Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, sorry to start a few minutes late — had to finish up a phone call with a coach. Let’s get after it.
Brian (Gainesville): How locked into a national seed is Florida at this point?
Aaron Fitt: The Gators are sitting pretty, no doubt about it. No. 1 in the RPI, a ridiculous 17-6 against the top 50, first place in the SEC. That said, I’d hesitate to say anyone in the SEC is locked into a national seed with four weeks left, because if they lost four straight series, or three out of four, the picture changes — and there are no gimmies ahead. At Alabama, vs. Vandy, at Tennessee is not an easy closing stretch.
Alex (Omaha): Is Nebraska still a post-season team?
Aaron Fitt: Losing a home series to Northwestern this weekend was a pretty big blow, and when I do Stock Report this week, I suspect I’ll have the Huskers on the wrong side of the bubble. No more margin for error for Nebraska; they need a strong finish.
Billy (Carencro): Alabama is in first place in the SEC and ULL is getting a lot of mileage out of taking 2 of 3 in that early season series. Alabama still has to play @SC, UF, @LSU, Miss St. What happens to ULL's resume when Alabama loses its last 4 series?
Aaron Fitt: Well first off, I really don’t expect Alabama to lose its last four series. I chatted with another SEC coach this year who said he thought Alabama was easily the best, most complete team he has faced this year; I think the Tide wins at least two of those last four series. But even if Bama does lose all four, it won’t kill the Cajuns in the RPI. And also, my belief that ULL is good is not based solely on the fact that the Cajuns beat the Crimson Tide. I thought the Cajuns were very good before the season ever started. They are not in a strong conference, but they are utterly dominating it. We have seen very good teams come out of mid-major conferences and get to Omaha before. Stony Brook played a weak nonconference schedule two years ago, then won a regional at Miami and a super at LSU. Indiana went to Tallahassee and won a super regional last year. I know it’s hard for a lot of SEC fans to accept that any team playing in a soft conference could possibly be as good as an SEC team, but history tells us it is in fact possible.
HawkTalk (Nashville): Aaron, you know I've had my concerns about my Dores from an "elite" perspective, but I was pretty convinced we'd be hosting a regional. Now I'm expecting us to be a 2 in Louisville... again.... What do my Dores need to do to get back into hosting position. Will an 11-4 finish do it? And do we pretty much need to sweep both Georgia and Mizzou?
Aaron Fitt: My feeling is the top five teams in the SEC “pecking order” (not necessarily the top five teams in the standings) will host regionals. Pool of candidates: Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Vanderbilt. That’s seven teams, probably competing for five hosting spots (although maybe it is possible the SEC could get an unprecedented six hosts this year — I’ll examine that possibility in Stock Report this week). Looking at Vandy’s remaining schedule, yes, I think 11-4 would do it, with maybe a game or two of wiggle room depending how other teams do.
Joel (KCK): Has Matt Imhof climbed into top half of the first round consideration?
Aaron Fitt: Probably not. We’re hearing more early 2nd-round buzz on him. Great season, great body, but the stuff isn’t as electric as a guy like Brandon Finnegan, who will go in the top half of the first round.
Lupton Stadium (Fort Worth): How good are my TCU boys? The pitching staff the best one in the country? How did you enjoy your visit to TCU? Come eat some BBQ with us.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that pitching staff is special — I’ll have an item about TCU in Three Strikes tomorrow, but Jim Schlossnagle told me that Riley Ferrell has really made the leap this year. He’s consistently 96-99, with an 86-88 slider, and he’s pitching with confidence and command. Pretty special, and obviously so is Finnegan, and Morrison is just so consistent, and the support pieces in the bullpen are very good. Now that the Frogs have become a competent offensive team as well, they can win a lot of games — I think that’s an Omaha sleeper right now. And yes, I had a great stop at Lupton — loved the atmosphere and the stadium, good pregame tailgating going on too.
David MacPhee (Vernon, BC, Canada): projected field of 64 .... any changes since your April 10th. submission, thanks for all the great info , all the best, David
Aaron Fitt: Check back Wednesday morning for Stock Report — I’ll take an in-depth look at the field of 64 at-large races, the host races and the national seed races.
Dave (Washington St.): Aaron - In your 2014 College Preview Top 50 Freshman Prospects: There were four SS ranked 25th or higher. #12Ben DeLuzio ss Florida State, #13 Andy McGuire ss Texas, #15 Garrett Hampson ss Long Beach State & #21 Trever Morrison ss Oregon State. With the season half over, are these young guns getting it done? If so, which of these guys are standing out the most?
Aaron Fitt: Hampson has been the best of that group — playing shortstop every day, hitting for average, really having a nice year. He’s pretty special, I think. DeLuzio has played mostly center field, and McGuire has struggled mightily and has not played any short, where C.J. Hinojosa is entrenched. Morrison has been Oregon State’s starting shortstop and has played very good defense, but he has struggled with the bat. The guy who has vaulted up the list is Connor Justus at Georgia Tech — strong defender who has hit, too. He’s really made a name for himself.
jacob (corvallis): I know i'm going to sound like one of those guys that claim there is east coast bias but i was hoping you could explain something to me. In general it seems like the SEC, ACC and PAC are the strongest confrences in baseball in any given year, and i think most reasonable people would put them on the same level, and in any given year one could be better than the others. So when asked why the PAC has so few ranked teams this year the answer is the PAC is having a down year, which i will believe. But would that mean the PAC is having a down decade? over the last 10 years the SEC averages 8 teams in the field of 64, the ACC 7 and the PAC 4.9. Those numbers look a little disproportional and in those years the PAC only and in equal amount of team in the field of 64 once in 2010 when they all had 8 teams. Has there ever been a year that the PAC has sent more teams than the SEC or ACC? Am i wrong about assuming the PAC is viewed as being on the same level as the SEC or ACC or is there some other reason that the SEC and ACC average over 2 more teams than the PAC does in the field of 64?
Aaron Fitt: Well, I think a big reason is that the Pac has been a smaller league than the ACC and SEC, plain and simple. It was a nine-team league until Oregon joined in 2009, while the SEC and ACC had 12 members. Oregon and Utah made it an 11-team league, but now the SEC has had 14 for a couple of years, and the ACC has 14 too. The Pac sent 6 teams to regionals in 2011, and three of the teams that missed finished with losing records overall. 2012 was Utah’s first year in the league, and the Utes were a drain on the league’s RPI, and so was USC. It was top-heavy that year, and it only sent 5 teams to regionals (and it would have sent 6 if Arizona State hadn’t been serving a postseason ban). Last year, the bottom five teams in the league all finished with 24 or fewer wins overall, and all of them were 8 or more games below .500. Extremely top-heavy. So it’s easy to cherry-pick the numbers and assume there’s some East Coast bias, but when you look at each year individually, it’s pretty easy to see why the Pac has not been represented as well as the SEC and ACC. Its top teams have still been rewarded with hosts and national seeds, though.
homeswithart (New York): Do you see a Stonybrook team like we saw a few years ago that was a very good team that kind of made for a great story? Do you see any sleeper team that may shock us college fans at the end of the season?
Aaron Fitt: Hmm… I don’t think there is a great analog for Stony Brook this year — a team that will likely be a No. 4 seed but is really loaded with talent and poised to make an Omaha run. Mid-majors that I think could be very dangerous in regionals: I’ll go back to Western Carolina and Mercer. Veteran teams with a lot of physicality and balance.
Derek Overbey (San Francisco, CA): In my 20+ years as a Cal State Fullerton fan I've never had to be fearful of the Titans not making the post season. With that said, what would their remaining record need to be to make it in?
Aaron Fitt: Phew, it’s gotten pretty dicey, hasn’t it? The RPI Needs Report at Boyd’s World suggests that the Titans need to win 15 of their final 20 games to finish inside the top 45, which is a useful bench mark for an at-large bid, although last year we saw a couple West Coast teams get in with RPIs in the 50s (San Francisco and UC Santa Barbara). If they can do that, and win 10 of their final 15 conference games to finish 13-11 in the league, they’ll be right on the bubble, but I’ll bet they squeak in.
Erik (Phoenix): Is assuming UNLV is looking like their chances of hosting have faded. Who would take their spot?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, this weekend was a killer for UNLV’s hosting ambitions. I had Arizona State in the hosting discussion in my midseason projection, but the Sun Devils failed to take advantage of their opportunity this weekend, losing a series to Stanford. But Oregon has gotten hot in the last two weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ducks grab a fourth host slot out of the West, joining OSU, Washington and Cal Poly.
Michael (Evansville, IN): What do you feel is a reasonable range in terms of draft position for LHP Kyle Freeland in the upcoming draft?
Aaron Fitt: His positive buzz increases with every passing week. Right now, I’ll say the 3-10 range.
Manny (Port St. Lucie, FL): Is this the year the Canes get back to Omaha? What are your thoughts?
Aaron Fitt: I could certainly see that happening; I continue to believe this is Miami’s best team since its last CWS team in 2008. It will depend on whether the Canes are peaking at the right time in June, and what their postseason path looks like. But it sure is a realistic possibility.
Tommy (Houston): The SEC just seems to be beating each other up in conference play, how many teams do you see making a regional for them?
Aaron Fitt: Ten still feels like the magic number for me. Could see it winding up at 9 or 11; but 10 just feels like the sweet spot.
Bill (Atlanta): The Yellow Jackets really struggle on the road and can't seem to stay in your Top 25. How do you see their series at NCS? The Wolfpack must be desparate.
Aaron Fitt: The Wolfpack ought to be desperate, but I haven’t sensed a whole lot of urgency out of those guys; just frustration. But yeah, NC State has its back against the wall now; we’ll find out if that team has any fight left in it. It might be too late anyway. Georgia Tech is still in pretty solid shape for regionals, and should be as long as it doesn’t get swept this weekend. Jackets could very easily go up there and win two out of three. BC just did it, after all.
Mike (Charleston, WV): How do you view West Virginia? Do you see them in the NCAA tournament this year?
Aaron Fitt: Kept hope alive with a road series win in Norman, stopped the bleeding after that seven-game losing streak. Mountaineers are still in good RPI shape, but not so much in the standings; reminding me more of Notre Dame’s resume last year, and Notre Dame did not make a regional despite a good RPI. West Virginia controls its own destiny; its last four weekends are challenging, but if the Mountaineers can win three of them, I think they’ll get in. I don’t think they’ll be able to pull it off, but they could—I do still like their roster.
todd (austin, tx): Hey guys, what are your thoughts around three of the teams that had high expectations this year and have been a flop so far (Fullerton, Kansas State, NC State). Any of them getting into the postseason? You see any of them getting hot down the stretch?
Aaron Fitt: I think Fullerton has the best chance of those three, at this point. But I could also envision Fullerton’s season continuing to spiral out of control… but there is still time for the Titans to turn it around. I suppose the others could do so also, but they’d have to really get hot, and I don’t see it.
Tucker (Raleigh NC): As an NC State it's been one of the most frustrating teams to watch I've seen but what do you think it's going to take to get an at large bid? Would 7-2 in these last 3 ACC series and finishing 35-19 in reg season do it? Also how many bids do you think will come from the jubbled middle of C-USA. ( ODU, ECU, UTSA, UAB )
Aaron Fitt: If they can go 7-2 in those last three series to get to 14 ACC wins, and they can go 13-3 down the stretch overall to finish around 45 in the RPI, they’ll be on the bubble, and have at least a shot to get in. But after watching that team sleepwalk through 10 weeks, I don’t have a lot of faith they can do it. And C-USA is a jumbled mess, I don’t know what to make of it… Looks like Old Dominion has the best shot of that group, thanks to its RPI and its series wins against FIU and ECU, but I don’t love ODU’s body of work.
Alex (Fairfax, VA): Hey Aaron, Thanks for doing these every week. This weekend's the big weekend: what do you expect from the UVa-Florida State showdown? You going? Predictions?
Aaron Fitt: I am not going — I’ll be up in Corvallis for the Civil War series Friday and Saturday, then up in Seattle for Washington-Wazzu on Sunday. But that showdown in Tallahassee should be awesome, and certainly it could go either way. But I’ll go with the Cavs; just such an elite pitching-and-defense operation.
Jeff (Mississippi): Will Mississippi State host a regional if they win the rest of their SEC series? If not, then what will it take?
Aaron Fitt: I’m thinking probably so, but it’s not a lock because there are so many strong hosting candidates in that league. But I think the remaining schedule is rather favorable, and MSU has a legit chance to win each of those last four. That finishing series in Tuscaloosa could be a big, big one.
Stan (Austin): What are your thoughts on the Longhorns having a change to go deep in the postseason after getting swept at home by TCU? Who is your favorite to win the Big 12?
Aaron Fitt: It didn’t really change my opinion; I know it was a sweep, but all three games were close, low-scoring affairs. Both teams are elite pitching clubs, neither has a great offense, but both should be able to score enough runs to make deep postseason runs if their pitching performs at peak capacity when it matters. I never really believed in Texas as an elite national title contender even heading into this weekend, but UT’s resume warranted it getting moved up the rankings to No. 6. The 10-20 range feels more appropriate to me, though.
Daniel (Arkansas): How good is the weekend rotation for the Hogs in comparison to the rest of the country? Pretty hard to find a better Sunday starter than Chris Oliver.
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that’s a very nice advantage on Sundays. Love that rotation, and credit Michael Gunn and Zach Jackson and Jacob Stone for carrying the bullpen to allow Arkansas to leave Beeks and Oliver in the rotation, where they have flourished. Oliver’s arm is so electric; consistently 91-95, and the biggest difference is his curveball has gotten so much better from a year ago. You look around the SEC, and a lot of teams are really scrambling to find three solid starters, so that’s a very nice luxury for Arkansas.
Paul (Houston Texas): Aaron, how do you see the hosting situation here in the great state of Texas? I assume the committee would only give two regionals even though Texas, Rice, and Houston seem to be in a prime position to each host a regional. Could it happen that the city of Houston could get two regionals in the same city?
Aaron Fitt: Feels like the state has a very good chance to get three regionals, between the Longhorns, Owls, Cougars, TCU and Texas Tech — you’ve got five teams there that all have host-caliber RPIs, and it will depend how they finish. I’d bet on 3 hosts in Texas, with an outside shot at 4. And yes, the city of Houston could get 2 — we’ve seen regionals in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, or LA and Fullerton, for instance. Not much difference there.
Will (San Luis Obispo): Assuming Cal Poly continues to dominate, is there any chance they do not host a regional? I have heard the facilities are not what the NCAA likes. That would be a crime.
Aaron Fitt: There’s no way Poly gets deprived of hosting due to any facilities issues.
Joel (Las Vegas): Are UNLV and New Mexico at large teams this year?
Aaron Fitt: I’m thinking so, yes. Lobos on the bubble with the RPI, but playing great baseball and in good shape in the standings, and they got in with a borderline RPI last year.
Mike (Indiana): What are your thoughts on the Missouri Valley Conference race? Who is your favorite to win it and how many teams do you see the conference getting in the tournament?
Aaron Fitt: I’ll go with Dallas Baptist. To me, they proved they are the best team by going on the road and taking two of three at Illinois State (the other team I like best in that league). Wichita State is still lurking at 6-6… it’s tempting to write off the Shockers after that brutal eight-game losing streak, but I still like the talent and experience of that WSU roster, and I can’t shake the feeling that the Shockers might be able to make a late run at this thing too. Good year for the Valley, feels like a decent shot for three bids.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, thanks for stopping by, see you next week!