College Top 25 Chat: Aaron Fitt

 Q:  Bill from SEC Country asks:
Who are front-rummers for Tennessee and Florida jobs? We are hearing Tanner to Florida and Serrano to Tennessee.

Aaron Fitt:
Hello everyone, and welcome to a quick pre-Omaha chat. Rumors abound
that Florida is going to make a run at Tanner, but I don’t see him
leaving South Carolina. The Gamecocks have more tradition and are about
to move into a brand new stadium; even if Florida opens the vault for
him, it would take an awful lot for Tanner to leave. My gut is Florida
will end up going for an up-and-coming coach with a track record as a
head coach at a mid-major school — in other words, the next Urban
Meyer. Two names that seem to fit that profile are Jim Schlossnagle at
TCU and Ed Servais at Creighton.

Aaron Fitt: As for
Tennessee, I think they’d be foolish not to make a run at Serrano, one
of the very best young coaches in the country who has served as an
assistant at Tennessee in the past. But even though Tennessee would be
a higher-profile job with more resources at Serrano’s disposal, it’s
hard to see him leaving the West Coast. My impression is that Serrano
loves Irvine and is excited about building that program into a
consistent national power — they just moved into Newkirk Pavilion and
have a lot of momentum right now. Rumor has it former Vol Todd Helton
has been consulted for his take on candidates for this opening. I think
John Pawlowski of College of Charleston is a pretty realistic
candidate, or an assistant coach like Kevin O’Sullivan, Chad Holbrook
or Bill Mosiello.

 Q:  Sun Devil from Omaha, NE asks:
for these chat sessions. They are very informative and a lot of fun.
What do you think are the chances of ASU’s bats against UCI’s pitching
and how do you think UCI’s offense would fare against ASU’s pitching
(probably Leake for the first game)

Aaron Fitt:
For my money, that is the most compelling game of the Omaha openers.
Irvine has gotten to the CWS with pitching, defense, speed and timely
hitting, while Arizona State has largely bludgeoned its way here. But
the Sun Devils are also an excellent defensive team, and they are
underrated on the mound. Leake is in for a challenge against an Irvine
team that puts constant pressure on the defense and really forces the
opposing pitcher to be on his toes; if I were Pat Murphy, I might go
with the more experienced lefty Josh Satow in that first game to try to
keep that UCI running game in check. I suspect the Anteaters will go
with Scott Gorgen, who has been perhaps the best pitcher in the nation
over the last month. He shut down Texas and Wichita State, and I bet he
gives that mighty ASU offense all it can handle. Great matchup.

 Q:  Boxmann from Starkville,MS asks:
are the chances of MSU making the CWS Championship Series? Also with
only two key players lost and alot of injured players and top recruits
coming in MSU could be an even stronger team next year.

Aaron Fitt:
Well, Mississippi State has already surprised me by winning two
weekends in a row against top ACC contenders that had more firepower,
in my opinion, so clearly it’s possible that the Bulldogs could shock a
third ACC team this week against North Carolina. This is a veteran club
with a lot of poise that got hot at the right time; the Bulldogs aren’t
flashy, but they’re solid, and they find ways to win. Mitch Moreland is
one of the most important players in this CWS field, in my opinion — a
two-way guy who came up big for that offense against Clemson but also
stabilized the bullpen. But Chad Crosswhite will be in the crosshairs
against a very dangerous North Carolina offense. I think MSU’s a long
shot, but then again, I said the same thing the last two weekends.

 Q:  Austin Weekley from Charleston,SC asks:
What do you think about the coaching by Dan McDonnell and Chris Lemonis have done since this is their first year at Louisville?

Aaron Fitt:
Just an amazing job by those guys getting the Cardinals to Omaha in
just the program’s second NCAA tournament appearance. To me, the most
impressive thing is the way Louisville bounced back after dropping that
heart-breaking second game of the super-regional against Oklahoma
State. They came out in the third game and but a bunch of runs on the
board early to eliminate any doubt and take some pressure off their
pitching staff. That shows me that McDonnell and his staff knew exactly
what to say to get their team refocused and put the loss behind them.

 Q:  Sean from FLA asks:
Championship game, who would you want on the mound for your team?

Aaron Fitt:
Out of all the pitchers who will be in Omaha, I’d feel the best about
Scott Gorgen. That guy has thrown four straight complete games and
allowed just one run in that span — that’s an ERA of 0.25 over his
last 36 innings. And the last two games were at Texas and at Wichita
State, so we know he doesn’t get rattled. The other good answer to this
question would be Fullerton’s Wes Roemer… but Gorgen has already
beaten him head-to-head in UCI’s 2-1 win in April.

 Q:  malik from manchester nh asks:
Is Rice the favorite to win the world series with stud joe savery leading their great pitching and hitting?

Aaron Fitt:
I was worried about Rice heading into the NCAA tournament because of
the uncertainty around CUSA pitcher of the year Ryne Tacker. But Matt
Langwell has been outstanding the last two weeks, which has to put the
Owls at ease. Plus Savery’s arm is rested because Langwell won that
second game so the Owls didn’t have to use Savery against Texas
A&M. The offense is a bit of a concern — the Owls are averaging
just 4.4 runs per game in the NCAA tournament — but I believe there
are enough veterans there who don’t want to get embarrassed like they
were against Oregon State last year.

 Q:  TitanBeezy from Bowling Green, OH asks:
definitely not the favorite in the field of eight headed to Omaha, I
can’t help but have faith in my Titans with George Horton and Rick
Vanderhook at the healm and the 1-2 punch of Wes Roemer and Jeff Kaplan
on the hill. What’s it gonna take for Cal State Fullerton to continue
their improbable post-season run after an up-and-down regular season?

Aaron Fitt:
You just hit on all the reasons the Titans have a real shot in this
thing. The coaching, and the pitching, particularly Roemer. I don’t
think CSF has enough pitching depth to win it all, but that coaching
staff will make sure they’ve got a chance. Of course, this field is
filled to the brim with outstanding coaches who get the most out of
their talent.

 Q:  Beaver Believer from Bellingham WA asks:
were right when you picked OSU as one of the eight for Omaha earlier in
the year, and stuck with them. But really, how surprised are you that
the Beavers are back in the game with the Owls, Titans, and Tar Heels?
Do you think they’ll overcome the Left Coast Bracket to meet one of the
southern schools in the finals?

Aaron Fitt:
I’d love to tell you I never doubted the Beavers would be back in
Omaha, but there were definitely moments late in the season where my
faith in the Beavers waned. They lost three straight conference series
late, including a couple of head-scratchers against Washington and
Washington State, and if they didn’t win that final series at UCLA, I
don’t think they would have made a regional. What a job by Pat Casey to
steer the Beavers through some choppy waters. I think they’ve got as
good a chance as anyone to win this thing — this field is pretty wide
open. More than any other team in Omaha, Oregon State has intangibles,
confidence and experience working in its favor.

 Q:  Matt from Athens, Ga asks:
What are North Carolinas chances this week at winning the championship?

Aaron Fitt:
Pretty good, I’d say. Plenty of veterans, plenty of toughness, quality
arms all over the pitching staff. The starting rotation after Robert
Woodard has been a little shaky, but that bullpen is good enough to
mask some deficiencies in that area.

 Q:  Ron from Los Angeles asks:
was the last time a team went to the CWS 3 straight years? I’m thinking
it was maybe USC a long time ago. The OSU Beavers from the Pacific
Northwest accomplishing this feat seems incredible!

Aaron Fitt: If by “USC” you mean South Carolina, and by “long time ago” you mean “from 2002-2004”, then you’re on the right track!

 Q:  Dean from San Francisco, CA asks:
please tell me you guys aren’t predicting Fullerton to win it all. You
guys seem to have a way of jinxing teams once you pick them.

Aaron Fitt: Well, I guess you could say I jinxed three teams last week. But what about the five teams I picked that won?

 Q:  Steve from San Diego asks:
can a school that not only did not make it to Omaha but did not even
make it to the super regionals be ranked in the top 8?

Aaron Fitt:
I’m sure it looks a little funny to have Vanderbilt sitting at No. 5 in
our latest rankings when they didn’t even win their regional. We bumped
the Commodores down four spots last week, but they were still the best
team in the nation for basically the entire regular season. When you
look back at our final rankings years from now, we hope you will get a
snapshot of who the best teams in the nation were. Unless Mississippi
State can win a couple of games in Omaha, you’ll have a hard time
convincing me the Bulldogs had a much better season than a team that
finished six games ahead of them in the SEC standings, won the SEC
tournament, then had one bad weekend in regionals. Yeah, it definitely
matters quite a bit what happens in the postseason, and that’s why
we’ve moved MSU and Fullerton and Louisville up from unranked into the
top 10. But Vandy’s season was legitimately special, even though it
ended prematurely. I think those other teams behind the ‘Dores are
capale of passing Vandy in the rankings with one more good weekend,

 Q:  Roger from Austin asks:
recently you picked A&M to upset Rice in the super regionals, and
you’ve also chosen UNC as the right-side favorite in the CWS bracket.
Why have you strayed from your preseason favorite?
P.S. You also picked East Carolina for the upset special earlier in the
year… are you still confident that Rice has to lose eventually?

Aaron Fitt:
Jeesh, still giving me flack about the Pirates in early April? Come on,
let that one go! I was worried about Rice’s pitching heading into the
NCAA tournament because of Tacker’s injury, but Langwell’s big-time
pitching changes things. And now it sounds like Tacker might be
available to pitch in a third game, should Rice need him. I hate to
switch horses in midstream, but UNC’s starting pitching worries me a
bit, and so does its refusal to take an early lead. You can only play
catch-up so many times before it catches up with you, just ask
Vanderbilt. I’m switching to the Owls in the right half of the bracket,
and I’m sticking with Arizona State on the left. I think the Sun Devils
will win the whole thing.

Aaron Fitt: That’s it for today.
I’m heading to Omaha tomorrow, and I’ll be blogging during the entire
event. The NCAA’s absurd, embarrassing anti-live blogging edict will
likely prevent me from bringing you any in-game updates, but John
Manuel and I will have plenty of postgame analysis, color, predictions
and podcasts.