The Road to Omaha doesn't begin in the spring; coaches already are driving their players toward the College World Series. It's the rise-n-grind that players tweet about; it's the workout pictures that are shared on social media. It's the day-in, day-out work that coaches and players hope will separate their team in June. Before the first pitch in February, NCAA.com is highlighting teams that may reach the Mecca of college baseball: Omaha.

Rice Owls
• 2014: 42-20 (23-7 C-USA)
• Head coach: Wayne Graham (24th season)
Owls' team website

1. What can fans expect from this squad in 2015? Strong pitching, excellent defense and more team speed.

2. What is the one thing that this year’s team does best? Pitch.

3. Bottom of the ninth, tied game, two outs, winning run on second … which player does this team want to step up to the plate? John Clay Reeves or Connor Teykl.

4. If this team had one game to win, which pitcher would get the ball? Jordan Stephens, with Matt Ditman in relief.

5. Who are we most likely to see make a "SportsCenter Top 10" play on this squad? Freshman centerfielder Ryan Chandler or senior second baseman Ford Stainback.

6. What does Omaha mean to this team? That is our goal, and we feel we belong there.

-- Rice Baseball

TOP RETURNING HITTERS
PLAYER AVG. G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI
John Clay Reeves .317 58 221 32 70 7 1 6 41
Connor Teykl .259 48 135 17 35 3 0 0 22
Ford Stainback .258 62 236 26 61 7 1 0 28
TOP RETURNING PITCHERS
PLAYER ERA W-L SV IP H ER BB K B/AVG.
Blake Fox 1.46 12-0 0 104.2 88 17 27 69 .236
Matt Ditman 1.83 5-6 9 68.2 50 14 12 77 .198
Jordan Stephens * 2.57 2-0 0 14.0 11 4 5 15 .212
* Missed most of 2014 after Tommy John surgery.