DURHAM, N.C—Florida is No. 1 in Baseball America’s preseason Top 25 rankings for the second year in a row—and the second time in school history. The Gators, who finished as national runners-up a year ago, return the bulk of their everyday lineup, their entire weekend rotation and a number of key arms in the bullpen.
The team that beat Florida in the College World Series Finals in 2011, South Carolina, begins its quest for a third straight national championship with a No. 3 ranking. The Gamecocks return loads of proven pitching but will have entirely new starters up the middle of the diamond. Fellow CWS participants Texas A&M (7), North Carolina (9), Vanderbilt (10) and Texas (13) also earned spots in the preseason rankings.
The Southeastern Conference, which produced three of the final four teams standing in Omaha last year and has won the last three national titles, looks strong again heading into 2012. The SEC accounts for three of the top four teams and six of the top 11 in the 2012 preseason rankings. The SEC leads all conferences with seven teams in the Top 25, followed by the Atlantic Coast and Pacific-12 conferences with five apiece.
There is one fresh name in the rankings. No. 21 Central Florida carries a ranking into the season for the first time since opening the 2001 campaign at No. 17.
The staff of Baseball America determines the Top 25 rankings. Last year’s records do not include ties.
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