2021 College Baseball Top 25 Chat (5/17/21)

Image credit: NC State SS Jose Torres (Photo courtesy of NC State)

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s college baseball chat. We’re really getting down to it. Two weeks from now, we’ll have an NCAA Tournament bracket. But there’s still a lot of baseball to be played until then and you have questions. Let’s get to it.

Joe (USA):

     Call me crazy…it doesn’t really seem like there’s a good team to slot in at No. 2 right now?

Teddy Cahill: I don’t think you’re crazy at all. There really isn’t a clear choice at No. 2 in the Top 25 behind Arkansas. We left Vanderbilt there despite their series loss at Ole Miss, partly in recognition of the Commodores’ overall body of work – series wins against Mississippi State, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, etc. – and partly because of a lack of a good other option. Notre Dame and Texas didn’t play last week and have their own warts, anyway. Mississippi State and Tennessee lost, so they weren’t going to be moving up. I think Vanderbilt probably is the second-best team in the country still, but no longer would I view this as Arkansas and Vanderbilt and everyone else. Vanderbilt has either fallen much closer to the chase pack or has been caught by them.

Jerry (NC):

     Are there any teams who we might be perceiving as locks to make the tournament field who should be a little nervous over these next two weeks?

Teddy Cahill: Much of the ACC should probably be taking a long look at itself. The selection committee didn’t seem to be impressed by the conference last Friday when it only named two ACC teams to its shortlist of host sites. But I wouldn’t say anyone I view as a lock is in trouble. Your definition of lock might be a little different, though. You never know. The most obvious team that’s perceived to be safely in that might be closer to the bubble than we realize is Louisville. The Cardinals rank 55 in RPI, are just 8-12 outside of Louisville and are just 3-7 over the last three weeks. There resume is plenty fine as of now, but if they don’t arrest that slide, they’ll keep heading toward the bubble.

Dan McDonnell (KY):

     What strings should I be pulling at this point to try and salvage this season?

Teddy Cahill: Speaking of Louisville – man, I don’t know. Returning home this week will be a positive. The Cardinals always play well at home and this year there’s a big home-road split going on with that team. But just about nothing went right this weekend at UNC. Louisville scored one run in the first two games and didn’t pitch particularly well. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with that other than flush it and move on. Unless you can magically get the Cardinals back to full health this weekend, I don’t think there are any quick, easy fixes.

Jim (Nashville):

     What do you make of Vanderbilt’s team? It feels like the confidence in Rocker/Leiter to carry them through a postseason run is not nearly what it once was

Teddy Cahill: Pretty much what I’ve felt all season. Vanderbilt will go as far as Rocker and Leiter will take it. That’s not to say the Commodores don’t have other good players, they do, but let’s face it, this team is about having the best 1-2 punch in the nation. If those two guys are at their best, we’ve seen Vanderbilt is very difficult to beat. But to win the national title, Vanderbilt is going to need those two to be at their best for at least three straight weeks. It’s been a while since that happened.

Pete (NC):

     Reading Off The Bat today made me wonder…is it possible La Salle could reverse the decision if it somehow made the NCAA tournament? ARe there any recent examples of a team playing its way out of elimination?

Teddy Cahill: It’s not about La Salle not being good enough – though I assume if the program was historically better that this wouldn’t be happening. The only way to save La Salle is by raising a bunch of money – they were told they needed $9 million to endow the program. Though it is rare, programs like Cal and Bowling Green have been saved by that method. But it’s not going to happen here. The program’s boosters went through a fundraising effort and last month made a pitch to the school that fell on deaf ears. In a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the school said “Based on the case presented, a request to reinstate the program will not move forward to the full Board and the University considers this matter closed.”

Teddy Cahill: The whole La Salle situation is a bit unusual. The university hasn’t presented the case for cutting sports as much as a cost savings move as much as a decision that it no longer wants to sponsor 25 sports – which is a lot for a non-Ivy, non-Big Ten university. So, it decided to get rid of half a dozen. La Salle isn’t alone in that effort – Stanford, George Washington and Brown made similar decisions last year – it just is the one that cut baseball, so we’re more attuned to it here. No matter the reason, it really is unfortunate for the players and everyone that’s invested in their success.

Dusty (Chattanooga):

     Have the Vols done enough to lock up a top 8 seed?

Teddy Cahill: If the question is can Tennessee go 0-6 from now to Selection Monday and be a top-eight seed, I would say no, it isn’t a lock. Its RPI would probably slip a few spots and it would leave other teams space to pass it for one of those top-eight seeds. But if we say the Vols do some reasonable things like beat Belmont, don’t get swept at South Carolina and win once in Hoover, going 3-4 over the next two weeks, then yes. That’s a 40-win team, with 20 SEC wins and 16 wins away from Knoxville.

Keegan (Nebraska):

     Who in the Big Ten race has the hardest road ahead? Do you expect the Nebraska and Michigan series to determine the conference champion?

Teddy Cahill: Maryland has the hardest finish – at Michigan, vs. Indiana. I’d probably rank it Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana. If by “determine the conference champion” you mean act as a de facto Big Ten championship series, no I don’t think it’ll be that way. I expect the Big Ten title race to come down to the final day. I expect both the Nebraska-Michigan series and the IU-Maryland series to play a role in who wins the title.

Ben (Jefferson City,, MO):

     Let’s say Arkansas loses the final series against Florida. Will they have to win the SEC tournament in order to hold on to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament?

Teddy Cahill: No. Arkansas has a strong hold on the top spot in RPI and losing to Florida wouldn’t shake it much. It’s entirely possible the Hogs would win the SEC regular season with a series loss as well. They have their ridiculous record away from home, the No. 1 strength of schedule and all those series wins. No, I’d feel pretty good about Arkansas as the No. 1 seed even with a series loss this weekend and no SEC Tournament title. Maybe if Texas goes and wins the Big 12 Tournament or Vanderbilt wins in Hoover, especially if it beat Arkansas, that would change. But Arkansas has created a fair amount of separation already.

Wildcat Nation (Tuscon):

     The Pac -12 is going to have a wild finish. What are your thoughts on the Pac headed down the home stretch?

Teddy Cahill: I still like Arizona. Going to Corvallis isn’t easy, but Oregon has Stanford and at Cal, which isn’t easy either and the Wildcats have the head-to-head advantage. It’s going to be fun though. I don’t think we’ve seen a Pac-12 race this tightly bunched in some time. Because Stanford isn’t far off the pace and you’ve got three more teams tied at 14-10. A lot on the line in terms of the standings over the last two weekends.

Bill (Gainesville):

     You gotta buy one, sell one, hold one. Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida. Go.

Teddy Cahill: So, we’re just trying to start stuff now, huh? I think you can make a case to buy, sell or hold any of the three. How much better can Tennessee possibly play than it has to this point? You could sell based on that. If you’re concerned about Vanderbilt putting it all together consistently again, you sell it. Florida has seemingly turned a corner, but has it solved the problems for good? You never know. If you want to buy, well no one has come closer to beating Arkansas than Tennessee. Vanderbilt at its best has the best 1-2 punch in the country and Florida is immensely talented and maybe has really figured it out. Sell them all, buy more #OmaIrish.

Omaha (.):

     You mentioned a couple lower profile teams in Off The Bat capable of making a run to Omaha. Is there one you feel better about than the others?

Teddy Cahill: I feel like I’m cheating if I were to pick one of the CUSA teams here – they could host and have been ranked for weeks. But, at the same time, if you look at where those programs are historically and the kind of company they would likely be keeping in Omaha, you’d probably hear a lot about Cinderella if they made it. Still, I’m setting them aside. Same with UC Irvine. If you want a real, deep cut bracket buster, I think Northeastern and Ball State are scary. Two older teams with real pitching and a lot of it. Used to playing on the road. Not going to flinch, well coached, solid (or better, in Northeastern’s case) defensively. Liberty probably falls in a similar category.

Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for the questions. Going to be a fun couple weeks until Selection Monday. Buckle up.

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