Ok. Here are the brackets. Let's go through a quick run-through with just 3 hours until opening ceremonies.
Personally, I'd like to see Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi do well as I think they've been a good enough team to make Koushien several times. I'd also like to see Tokoha Tachibana do well because I like the Tokoha schools in general.
Realistically, the winner is probably going to come out of the top half of the bracket. Specifically, the winner of the Narita-Chiben Wakayama game is in the driver's seat to win Block A. Now, if Hachinohe Koudai Dai-ichi beats Eimei, I think they can put up a challenge to either team, but not as big of one as in the first round.
This bracket is bound to have a blockbuster in the 2nd round. Reigning champion Chuukyoudai Chuukyou versus the vaunted Waseda Jitsugyou. The thing is, being in two large brackets, both teams never really played strong teams throughout their prefectural tournament. Still, solely because of the quality of players they can attract, they have to have an advantage over the other teams.
Now challengers to either team include Ichinoseki Gakuin, who was passed up for last spring's senbatsu and might have something to prove. Then there's Kanto Dai-ichi who probably had one of the tougher schedules, facing teams such as Yukigaya, Seiritsu Gakuen, and the pre-tournament favorite Shuutoku.
This block is probably the most wide open of all of them with no clear favorite.
Hokushou has proven to be a good team, but like many Hokkaido schools, unable to deliver at Koushien. Nagasaki Nichidai was on the verge of upsetting Kikuchi Yuusei and Hanamaki Higashi last year. Houtoku Gakuen defeated Okamoto Ken and Kobe Kokusaidai Fuzoku in the semifinals. Fukui Shougyou also is a good team that can be expected to win a game or two.
Wild cards are teams like Asahikawa Jitsugyou, and Inabe Sougou (who has also been a good team, but has never been able to break through - until now).
Certainly the favorite here is senbatsu champion Kounan. The offense delivered for the always dominant Shimabukuro Yousuke, and look to again.
It won't necessarily be easy though to get out of Block D. 2nd round they'll have to face either Meitoku Gijyuku or Honjyou Dai-ichi. Meitoku may give them the harder challenge, but it'll be far from a gimme.
Possible 3rd round opponents include teams such as Kaisei, who wasn't a bad team at senbatsu, just ran into a good pitcher from Kouyou. Of course, they'll have to face Shimabukuro if they face Kounan... Sendai Ikuei is a relative staple at Koushien, but have had trouble breaking into the best 8.
No offense to the other teams, especially since the other schools either haven't been to Koushien in a while or it's their 1st appearance, but Hifumi Shinta has a ticket to the Best 8 punched, he just needs to get on the train.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that Toukaidai Sagami did not look all that impressive at senbatsu, and Hifumi in particular. I think there is now a "show me" factor placed upon them here to prove they deserve a serious look as a contender for the title.
Sure this block has only 4 teams, but this is certainly not an easy bracket.
Seikou Gakuin makes a return appearance to Koushien and has made a run to the Best 8 as recent as 2008.
Then there's Kouryou and Arihara, who made it to the semifinals of senbatsu. With one game less to play being in this bracket, can Arihara's arm hold up?
Riseisha defeated both PL Gakuen and Kinkidai Fuzoku to reach the tournament, neither team being a general pushover.
And finally Tenri, who is a mainstay at Koushien and can be considered as contender for the tititle at times. But recently while the team has showed good fundamentals on defense, their pitching is lacking at times and in game decision-making has been questionable at best.
Kouryou has the inside track to advance out of this block. But I could see either Tenri or Riseisha making a decent effort. Sorry Seikou Gakuin.
Like Block C, there really isn't a clear favorite here in Block G. Hikawa is probably the longest shot to advance with no history at Koushien, and a soft prefectural schedule. I like Kyoto Gaidai Nishi for personal reasons, but like Hikawa did not have a strong prefectural schedule.
Niigata Meikun did defeat Nihon Bunri in the finals, but without ace Itou Bunri was probably just 'another Niigata team".
And now that my outlook on Fukuoka baseball has changed, seeing Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku defeat teams such as Higashi-Fukuoka, Iidzuka and Fukuoka Koudai Jyoutou is certainly a big positive.
Overall, Nishi Nippon Tankidai Fuzoku is probably a slight favorite to advance out of Block G.
Last block. No real strong names in this block, but Kagoshima Jitsugyou has had experience here, and Kyushu Gakuin has never really been a pushover even though they're not a regular attendee.
Noshiro Shougyou, Yamagata Chuo and Matsumoto Kougyou all come from relatively weaker prefectures, and will be hard pressed to advance.
Done with the review. 2 hours till opening ceremonies!