NCAA Baseball Top 25 Rankings Chat (5/3/21)
Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week's college baseball chat. It was a wild weekend of college baseball, as nine Top 25 teams lost series and another two split four-game sets. A lot to digest, so let's get to the questions.
- Not only did Nebraska get swept and lose its lead in the big ten, it was the first time since joining the conference they were swept in a home conference series. Is this a team that still has a shot at getting back into the hosting conversation?
Teddy Cahill: I was kind of skeptical of Nebraska as a host to begin with. What was it going to take to establish that it - or any Big Ten team - was the worthy host? Was the 1.5 game lead the Huskers held going into the weekend enough? I didn't really think so, but reasonable people can disagree. Now, the problem is that there is only one weekend left before the selection committee cuts the potential host sites field. And while the Huskers this weekend play a challenging four-game pod with Rutgers and Indiana, it's going to be hard for them to assert that they are the Big Ten's best team. It also should be said that if the committee is interested in geographic balance and that's why it would give the top Big Ten team a host site (which doesn't happen in most typical seasons), Nebraska only helps so much. You could put Oklahoma State and the Summit League champs there and then hope Creighton got in, either as Big East Tournament champs or at large. But that's a perfect storm. Michigan or Indiana is better geographically. Ultimately though, I'm not projecting Nebraska as a host this week.
- How concerned are you about Jack Leiter? Do you think for him (and most college pitchers really) there's some concern about how many innings they've thrown after last year's lost season?
Teddy Cahill: I'm not concerned from an innings perspective, though he has probably this year thrown more innings by the start of May than he ever had before. What I'm more concerned about is that hitters have made some adjustment to him and that he now needs to counter. That's what baseball is all about and this is his first go-around in SEC play. There are a lot of people in that conference watching video and a lot of talented hitters who are capable of putting a good plan of attack into play. Now it's on Leiter to change up what he's doing and get those hitters off balance again. Sometimes that's easier said than done, but it'll be important that he figures it out over the next few weeks.
Wyatt (Razorback Country):
- How about the Hogs!!! Do you think they could lose a series and still be No. 1 in the rankings the following Monday at this point?
Teddy Cahill: That's a difficult, philosophical question. Arkansas' resume at this point is unmatched. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Texas Christian, Nos. 3-5, all have two series losses already. No. 2 Notre Dame has none, but it also doesn't have the same kinds of wins Arkansas does (the Irish's best series win is at Pitt). So, one series loss doesn't change any of that and I might well argue that for that reason the Hogs remain No. 1. But the way most college sports rankings have functioned for decades is that when the No. 1 team losses, it falls out of No. 1. In fact, it's rare that any team can lose and avoid falling at least a spot or two. So, you have to ask yourself, what do you want your rankings to reflect? An evaluation of the best resume? An eye-test? Something a little more on the power rankings side, where recent results are more heavily weighted? There's not necessarily a right answer to be had.
- Creighton seems to have really get their season back on track and has looked impressive recently. Are they now the Big East favorite? Do they have a chance at making the postseason if they continue to succeed but fall to secure the auto-bid?
Teddy Cahill: The Big East is a mess and I have no idea who the favorite is. Teams have played anywhere from six to 15 conference games. I have no idea what to do with that. I do not think the Jays much at-large hopes. Their RPI is 74, they got swept by Kansas, which is in last place in the Big 12 and their best series win is...Bradley? Unfortunately, Creighton's series against UConn was cancelled due to Covid issues for the Huskies. Would have been really nice to see that series to get a better idea for who is the conference favorite. If Creighton is going to get an at-large bid, it really needs to run through these next three weeks and the series at Seton Hall is must win.
- What is your boldest prediction for Selection Monday?
Teddy Cahill: I'm not really one for bold predictions. When I make the Projected Field of 64 every week, my aim is to get it as close to what I think the selection committee will do as possible. By season's end, it's usually right there (we've gotten 63 of 64 teams right the last three tournaments). So, sorry to disappoint, but I've got no firey takes, just a headache from trying to run through various ACC and Big Ten scenarios.
- How would you compare Caden Grice to Seth Beer? Also why is anyone pitching to him?
Teddy Cahill: I think teams are still pitching to Grice because he's striking out 30 percent of the time. And there is one of the biggest differences between him and Beer. Seth Beer has incredible plate discipline. As a freshman, Beer struck out in just 9.5 percent of his plate appearances and walked in 21 percent of them. So, I think that's the tradeoff teams are willing to make. That said, Caden Grice has been outstanding. He's been right at the heart of everything Clemson has done offensively and what he did this weekend was really impressive. I'm sure Tigers fans are going to have fun watching him the next few years.
- It seems that there could be some movement in the coaching world this summer at a few high level baseball programs. Without getting into specific situations, give me three sitting head coaches that you feel could be in line to make a step up in job status. Thanks
Teddy Cahill: I'll have a lot more on this as we get closer to the end of the month, as my annual list of 50 names to watch on the coaching market will return. But, yes, there is likely to be something of a return to normalcy in terms of coaching changes, like we saw in football and basketball. Three names to watch: Alex Sogard, Wright State (the last three WSU coaches are now at Penn State, Central Florida and Indiana, Sogard should follow them at some point, possibly this year), Lane Burroughs, Louisiana Tech (he's on the John Cohen coaching tree, which is a good place to be, and La Tech is of course having a banner year) and Jordan Bischel, Central Michigan (just 39, but already has nine seasons of head coaching experience and has won everywhere he's gone).
Ricky (Austin, Tx.):
- Can't say I saw that many upsets coming. What are the series you think have the biggest upset potential this weekend?
Teddy Cahill: I definitely did not either. Let's try to find a few to watch this weekend. Florida coming off a big series win now has to go to Kentucky. The Gators have had some shaky moments on the road and Kentucky is feisty and needs something down the stretch. If UF relaxes too much, UK could strike. I wouldn't see it as a big upset, but Arizona travels to Stanford and the Cardinal are the lower ranked team. Tulane at ECU, maybe. Tulane is red hot and ECU has split the last two weekends. Will any of those hit? Maybe not, but I think they should be fun to watch.
College Ball (USA):
- What are the biggest storylines to you the final month of the regular season?
Teddy Cahill: Thank you, College ball from USA. You don't know it, but you're actually plugging a piece that I'll have this week (maybe tomorrow!) about the storylines to watch over the final month of the regular season. Come back to check it out!
Teddy Cahill: That'll do it for today's chat. Thank you all for the questions. Hard to believe we're already into the final month of the regular season!