College Top 25 Chat: March 5
Aaron Fitt will answer your college questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
Hi everybody — I'll have to keep this chat a little short today so I can catch a flight back to SoCal. Let's get going.
Lance C. (Fredericksburg, VA.): Given what we have seen so far this season, if Tulane's pitchers can stay healthy can we expect a return to the post-season?
I think if Tulane's pitchers had stayed
healthy last season, that team would have returned to the postseason,
and certainly I think the same is true this year. I do like the depth of
that pitching staff — they've had a number of guys step forward early
on, which is very encouraging. Tulane has put itself back in the Top 25
Russell (Biloxi, MS): #4 Arkansas looks to be
tops in the SEC West with a solid all-around club, but how do you think
the rest of the division stacks up? #13 LSU, #14 Ole Miss, and #23
Mississippi State have all done well so far this season; could any of
them possibly take the top spot from the Hogs?
We actually just talked about this on
today's podcast: I think Arkansas is a clear cut above everybody else in
the West, but I do like all three of those next teams and could see
them finishing in any order. Alabama and Auburn, I think, will lag
behind that group, so there won't be quite as much parity in the West as
last year. LSU and MSU are definitely pitching-first teams, but the
Tigers have started to gain confidence offensively (albeit against
softer competition), and Ole Miss is the most offensive team of the
trio, but it got very encouraging work this weekend from Hively and
Mayers, who are two huge keys to the season for that team. Should be an
interesting race to follow, with a nice contrast in styles between those
Russell (Austin, Texas): What did you think of
Texas this week? I still think they have a long way to go in regards to
offense, but it did show some light this week. What do you think of
their chances in the Big 12 this year? And also do you think they will
even make a regional this year?
You threw in that last question just to try
to get me wound up, didn't you? Yes, of course they will be in a
regional, as everyone knows. My early impression, however, is that this
isn't an Omaha team, and not just because of its record through three
weeks. I just don't think this pitching staff is dominant enough to
carry an average offense the way last year's pitching staff was.
Thornhill and Milner are nice, but they're not Jungmann and Green and
Stafford, and all the freshmen are still learning on the job. I think
the offense will be fine — not explosive, of course, but fine — but I
came away from the weekend underwhelmed by the arms.
Mitch (Milwaukee, WI): What are your thoughts on the Hatters of Stetson University with all their returning talent from 2011?
We had Stetson just outside our preseason
Top 25 (along with MSU, Baylor, UC Irvine), and we still have them right
in that 25-30 range. Other teams have just made more noise against
better competition, which is why we haven't ranked the Hatters, but I do
like that team a lot — balanced, veteran club with regional experience
and a real good ace capable of beating anyone in Kurt Schluter.
Lance (Greenville, S.C.): With the weekend
South Carolina and Florida had beating 2 of the top ACC schools in their
rival series how much focus does this put on the weekend series between
these two schools in 3 weeks? Who do you think will win the series and
would you call this the most important series of the season?
The anticipation for that one is going to
reach a fever pitch — unquestionably the most compelling series of the
year in college baseball this year. I don't know about most important,
though. I expect both of those teams to earn national seeds regardless
of what happens that weekend. The most important series of the year
probably involve some bubble teams.
Wave Dat (Navarre, FL): How much more does
C-USA need to win before they get more respect. Lots of C-USA vs $EC
matchups the past week. USM over Bama & Auburn, Houston over Ark and
TN, Rice over Tenn and Tulane over Bama (2 of 3). Is now the excuse,
that the $EC is having a down year instead of giving credit where credit
7-1 for the week CUSA over the SEC.
We'll see if the trend continues tomorrow night.
Ah, "no respect," that old chestnut.
Southern Miss also lost a game to Purdue this weekend, which lost to
Maryland last weekend, who is 9-1 and won a series at UCLA — better
than anything on USM's or Tulane's resume. Another C-USA team, ECU, also
lost to Maryland, at home — clearly the Terps are more deserving of a
ranking than any of those C-USA teams. Alabama is down so far this y
ear; they also got swept at home by Florida Atlantic, a good team but a
team that just split four games with Princeton. Tulane doesn't have a
series win yet against a regional team, but it has put itself on the
radar, because I was already intrigued by that team coming into the
year. We have Rice ranked fifth and UCF inside the top 20, but nobody
else in that league has earned a ranking yet.
MJ (NYC): I was at all 3 games of the
Florida/Miami series. I was impressed by FL but in reality, Miami
should have won 2 of 3(at worst the Sunday game) but the defense and the
bullpen blew the games on Friday and Sunday and on Sat the shoddy
defense opened the flood gates for the 5 run FL 5th inning. The
starting pitchers had zero help from the defense and its pretty tough to
beat the #1 team, let alone any good team, when you continuously give
them 4 and 5 outs an inning and cannot pick the baseball up. My
assessment is if they do not get the defense and bullpen squared away,
at best, this is a regional only team. How do you see Miami going
Yes, Miami should have won Sunday, and was
in position to win Saturday for a while, but that's the thing: this kind
of stuff keeps happening in these Miami-Florida games lately. The
Gators have not beat themselves, and Miami has — that is as much a
credit to Florida as it is a knock against Miami. I think the defense
will all start to gel once the 'Canes move Stephen Perez back to
shortstop, and I always have confidence that Jim Morris will figure out
his bullpen. I think this could be a super regional team and maybe even
an Omaha team, but it is not a favorite to do either (we ranked them 18
in the preseason — that would make them a quality regional team that
falls short of a super). You are right that Miami needs to figure some
things out. Fortunately it's only Week Three.
Josh (Mobile): Although he had 6 strikeouts,
Matt Price struggled a bit on Saturday. And yesterday Koumas struggled
acting as the closer. I truly believe if Price was the closer yesterday
we would've held the lead and swept Clemson. Do you think it was an
aberration, or should we go back to last year's starting rotation and
put Price back at closer where he can impact multiple games during the
I'm not worried about Price or Koumas,
despite their lackluster weekends. I think the Gamecocks should stick
with their current alignment for the time being, unless it keeps
happening and they are forced to make a change.
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: With all due respect
to Kevin Brady and his stellar numbers (which have been lights out),
Clemson still has yet to win a Friday night game. Winning Friday night
builds momentum for the rest of the weekend - something that the Tigers
have been lacking. Is this something to worry about before the start of
ACC play next week against UNC? Tks.
Yeah, three straight one-run losses on
Fridays, but Brady has pitched well in all three and the bullpen has
actually pitched well in two of the three, so I don't think there is
cause for alarm. It'll even itself out if you keep getting those kinds
of quality starts from Brady.
Marc (Austin): Was Texas losing to Tennessee
the reason they dropped out? I don't think anyone expected a weekend
sweep against that kind of competition in Houston, but it seems like a
win against a team they should have beat (Tennessee) plus an upset of
either Rice or Arkansas (which they got Friday night) would have been
enough to keep them in at least one more week.
It was because Texas has now posted two
straight losing weekends, and is 4-7 overall. Those two factors together
make it hard to keep them in the rankings. A 2-1 weekend in Houston
would have kept the 'Horns in the rankings even with a losing record. So
I guess you can say it tipped on the Tennessee loss, yes.
Matt (Washington, DC): I am a diehard South
Carolina fan but a team that has really impressed me so far this year is
Pepperdine. I know they lost the series this weekend vs. a ranked
Louisville squad, but Pepperdine has already won a series against
Oklahoma and Fresno State (the same Fresno St. team that gave Stanford a
run for their money this weekend) What are the chances that Pepperdine
sneaks into the top 25 during the next few weeks? They also have a very
big road game at Cal St. Fullerton in a few weeks that should be a
You're right, Pepperdine has been one of
the great early-season stories, and if the Waves had won that series at
Louisville, I can assure you they would have been ranked. I liked what I
saw from that team in the first weekend against Oklahoma (go back to my
Week One Three Strikes for my detailed impressions of them), and
winning that series against Fresno was big too. Pepperdine is
dramatically improved and certainly could find its way into the Top 25
before too long.
Marc (Tallahassee): Has Florida State's young
pitching staff turned the corner? After allowing 33 runs in the first 5
games of the season, FSU's staff has only allowed 4 in their last 5
(leaving out the game against the Phillies). Do you see these pitchers
being able to do just enough to ride the offense all the way to Omaha?
Great to see Liebrandt and Compton pitch
well, though I'm eager to see how they'll hold up against ACC
competition. I think FSU's offense is really good, but I'll reserve
judgment on whether or not that's an Omaha team until we have a larger
sample size upon which to judge those freshmen on the mound.
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: Duke has Stroman
striking out 17 for Duke. Wake has Holmes tossing a no-no and Maryland
is in the Top 25. Is the apocalypse upon us in the ACC?
And Boston College and Virginia Tech are
off to great starts, too. It's going to be a very competitive year in
the ACC, it seems.
Jason (New Orleans): Is there a tougher stretch
in college baseball than Rice over the next 9 days? Starting tomorrow
they have 7 games in 9 days, 6 against ranked teams (Texas State,
Stanford x3, Arizona x2)!
That is some stretch! Fortunately I do
think the Owls have the pitching depth to handle themselves well during
this stretch. But Kubitza and Simms need to be much better next week
against Stanford than they were this weekend. Reckling showed me a lot
by winning without his best stuff against Texas Tech, but if he doesn't
have his best stuff against the Cardinal, he could be in trouble, too.
Jeramey (Atlanta): Georgia tech is now 10-2 and
playing some really good ball. Are they really that good, or is due to
the schedule? How well do you see them doing the rest of the year?
Tech hasn't played any big-name opponents
yet, but they have played a decent schedule against a bunch of solid
programs, and they have gotten hot. Thought Tech was a top 10-12 team
heading into the year, and that still feels about right. But the upside
is higher if some of the young arms mature, and so far the early returns
Marcus (Nashville): Kentucky has had a hot start (11-0), do you see them breaking into the top 25 any time soon?
I hate to say it, because I rather like
Kentucky's team this year and think it's a regionals club, but we've
seen this before: The Wildcats padding their record a softer
early-season schedule, then reality hitting hard when SEC play starts.
The 2010 team started 13-2 but finished at 31-25; The 09 team started
11-2 but finished 28-26. Even the 08 team—a good club that made a
regional—started 19-0 but then went 16-14 in the SEC. Those early starts
can be deceiving when they don't come against upper-echelon
competition. Illinois-Chicago is a quality program, but it's also a
cold-weather program from the Horizon League in early March, and that is
UK's best win so far. Next week Canisius comes to town; it is certainly
conceivable that UK could be unbeaten when SEC play starts. Kentucky
will need to earn its way into the Top 25 by beating better
opponents—and they'll get the chance in the first weekend of conference
play against South Carolina.
Noah (Durham, NC): Is it silly to worry about
Georgia? On one hand they are 10-2, on the other they haven't played
anyone and they haven't exactly dominated the teams they have played.
If UGA is only able to squeak by the Presbyterians and Western Illinois
of the world, I am concerned how UGA will fare once SEC play gets under
That's a valid question, but I wouldn't
worry. I think the pitching staff is too good, and I think the bats will
warm up in time. But I am surprised how few runs Georgia has scored
against softer competition.
Taylor (Houston): Very impressed with UH this
week at MMP, are these guys much improved this year? Ray looked pretty
good. Where do they fall in the rankings? Thanks!
They are improved — I also was impressed
with the Cougars. It's a nice mix of veterans and promising young
players who will have their ups and downs. Ray was lights-out Friday, I
thought — held that 90-93 velocity, expanded the zone both up and down
when it was appropriate, competed and commanded. I like Jordan Lewis too
— real nice senior lefthander. The Cougars still don't have a Top 25
resume, and I don't really see them as a Top 25 team this year, but I
wouldn't be shocked if they snuck into a regional, even in a pretty
Noah (Durham, NC): A question about my alma
mater: What would it take to get App State in the top 25? Except for
the LSU series, App's schedule has been pretty light and this week
(series vs Davidson) will be more of the same. App does have midweeks
against Duke and South Carolina coming up, plus series vs Citadel and at
Elon but doesn't play Charleston or Ga Southern until April. When
might we see App crack the rankings if they keep winning?
Also, while Maryland has played well, don't they deserve to drop out of
the rankings on the basis of those hideous camo + red uniforms?
It's great to show appreciation for the
troops, but those unis are awful — sorry coach Bakich! I think if App
keeps rolling through March and can handle itself in those midweek games
you mentioned and win the Citadel and Elon series, it has a chance to
crack the rankings. Beating LSU is one thing; sustaining a high level of
play against good teams is another. Combine the two, and trust me,
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Should we expect the UCLA
bats to keep producing at the clip they have been lately or is this
more of them facing weaker competition?
I wrote in the preseason and again last
week that I believe this will be a legitimately good UCLA offense.
Everybody will struggle sometimes against front-line pitching like
Arizona and Arizona State can throw out there, but in general I don't
think there's any reason to expect UCLA's offense to go in the tank.
OK folks, sorry to cut this short, but I've got to run. Thanks for the questions!