Image credit: Adley Rutschman (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
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Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s college baseball/Top 25 chat. It was a busy weekend around the country, so let’s get right to the questions.
- How do you feel about the SEC after the Razorbacks swept Miss State? Who do you think will finish top of the standings? And does this make you think Arkansas will make it back to CWS?
Teddy Cahill: The SEC West remains as wide open as ever after this weekend saw Arkansas sweep Mississippi State to take over first place. Arkansas is just ahead of Texas A&M and they still have to play each other on the final weekend of the regular season. Mississippi State has a really tough few weeks coming up. LSU is still hanging in this thing and probably has one of the easier remaining slates, though it has to go to Baum. I’ve been saying LSU, but I think I now may be leaning Arkansas in the West. But, overall, Georgia or Vanderbilt will be the No. 1 seed in Hoover. And, yes, I moved the Hogs into my Eight for Omaha this week. It was a tough decision, but they’ve set themselves up well to be a top-eight seed and they’re a really tough out at Baum. So, right now, I like their chances of making another trip to Omaha.
Al (Greenville, NC):
- From a record standpoint, NC State is still in very good shape. However with an RPI in the mid 20s now, how do you feel about their chance of hosting a regional? Also, has Clemson played themselves out of the regional host discussion?
Teddy Cahill: It got tougher for NC State this week with that series loss at Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are outside the top 20 RPI and the math does not favor them moving into the top 16. That series in Chapel Hill is going to be critical and even if it wins it, NC State may well go to Durham needing to do work in the ACC Tournament to get to host. As for Clemson, it’s probably done as a host unless it really turns it around and goes and wins the ACC Tournament again. It’s been a brutal two week stretch for the Tigers after they beat Louisville.
- How far is Cal from making t25/ what are their chances of making the tournament
Teddy Cahill: Its hard to really think about a team for the Top 25 this after it loses a series, even if it comes on the road against the No. 1 team in the country. Cal is good but I don’t think its resume is great from a Top 25 perspective. Its best weekend is sweeping Cal Poly and its lost three conference series. But from an at-large perspective, Cal is in better shape. Its RPI is up into the top 45 and it has a clear path to keeping it there. But it has a tough Pac-12 schedule left, especially the run-in when it has Stanford, Arizona State and at Washington. More than anything else, Cal needs to find a way to get to 16 Pac-12 wins, I think. That’s doable, but I’d feel a lot better about its chances if it can take advantage of the next two weekends when it has Oregon and a trip to Utah.
Naturals #16 (Arkansas):
- Do you think Hogs will go as deep as their sticks will take them or can they rely on pitching and defense
Teddy Cahill: I think Arkansas, as it is right now, is riding its hitting. Isaiah Campbell gives the Hogs a legit Friday starter and Matt Cronin is shutdown at the back of the bullpen. But the rest of the pitching staff is not as rock solid. It can be, but Scroggins is banged up, Kostyshock is working his way back and Ramage hasn’t been quite right. Get those guys going and things start to look a little different. And if Noland can lock in the way he did Saturday, that would be another big help. The good news is Arkansas’ offense is plenty deep to carry it deep into the postseason. But at some point it will need to outpitch a team and to do that, it probably needs another arm or two to step up.
Lucas (Los Angeles):
- I’m a big UCLA fan but a lot of their wins are aren’t dominating enough to convince me that they’ll make it far in the tourney. They seem to scrap by with a couple of late runs at the end of each game. Thoughts?
Teddy Cahill: First of all, this is a very first-world college baseball problem: My top-ranked team that hasn’t had a losing weekend yet isn’t winning by enough runs. Like, 299 other teams want that problem. But if we’re going to seriously evaluate the complaint, I suppose you can look at that one of two ways: 1) UCLA’s luck is bound to run out or 2) UCLA is playing with a lot of confidence and its bullpen is a major strength. I’m more in camp No. 2. UCLA has one of the better bullpens in the country and so getting into it is not a positive for opponents. Meanwhile, UCLA’s offense does great work against other team’s bullpens. At some point UCLA needs Zach Pettway to get it going, but I don’t think that’s going to catch up to it any time soon.
- Bigger factor for ACC hosting: RPI or conference standing? (Read: Miami, NC State, UNC & Ga Tech)
Teddy Cahill: It all matters.
Nathan (Washington DC):
- What does Kansas State have to do in order to make a regional?
Teddy Cahill: It starts with getting its overall record above .500. It’s going to take a really strong finish – like probably winning every series left on the schedule. But just the fact the Wildcats are in a position like this is great to see. They’re showing some strong fight in their first season under Pete Hughes.
Greg (Buford, GA):
- Georgia Tech has looked impressive these last couple of weeks. They haven’t always made it easy on themselves, but they’re putting themselves in a good position for the postseason. They have Clemson, Duke and Pitt left to round out ACC play. What does Tech have to do to lock a regional host, potentially a top 8 seed, and do they seem to have the bats and arms to make a deep push into Omaha this year?
Teddy Cahill: Georgia Tech’s RPI looks great now but the math is trickier the rest of the way thanks to seven home games against RPI 100+ teams. So, to host, it needs to avoid slipping up and to stay in the top two in its division. It has less margin for error than it appears right now, but that’s in part because the schedule isn’t overly treacherous, especially once it gets past its next two series. I think top-eight seed is out, unless it goes and wins the ACC Tournament. And, as I have been all year, I remain skeptical that Georgia Tech has an Omaha run in it, but look no further than my colleague Joe Healy for a different opinion.
- What are your thoughts on Florida State after these last two weekends? Can they do anything to get back into the hosting conversation?
Teddy Cahill: I think Florida State has dramatically improved its NCAA Tournament outlook and that I wonder where these Noles have been for the last month. They’re playing much more like the team I expected them to in the preseason. It’s been a big couple weeks for Florida State, but, no, I don’t think it can get into the hosting conversation, even if it went and won the ACC Tournament. I think they let it slip a little too far this year for another late-season surge like they had in 2017 when they went from bubble team to host in a matter of two weeks in Louisville.
- Was the Baylor series win a step in the right direction for Tech or is it a one off and they keep playing .500 ball?
Teddy Cahill: More than anything, I think it was just that the Red Raiders were back in Lubbock. Away from Lubbock, they’re 8-9. At home, they’re 17-4. That’s not unique to Texas Tech, but it is a fairly consistent pattern over the last few years. This is a team that just plays a lot better at home. When they were slipping, they were on the road a lot. Now, down the stretch, they’ll mostly be at home, which should allow them to get back on track.
Jason Williams (Knoxville):
- What does Tennessee have to do get a top 16 seed.
Teddy Cahill: This is tricky. Tennessee is in GREAT shape RPI wise. It doesn’t even have to play .500 ball the rest of the way to finish the regular season in the top 16. But its just 9-9 in the SEC. So it needs to keep winning games from that perspective. Then, you have to look at how many hosts the SEC is going to get. Seven is the record and there are nine teams right now that you can really consider as being in the hosting race. So it would behoove Tennessee to get ahead of a couple of those teams out West in terms of SEC record. TLDR, Tennessee needs to keep winning a lot. The SEC pecking order remains largely unsettled.
- Are conference tournaments a good thing for the sport? They’re exciting and give teams a chance to bounce back from a slow start, but they also devalue the regular season a bit, especially in one-bid leagues.
Teddy Cahill: My ideal world thought on conference tournaments is that you should only hold one if your conference makes money on it. But in an era of large conferences, many are unable to play round-robin schedules. So in those cases, a tournament makes more sense. How can you determine who the best team in the Big Ten is if there are only eight conference weekends and 13 teams in the league? So a tournament makes more sense there. For one bid leagues, I really don’t like them. I would want to put my best foot forward every year as a conference and that’s more likely to happen if you reward the regular season champion. I do like the Patriot League format of playing a best-of-three semifinal and final, but that’s not a realistic option for most conferences. So, in a league like the MAC, I’d rather see it eliminated. But in a bigger league, like the OVC, you kind of need it. And if you’re the SEC, hold whatever kind of festival/celebration of conference/sport you want.
- With the recent struggles of coastal Carolina, who is your pick to win the sun belt? Does Georgia Southern have a chance?
Teddy Cahill: ¯\_(?)_/¯ Georgia Southern has a good a shot as anyone. Texas-Arlington and Texas State are both looking good out west. That thing was been thrown wide open this year. Coastal still has the most talent, so it’s possible that the Chants figure it out and finish strong. But right now that’s very difficult to handicap.
Logan Field (Michigan):
- Is Michigan close to top 25?
Teddy Cahill: Right now Michigan is a little off the Top 25 pace. Its RPI is a bit of an issue. Its larger issue is that its best weekend is beating Minnesota at home and its second best weekend is…sweeping Northwestern? There’s not a whole lot there right now. I really believe in the Wolverines’ talent, but they’ve muffed a few chances to really make a statement. Could certainly see them playing their way back in down the stretch.
Abel (Lyon France):
- Hey guys, it’s been a few weeks!! Is it time to give up on my Fullerton Titans? Is this the year us Titan fans have been dreading since the late 60s-early 70s…. No postseason baseball? I know Fullerton fans are probably the most spoiled fans in college baseball, but this season has been unacceptable to us all. Thoughts??
Teddy Cahill: Good to have you back, Abel. I’m liking Lyon’s chances of getting the third Champions League spot in France better than the Titans getting back to regionals. That series loss at Hawaii was bad news on that front. Fullerton is three games under .500 overall and sitting at 90 in RPI. It’s hard to see how it would dig out of this. It’s certainly understandable that this is frustrating, given the postseason streak and the tradition of the program. But that kind of consistency is incredibly rare and very difficult. I think the future is still bright at Fullerton, this was a very young team, but it will be very interesting to see the reaction if/when Fullerton misses regionals, as this is nearly uncharted territory for the Titans.
- Nebraska still in okay shape, postseason wise? Not a host, of course, but are they still safely in at this point?
Teddy Cahill: Nebraska’s doing fine right now. That series loss didn’t hurt the RPI much and the Huskers are still right there at the top of the conference. As long as they don’t let it turn into more of a slide, it doesn’t have to dent their postseason outlook going forward.
- DBU has Illinois State and Indiana State coming up over the next few weeks. If they win those series and win the MVC tourney, do they stand a chance to host?
Teddy Cahill: I’m not seeing it. DBU is sitting at 30 in RPI and while all of that would help, the math for top 16 is tough. And the Patriots nonconference slate, while solid, hasn’t really turned out to be great. Minnesota and Kent State not living up to expectations hurts there. I like this DBU team, but I think it’s going to be hitting the road for regionals, though it likely won’t have to travel far.
- What’s the WCC at large landscape look like at this point?
Teddy Cahill: If it ended now, BYU looks solid and Loyola Marymount would have a very interesting case. Everyone else is on the wrong side of the bubble right now. I think it may end up as a two-bid league. It’s a highly, highly competitive conference with some really quality teams. They’re beating up on each other pretty good right now, but if a couple can find a way to rise to the top, they would put themselves in pretty good postseason position.
Jerome (Rome, Ga):
- Who is your pick to win the OVC regular season?
Teddy Cahill: Last week, I made Joe give me a pick for our Field of 64 projection and he went with Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks are right there with Belmont at the top of the conference now, so I’ll ride with the resident OVC expert on this one.
- Is the Hurricane program ever going to turn it around or are they stuck in the middle of the pack forever?
Teddy Cahill: At some point, yes, Miami will be back. It was only a couple years ago that the Hurricanes were in Omaha in back-to-back seasons. There are some real challenges there, but given the wealth of players in South Florida and how well the Canes can recruit, I feel pretty confident in saying that Miami will not be a middle of the road ACC team forever.
- What do you think of East Carolina’s chances for a top 8 seed and a first trip to Omaha? Followed up getting swept at UCLA with a conference series sweep home against UCONN.
Teddy Cahill: I think ECU has a real path to a top-eight seed and it starts with winning both the AAC regular-season and tournament titles. If it is clearly the best team in the league, I think it may end up getting rewarded, given everything else on its resume. As for Omaha, this is a really good team. Can it get there? Yes. I’m not predicting it right now, but I won’t be surprised at all to see the Pirates at TD Ameritrade if it happens. I just wonder about the matchups. It played really well against UCLA, but ultimately came up short. It won’t face a team quite that good, but it may have to beat a premium pitching staff in a three-game series in a super. Can it do that? That’s where I have my questions. But with a good draw or a really good weekend on the mound, ECU could certainly break through this year.
- Best college baseball player is……?
Teddy Cahill: Adley Rutschman.
Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for the questions. We’re getting into that exciting stretch run in college baseball, so for everyone with postseason questions, remember we’ll have a new Projected Field of 64 on Wednesday. And I’ll be back here to take your questions again next Monday.