Baseball America

College Top 25 Chat: May 16

Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody. We’re coming down the home stretch — fun time of year in college baseball. Let’s get going!

    Jason (Austin): Texas A&M holds a 1 game lead on Texas as they are set for a 3 game series this weekend. Who wins the Big 12 regular season title this weekend Texas or Texas A&M?

Aaron Fitt: I like when it all comes down to one series
between the two best teams for the league title. With John Stilson’s status in question, and with two of the games scheduled for Austin, I think you have to give Texas a slight edge on paper, but obviously it could go either way. Should be a great series!

    Shannon (Gainesville, FL): Did Mike Zunino wrap
    up the SEC Player of the Year award with his performance yesterday? And
    now that we're down to the final weekend, how do you see the SEC East race finishing?

Aaron Fitt: I don’t know that he wrapped it up — he had cooled off a bit before Sunday, and there are other strong candidates too (Mikie Mahtook, Jarrod Parks, Aaron Westlake and Christian Walker come to mind). But I do think Zunino’s a pretty solid favorite, and that Sunday performance will definitely bolster his case. The East race has been incredibly compelling all year, and I’m glad it will come down to the last weekend with all three teams tied for first. I
suppose I’d give South Carolina a slight edge since it owns both tie-breakers, and my gut says all three teams win two of three this weekend (Alex Meyer is certainly capable of beating anyone, negating Florida’s schedule edge a bit).

    Bill (Atlanta): I guess I'm a little disappointed that the Yellow Jackets didn't make a bigger move with you after the come from way behind thriller over UNC Saturday and series clincher Sunday. But, I'm hardly objective. Do you see GT as being in good shape for a national seed barring a bad finish?

Aaron Fitt: Great weekend for the Jackets, but it’s hard to jump them over Texas A&M and TCU, who have very similar overall resumes and both had good weekends as well. Tech is in good position for a national seed, but there is not a lot of separation between any of those top five ACC teams, leaving the race for probably two national seeds from the conference up in the air still. The last two
weeks will determine it.

Aaron Fitt: Follow-up to the last answer: obviously Virginia is a lock for a national seed, so I think Georgia Tech, Florida
State and North Carolina are competing for one national seed, maybe two. Clemson has an outside shot if it can finish very strong, but that will be a tall order on the road at FSU this weekend. Tech has the edge over UNC by virtue of the head-to-head series this weekend and the standings, but at this point I still like Florida State’s body of work a
tad more than Georgia Tech’s.

    Josh (Beaumont): Are we going to see 3 acc teams and 3 Sec teams get National Seeds?

Aaron Fitt: It’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it — I
suspect you’ll see five national seeds between the two leagues, and right now it seems like the SEC is more likely to get three than the ACC, but that’s far from a lock. Oregon State, Arizona State and the Big
12 winner will also factor strongly into the mix, probably keeping the ACC and SEC from grabbing six national seeds.

    Titan Glenn (Orange County, CA): I saw in your
    blog the other day that Fullerton would not be projected to be a national seed and is not a definite to be a regional host. Huh? Do you
    really think that there are 8 teams better than the Titans no less 16?

Aaron Fitt: Thinking the Titans are one of the best 8 or 16 teams isn’t the same as thinking their resume is among the best 8 or 16. Fullerton is just 6-8 against the top 50, which is much worse than the other top candidates for national seeds, and really doesn’t even stack up great with the other regional contenders. Geography works to Fullerton’s advantage, but this just isn’t a great year for the Big West, which hurts Fullerton’s case a bit. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Western teams with Southeastern and Texas teams in the RPI — I’d prefer to use the RPI to compare teams with other teams in their own
regions, but the committee puts a lot of emphasis on the RPI. At the end of the day, I think Fullerton will be a regional host but not a national seed.

    Alex (Fairfax, VA): Lost in UVa's consistency has been the midseason Sunday starter switch to Will Roberts, soon after
    he threw a midweek perfect game. While UVa lost Sunday games to E. Carolina, FSU and Ga Tech earlier this season, Roberts shut down Miami on 1 ER over 7 IP (5:1 K:BB) to give UVa their third consecutive rubber match in a series. UVa will need 4+ starters for regionals etc., but how
    much more formidable are they in a super-regional with Roberts in a potential rubber match?

Aaron Fitt: Great call, Alex. Roberts has really solidified the weekend rotation, and it’s nice that Virginia has a fourth quality starter in Winiarski, giving the Cavs some wiggle room in
case they have a hiccup in regionals — their pitching depth gives them
an edge. That’s a great weekend rotation with Roberts in the No. 3 spot.

    Josh (Hattiesburg,ms): How badly do you think the loss of the series with Houston hurt the Southern Miss? Do you still
    think that Southern Miss will host a regional?

Aaron Fitt: I think it probably crushed their national seed chances, but the Golden Eagles are still in pretty good shape to host, especially if they can hold off Rice for the C-USA regular-season title. This weekend is important. If Rice goes in there and wins that series, Southern Miss might yet find itself on the road for regionals.

    Mike (West Hartford CT): Assuming they finish strong and win the big east tournament which numbers and logic prevail -
    the huskies are hovering around a 45 RPI and therefore are a 3 seed or one of the last 2 seeds or BA has them ranked as one of the top 15 teams
    in America and the committee's naked eye test of their talent puts them
    as a 2 seed hosting again or sneak in as a last 1 seed?

Aaron Fitt: The committee doesn’t care where we have teams ranked — the RPI will determine UConn’s seeding. Could see them bumping up to a No. 2 if they can continue to dominate over the next two
weeks, but I don’t see them hosting again, and certainly not as a No. 1
seed. A 3 seed probably is the likeliest scenario — but what a dangerous 3 seed!

    steve Miller (missouri): Florida International, Really?

Aaron Fitt: Really! We’re riding the hot hand — FIU has a 16-game unbeaten streak, and it does have plenty of talent (we strongly considered the Golden Panthers for a spot in our preseason Top 25). FIU also played a strong nonconference schedule, helping explain its early-season struggles. That team is peaking at the right time.

    Bill (Hoover, AL): Aaron, I appreciate your time with the chat. As a struggling Georgia fan would you clarify the requirements for an "at-large" invite? The NCAA Baseball Handbook mentions "Bylaw 31.3.3" but never quotes it. Does a team have to be at .500 or above .500 to get a bid? With a RPI around 25 and a SOS in the top 10, it looks like we will be on the outside looking in. Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Teams have to finish above .500 — just finishing right at .500 is not enough. Georgia is 26-26 right now, so let’s say it goes 2-2 in the next week against Kennesaw State and Vanderbilt — it would enter the SEC tournament at 28-28. That would mean it would have to win at least 3 games in Hoover just to be eligible
for an at-large spot (it’s a double-elimination tournament, so they’re going to have at least 2 losses unless they win the whole tournament). The road is very challenging for Georgia, and I probably wouldn’t bet on
those guys finishing with a winning record and finding their way into regionals at this point. If they do finish above .500, I think they’ll be in, however.

    Josh (Auckland, NZ): Aaron, with ASU falling to
    Southern Cal this weekend, and with the jump in the RPI to #4, does this move Florida State off the National Seed bubble (In) category or will a series win over Clemson ultimately do that instead? Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: I think they need to win the Clemson series
to move to the “safely in” category for a national seed. Those top ACC teams are too tightly bunched otherwise.

    Daniel (Baton Rouge Louisiana): If Lsu can take 2 of 3 at Mississippi St. this weekend would the Tigers get a bid to the NCAA Tourny?

Aaron Fitt: Quite possibly, especially if Georgia doesn’t finish above .500. There is plenty of precedent for teams finishing with even worse conference records than 13-17 getting at-large
bids, so if LSU can reach 13 conference wins to go along with its strong RPI, I think it has a real shot — maybe even a better shot than Ole Miss, if both teams miss Hoover, since LSU’s RPI is stronger and it won the head-to-head series against the Rebels. Or maybe LSU and Ole Miss both get in as the eighth and ninth teams from the SEC, assuming Georgia’s out. If I were a betting man, I would bet on LSU getting into the field of 64 if it can win the Mississippi State series.

    Ted (Charlottesville, Virginia): Is it really possible that a pitcher with a 5-6 record will be the #1 pick in the MLB draft?

    Why are you so much more bullish on Oregon State than other polls?

    Who else besides Brian O'Conner is a possible contender for coach of the year?

    Love your work! What a great college baseball season!

Aaron Fitt: It’s hard to believe, but yes, Gerrit Cole (5-6) has a very real chance to be the No. 1 overall pick despite his struggles. The stuff is simply electric, and scouts still love him, even
though there are things to nit-pick. As for Oregon State, what’s not to
love about their body of work? Two-game lead in the Pac-10, won every series, swept ASU, swept a road series at Stanford, won two of three at UCLA, etc etc… they just take care of business, and it hasn’t even mattered that they were ravaged by injuries this year.

Aaron Fitt: As for coach of the year candidates, O’Connor is on the short list of favorites along with Pat Casey, Ray Tanner (although I don’t think we’ve ever had a back-to-back winner of that award), and really every coach of a team in the top 10. People take
Florida State for granted, but I think Mike Martin has done a great job
with a team that has not really gotten consistent pitching outside Sean
Gilmartin. Certainly Tim Esmay has done a great job in the face of all kinds of adversity at Arizona State. Those names jump out.

    Rob (Arizona): Can the young players at Arizona carry them to a super regional? Who needs to step up for them to reach this goal?

Aaron Fitt: I think that team is absolutely talented enough to make a deep postseason run, and the weekend rotation should set up nice with Heyer, Simon and now talented freshman Konner Wade in the Sunday spot. Moving Hale to the bullpen strengthens a pen that has been Arizona’s primary concern this year. Bandilla, Hale and Chaffee look like a solid group back there, but those guys are the key, I think.

    Evan M (Raleigh NC): Whats NC State chances looking like right now, they are 12-15 in the ACC and 7-11 vs. top 25 ACC schools and a top 25 strength of schedule.

Aaron Fitt: The Wolfpack really must win that BC series
this weekend, and a sweep would help. But I think taking two of three at BC and winning a game or two in the ACC tournament would be enough.

    Kristi (Fayetteville, AR): Hey Aaron,
    Arkansas was so close to winning the SC series but came up short. If the Hogs were to take the series against Ole Miss and win a couple in the SEC tourney do you think Arkansas would have a chance to host a Regional?

    Thanks alot,
    Kristi

Aaron Fitt: No question. The RPI is right where it needs to be, and that series win against Florida last week was huge. Winning the Ole Miss series is critical, though — I don’t see a team that has lost 7 weekend series and is below .500 in its league hosting a
regional.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Wow Aaron, the PAC 10 has managed to knock each other around to the point where only Oregon St and
    AZ St remain in the Top 25. Do you still view them as strong contenders
    when the play offs begin or have they dropped off overall in your eyes?

Aaron Fitt: Whichever eastern or central teams get stuck with the likes of Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Stanford in their regionals are not going to be happy about it — those teams are really, really dangerous. Still love the talent level of all four, and would not
be surprised to see any of the four make a run all the way to Omaha. UCLA will probably be in Fullerton again though, let’s face it. The other three will be shipped to other parts of the country, unless Fresno
hosts a regional. That could happen, but I don’t expect it to at this point.

    Andrew (Lawrence, KS): Do you believe the anonymous coach or scout from last Friday's Vanderbilt/Florida preview considers Mike Zunino (.367/.437/.654) to be something more than a "solid guy, good player..."? Has Zunino reached the rarefied air of "guy who stands out?"

Aaron Fitt: He has for me! I think he’s an elite player — obviously. A future first-round pick.

    Jonathan (Troy): Are the rankings this time of year more of a "what have you done for me lately" kind of thing? Troy has struggled some recently after their #2 starter, Drew Hull, went down
    with Tommy John. But they still have a better record than FIU at 37-15 and beat the Panthers two out of three earlier in the season. So what gives and do the Trojans have any chance of moving back into the rankings?

Aaron Fitt: As I said before, we decided to ride the hot hand there, but we nearly ranked Troy over FIU — the debate between
those two teams was very close. You are right about Troy being ahead in
the standings and having won the head-to-head series… but momentum matters too. Toss a coin, I suppose, but we like the 16-game unbeaten streak.

    Greg (NYC): Aaron, I don't think you'll get any
    Vandy-OSU questions this week, but I do want to ask about whether or not you think the Commodores need to worry with Navery Moore blowing two
    saves and not looking sharp at all over the weekend. He has dominated all year (1 ER and no extra base hits prior to this weekend)... do Vandy
    fans need to be concerned about the bullpen down the stretch?

Aaron Fitt: I would not worry about Navery Moore — tip
your cap to Florida and move on. But it’s nice that Vanderbilt does have plenty of insurance in that deep bullpen. That’s one reason Tim Corbin liked having Jack Armstrong in the bullpen, giving them insurance
in case anything happened to Moore — especially after Russell Brewer’s
injury hurt that team last year.

    Tim (New Orleans): Aaron, love reading your columns every week. What do you think of Tulane's chances of making a regional this season, and what will they have to do this weekend/CUSA tournament to seal the deal? CUSA is one of the top 5 conferences this year, so I would think that 4 or 5 teams should get in. Tulane has series wins at UCF, against UAB and Memphis, and also nice series wins against Wichita St and at Ole Miss. Their resume' looks pretty solid when looking at series wins in my opinion. What do you think?

Aaron Fitt: It hurts that Wichita hasn’t had a great season, and Ole Miss is just a fringe regional contender rather than a power like it usually is. Tulane’s RPI (No. 62) is working against it —
the committee simply has no history of awarding at-large bids to teams outside the top 60, and very little history of giving bids to teams in the 50s. Tulane must win the ECU series and probably needs to sweep it to have a good chance, or take two of three and then make a nice run in the conference tournament. That is a strong league this year, and I think it is worthy of five regional teams, with Tulane as the fifth one.
But the Green Wave has work to do.

    J. Underwood (Fort Mill, SC): Hey Aaron—I'm a Gamecock fan so as long we get a National seed I'm happy, but I have to question how our SEC brethren, Vandy, drops 4 spots? After outscoring Fla 22-13 (albeit they did lose the series due to 2 close losses)—they're now behind TX, FSU and OSU? Teams from lesser conferences but with much worse records? Vandy has 8 losses, 6 are to Carolina, Fla, AK, and Stanford—they should be no lower than #4. Way too reactionary—methinks some politics at play? Everyone tired of the SEC domination of the Top 5?

    Thanks

Aaron Fitt: Nothing to do with politics or anything like that. The fact is, as impressive as Vandy’s season has been, it has
lost the head-to-head series against South Carolina and Florida (and yes, both series were extremely close, but a series loss is a series loss, at the end of the day). We felt like Vandy had to be behind Florida after losing that series in Nashville, and Florida still has to be behind Florida State (which is 3-1 against the Gators and has a comparable overall resume). And there was no reason to move Texas down. A
four-spot drop was harsh for Vandy, but you have to remember — all those teams in the top 7 are really, really good, and all have great credentials. Is the ACC really that much “inferior” to the SEC? The way I
see it, the SEC has three elite teams and then a bunch of good-but-not-great teams. The top six teams in the ACC are all just as good or better than the fourth-place team in the SEC, for my money. I like Arkansas’ talent, but if Arkansas was a juggernaut, wouldn’t it be better than 13-14 in the league, and have fewer than six series losses? If Georgia was a powerhouse, wouldn’t it be better than .500 overall? I know the SEC schedule is a meat-grinder, so you cut those teams some slack — but there are three teams in that league that have 20 wins in conference play, so clearly it is possible to put together a good record
in the SEC if you’re a really elite team. Georgia has the fourth-best conference record in the SEC, and it is 2-6 against the ACC. I’m not saying the ACC is better than the SEC — but I think it’s pretty close.

    Terry (Selden, N.Y.): I read an AP story about Stony Brook last week, I can't believe the Seawolves have been so good this season! Any chance they could do some damage in the NCAAs if they make it that far?

Aaron Fitt: I do think Stony Brook could be dangerous in the postseason — it has really good pitching, for one thing. Nick Tropeano gives Stony Brook a chance against anybody’s ace, and guys like
Tyler Johnson and Brandon McNitt have been outstanding this year. And I
think it’s safe to say Stony Brook’s offense has been better than even coach Matt Senk expected it to be. Balanced club, and a very good club.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all I’ve got time for today. Thanks for stopping by!

College | #2011 #Top 25

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