who won the 1980 College World Series and Golden Spikes Award.


Class of 2016 Hall of Famer Mike Piazza was only a Hurricane briefly before transferring to Miami-Dade College, but even if you don't count him, the school has seen plenty of future Major Leaguers come through. Ryan Braun is a six-time All-Star with 255 homers and 165 steals over nine seasons, and other active players -- such as Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay -- also are Miami products.

Greg Vaughn was the fourth overall pick in the 1986 Draft out of Miami and went on to slug 355 homers and collect more than 1,000 RBIs. Catcher Charles Johnson helped lead the Marlins to the 1997 World Series championship, Danny Graves saved 182 games, and Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell combined for four rings and more than 500 homers.

West Region


During his two years in Austin after transferring from San Jacinto College, Roger Clemens went 25-7 and led the Longhorns to the 1983 College World Series championship. That was the precursor to a big league career that included 354 victories, 4,672 strikeouts and seven Cy Young Awards.

The Longhorns have helped mold a lot of other successful pitchers as well. Huston Street also was a national champion at Texas (2002), was named the College World Series' Most Outstanding Player, became a first-round pick and now has more than 300 career saves. Burt Hooton, Shane Reynolds and Greg Swindell all won more than 100 games in the Majors and made an All-Star team.


The Blue Devils are of course known as a basketball school, but long before the days of Coach K, Dick Groat was a two-sport star in Durham, earning All-American honors in both hoops and baseball. On the court, he was the 1951-52 National Player of the Year, but his future was on the diamond. Groat signed with the Pirates in June 1952 and jumped over the Minors straight to the big leagues, where he became a five-time All-Star shortstop despite missing two seasons for military service. Groat was the 1960 NL MVP and won two World Series rings.

More recently, Marcus Stroman was a first-round pick out of Duke in 2012, burst into the Majors two years later and helped the Blue Jays advance to last year's ALCS. Other successful former Blue Devils include Chris Capuano, Quinton McCracken, Scott Schoeneweis and Mike Trombley.

Midwest Region

Michigan State

The Spartans have not produced a lot of Major Leaguers of late, but some big names have worn the green and white over the years. Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts, who won 286 games over 19 seasons, was a two-way star. He led the Spartans' hoops squad in scoring in 1946-47 and threw two no-hitters for the baseball team. More recently, Mark Mulder came out of East Lansing as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 Draft and was a two-time All-Star before injuries intervened.

Meanwhile, Steve Garvey and Kirk Gibson both had football as their second sport at Michigan State. Before he became the 1974 NL MVP and a 10-time All-Star first baseman, Garvey recorded 30 tackles as a defensive back in 1967 and was an All-American pick on the diamond. Gibson is known for one of baseball's most famous home runs -- and his time as manager of the D-backs -- but actually went to East Lansing on a football scholarship and didn't join the baseball team until his junior year. It's fair to say he took to it well.

Seton Hall

The South Orange, N.J., school played a big role in jumpstarting the career of Craig Biggio, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. A catcher for the Pirates -- as well as early in his big league career -- Biggio hit .342 at Seton Hall and was a two-time All-Big East selection. He went on to rack up more than 3,000 hits and was a seven-time All-Star with the Astros.

At Seton Hall, Biggio played with Mo Vaughn, a 1989 first-round pick who six years later took AL MVP honors after driving in 126 runs for the Red Sox. Those two also shared a locker room with John Valentin, who had his own solid 11-year career, producing more than 30 WAR, mostly with Boston. Later on, Matt Morris and Jason Grilli were first-round picks who found big league success on the mound.

East Region


Two of the Trojans' many former stars, Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Randy Johnson, combined for 614 wins and 8,515 strikeouts in the Majors. Not a bad righty-lefty combo to lead an all-time rotation. More recently, Barry Zito went from Trojan to Cy Young Award winner, and Mark Prior looked to be on that path before health problems derailed him. Brad Boxberger, Ian Kennedy and Tommy Milone all are former Trojans and current big league hurlers.

Before he broke Roger Maris' MLB single-season home run record, Mark McGwire did the same for USC and the Pac-10 when he went deep 32 times in 1984. Numerous other USC hitters have gone on to success in The Show, including Fred Lynn, Ron Fairly, Dave Kingman, Bret and Aaron Boone, Jeff Cirillo and Geoff Jenkins.

North Carolina

Prior to becoming a star with the Mets, Matt Harvey made his mark in Chapel Hill and was taken seventh overall in the 2010 Draft. That's actually one spot later than left-hander Andrew Miller was selected by the Tigers in 2006, though it took Miller a while to find success in the Majors. Things finally clicked four years ago in the Red Sox bullpen, and Miller has struck out about 14 batters per nine innings ever since.

Current Major Leaguers Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Chris Iannetta and Adam Warren all are former UNC players as well. Further back, B.J. Surhoff was the first overall pick in the 1985 Draft and went on to a 19-year career, while Walt Weiss suited up in Chapel Hill before spending 14 years in the Majors as a player and three more (and counting) as manager of the Rockies.

* * *
Andrew Simon is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

More MLB stories from Sports on Earth

Spring Training Injury Freak-Out Factor

Baseball a family affair for LaRoches

Thor ready to bring Thunder again