CLEMSON -- As the NCAA selection show appeared on flat-screen televisions in a packed Clemson clubhouse Monday, Jack Leggett whistled to quiet a jovial Clemson team.
The group was feeling good after winning 27 of 33 games to secure a regional a day earlier, but the Clemson coach signaled it was time to get serious, it was time to learn about their road to Omaha.
Clemson discovered it will not be an easy path to return to the College World Series. This weekend Clemson will entertain No. 18 Connecticut, fellow Palmetto State power Coastal Carolina and Sacred Heart, whom the Tigers open against Friday.
And if Clemson and No. 4 national seed South Carolina win their regionals, the Tigers will travel to Columbia next week for a best-of-three series against its rival for a trip to the College World Series.
No one said it would be easy for Clemson.
No. 2 seed Connecticut (41-17-1) boasts the two most talented players in the NCAA tournament, a pair of projected first-rounders in ace Matt Barnes (11-3, 1.77 ERA) and five-tool outfielder George Springer (.361 avg., 12 home runs, 31 steals).
"UConn has some guys that could be drafted pretty quick," Clemson third baseman John Hinson said. "But it's a team game, and as a team I think we are one of the best in the nation."
Connecticut is not just a two-star team.
Entering last week, the Huskies ranked 12th in the nation with a 2.85 staff ERA and sixth with 122 steals -- speed being critical in a new era where power has been stripped from the game.
No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina (41-18) is in possession of its own ace in Anthony Meo (9-3, 2.21 ERA), who tossed a no-hitter in the Big South tournament last week. Like Clemson and Connecticut, Coastal has a diversified offense with 99 steals and 47 home runs.
The Tigers defeated Coastal Carolina, 5-4, earlier this year in Clemson.
"It doesn't matter who else is in the regional," said Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore when asked about Clemson by reporters. "We can only focus on one (team) and hopefully we can get by those guys."
Sacred Heart won 11 of 12 games leading into its conference tournament title and has a coach who played in the NFL, Nick Giaquinto.
Despite a strong field, Clemson has a couple of things going for it, including history.
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999, Clemson has hosted six regionals and advanced six times. Clemson is 38-7 in home regional games under Leggett.
"It's much nicer playing at home," Leggett said, "but you've still got to go out and earn it."
The Tigers might also benefit from UConn and Coastal being compelled to throw their aces, Barnes and Meo, in their opening game to avoid the dreaded losers' bracket in the double-elimination format. But the Hartford Courant reported Monday that Connecticut coach Jim Penders was considering starting nine-game winner Greg Nappo against Coastal and saving Barnes for a potential winners' bracket meeting with Clemson.
UConn has pitching depth but Barnes is on another level. Baseball American projects Barnes, who can touch 96 mph, as the 10th overall pick. The right-hander has struck out 105 batters and allowed just 62 hits and 28 walks in 112 innings this season.
Leggett did not say who would be his starting pitcher against Sacred Heart.
Leggett could gamble and save his ace Dominic Leone for the second game. Leggett said Kevin Brady, who has recently returned from a strained forearm, will remain in a bullpen role, having not had enough time to stretch out his arm to return to the rotation. Another starting pitcher, Jonathan Meyer, has a swollen knee but is expected to be OK for the weekend.
"I think everyone knows what their role is," Leggett said. "And our pitching roles are starting to be more defined as well."