OMAHA, Neb. -- Clemson and South Carolina have made several trips to Omaha in the past decade, but the reality is that none of the players on the current roster had ever set foot inside Rosenblatt Stadium before Friday.
The only player that was on either roster for the last College World Series appearance was Clemson senior Wilson Boyd, but Boyd took a redshirt year and wasn't even in Omaha with the team. He was playing summer ball elsewhere, following along like any other fan.
The question is: How will the Tigers and Gamecocks handle themselves on this stage?
South Carolina (48-15) begins play at 2 p.m. today against Oklahoma (49-16). Clemson (43-23) will follow against No. 1 overall seed Arizona State (52-8) at 7 p.m.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner has a hunch that his team, loose as can be all year, will continue to behave that way.
"That just hasn't been their personality," Tanner said. "They also haven't been on this stage before. I just don't expect it. I don't expect it. If we're a little bit uptight, it'll be the first time."
Showing their quirky side, the Gamecocks, 5-0 in the postseason, have been rallying behind a baseball taped to a bat that they call the "Avatar Spirit Stick."
Keeping things light served South Carolina particularly well a weekend ago, when the team won two one-run games at Coastal Carolina to advance to the ninth College World Series in school history, the first since 2004.
Meanwhile, Clemson saw its postseason life flash before its eyes in late April, but it turned on the offense to reach the College World Series for the 12th time in the program's history.
Of the eight teams here, the Tigers are the only No. 2 seed. The rest are No. 1 seeds. Everyone, save Clemson and Florida State (the Seminoles, as a No. 1, were sent to Connecticut), hosted a regional.
Alabama's upset at Georgia Tech paved the way for the Tigers to host the super regional against the Tide. They won the series' final two games to make it back to Omaha for the first time since 2006.
Things were different then than they are now. In 2006, Clemson was the tournament's No. 1 seed. A lot is expected of you in that position. As one of the event's underdogs? Not as much.
"There's a bit of a burden when you're the No. 1 seed. Expectation levels are high," longtime Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. "You throw that on top of a kid who's probably already a little bit nervous and, next thing you know, you're in trouble.
"We're coming in here loose and relaxed, I think. At the same time, it's a great challenge in our bracket, with Arizona State."
The Sun Devils sure seem to be odds-on favorites here in a double-elimination event that features just three of the eight overall seeds (Florida is the No. 3 seed, UCLA is No. 6).
Arizona State is the only team here that's ever won a national title, although the last one came in 1981. It did finish third a year ago, however, after getting past Clemson in the super regional.
The Sun Devils have eight regulars in their lineup hitting better than .327. Riccio Torrez leads the team, at .399 in 57 games. They also have three pitchers, including tonight's starter, Seth Blair (12-0), with 10 or more victories.
From last year's experience, and watching Arizona State on TV in the super regional against Arkansas, Leggett says he knows what the Tigers are up against.
For USC, Oklahoma is a bit different. The Sooners have come from behind 27 times this season, including a couple of times in the postseason. It's the school's first time back to Omaha in 15 years.
Tanner has compared Oklahoma to Auburn, given the Sooners' decent pitching staff and excellent power- hitting lineup. Particularly, Oklahoma presents itself as a tough matchup because of the number of left-handed power hitters in the order.
Five of the Sooners' top hitters bat left-handed. One to note is outfielder Cody Reine, who hit four home runs and drove in 11 runs in the final two games of the team's super regional upset at Virginia.
That could be tough for South Carolina starter Blake Cooper, who is right-handed. Cooper's equalizer against left-handed batters is a changeup. He said if it's working effectively, he will be OK. If not, he will be forced to grind.
The possibility is out there, of course, that Clemson and South Carolina could meet in this tournament, just like when they did twice in 2002. Both teams are aware, even if they're first concentrating on opponent No. 1.
Tanner acknowledged that fans would probably like to see the spotlight cast on the teams with a head-to-head matchup.
"If that happens, so be it," he said. "I hope it happens in the winner's bracket and not that other bracket."