College Top 25 Chat (March 26, 2018)

Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s Top 25/college baseball chat, coming to you this week from Old Town Alexandria, as I work my way back from yesterday’s Army-Navy doubleheader at Camden Yards. Before we get to the questions, I just want to say how cool that event was yesterday. Army-Navy is one of college sports’ best rivalries, no matter what sport. It was really cool to see those teams get the chance to play on a bigger stage yesterday and they’ll do so again next month at Fenway Park. I really hope they’re able to continue to put those kinds of events together for this series and that it continues to grow. It’s about a lot more than baseball at those two schools, but I think showcasing that rivalry is one of the great things about college sports. Ok, now let’s get to your questions.

Jeramey (Locust Grove):

    I know who your number 1 team is right now, but who is number 1 overall seed if the tournament started today?

Teddy Cahill: I guess, if they shut this all down six weeks into the season and today was Selection Monday, your No. 1 seed is Stanford? The Cardinal are No. 2 in RPI as of now (which isn’t totally meaningful yet) and a perfect 3-0 in Pac-12 play. That gives the Cardinal the edge over Texas Tech (No. 1 in RPI, but 1-2 in the Big 12) and Mississippi (No. 3 and 4-2 in the SEC). Fortunately, we still have nine weeks to go until Selection Monday to let it all shake out.

Brandon (Ocean Springs, MS):

    Do you see Southern Miss hosting a regional this year?

Teddy Cahill: While on the subject of the tournament, I’ll say that we have a Projected Field of 64 – our first since the season started – coming later this week. I haven’t begun to start crunching the numbers yet. I would guess we’ll have Southern Miss hosting, but as always, the margin for error is smaller in Hattiesburg than in some other places. CUSA is not what it used to be and USM probably only has one top-100 RPI series left this season. But as long as the Golden Eagles take care of business, I think they’ll be in fine shape to host again.

John Sampson (Texas):

    Who are some teams in the Big12 you could see getting into the Top 25 soon ?

Teddy Cahill: Oklahoma was close this week. I really like that team, as I have all year long. Texas isn’t far off from rejoining the Top 25 – it’s off to a nice start in conference play. After that, maybe Baylor if it can beat Oklahoma this weekend. But the Bears have been all over the place this season. Kansas, who Baylor lost to this weekend, is interesting, but the Jayhawks aren’t easy to figure out either. In the short term, the Big 12’s best bets are Oklahoma and Texas.

Wes A. (Jackson, MS):

    Ok I think now it’s time to take the Ole Miss Rebels seriously. Or can we yet? It seems everybody has focused on the obvious…their pitching. But the way I see it their batting is the most improved. What is your take and do you think this team is for real?

Teddy Cahill: I definitely think Ole Miss is for real. I moved them into my Eight for Omaha a week ago and the Rebs are in the top five this week for a reason. I think you’re probably right that the offense is more improved than the pitching, but the pitching is still the strength of the team. It’s a good all-around group. I’ve been impressed with what Kessinger has done this year. Chase Cockrell is on another planet right now. Thomas Dillard and Ryan Olenek are having great seasons and Nick Fortes is going to really get it going sooner or later. But, I mean, the team has a 2.54 ERA and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning. It’s understandable why the focus is on the pitching when they’re doing stuff like that.

Tyler (Loganville, GA):

    Good afternoon Teddy, first time writer, but long-time follower. I wanted to get your thoughts on if you think UGA has staying power or they have just been fortunate in scheduling early in SEC schedule with down squads in USC and Alabama. I see starting this weekend they begin a 19 game stretch with games vs. A&M, GT (Alma Mater) (Home-Away), vs. Ky, Clemson (Home-Away), @ Ole Miss, vs. Tenn. Will this go a ways in determining if they can make noise in postseason?

Teddy Cahill: Thanks for writing in, Tyler. I’m not really sure what to think of Georgia yet. That’s a team that I thought had the potential to make the jump this season thanks to all the young talent on the roster. And the Bulldogs have started SEC play well and only need 9-10 more SEC wins to get at least to the NCAA Tournament bubble. But it’s about to get real for UGA. The next four weeks are Georgia’s season, for me. If UGA survives this and goes about .500 over the next 19 games, I think it will have positioned it well to make the NCAA Tournament. But it can’t afford to get behind the chains over the next month. To this point, UGA doesn’t have a win against a probable regionals team. It needs to use the next four weeks to beef up its resume beyond a good RPI.

Andrew (Washington, DC):

    After many down years, UGA just swept South Carolina. How close are they to getting in the discussion for top 25 and a potential NCAA berth?

Teddy Cahill: To put a bow on Georgia – it’s not in the Top 25 discussion yet. That sweep at Charleston is weighing it down, as well as the fact it hasn’t yet beaten a team I’d project as a regionals team right now, as I mentioned above. But Georgia has the opportunity to play itself into the Top 25, starting this weekend with a home series against Texas A&M.

Jeramey (Locust Grove):

    Who is your pick to win the SEC West right now, they have some really good top end teams?

Teddy Cahill: I’m sticking with Arkansas, my preseason pick. That division is crazy tough though and Ole Miss is going to have a chance to state its case this weekend. Wouldn’t rule out Auburn, Texas A&M or LSU yet, but I think they’re all a tick below Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Greg D. (Orange, CA):

    Any chance UCLA can overcome Stanford or OSU at the top of the PAC? And any idea when they can expect Molnar/Bird/Mitchell back?

Teddy Cahill: I don’t see it happening. I think UCLA is just too banged up at this point to go toe-to-toe against Oregon State and Stanford. The next two weeks are going to be really big for the Bruins, with a trip to Cal and a home series against Stanford coming up. If UCLA is going to challenge for the Pac-12 title, it needs to win both of those series.

Ryan (Dallas):

    How concerned would you be with Singer’s performance against Arkansas? Do you still see him as 1.1 or do you predict a fall similar to Puk and Faedo before him?

Teddy Cahill: Personally, I’m not overly concerned. Arkansas has a very good lineup and is capable of doing that to pretty much anyone in the country (and it’s done worse than that to Singer before). But, as I’ve said for the last week, Singer is no longer 1-1 for me – Casey Mize has passed him. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Singer getting knocked off that top spot to what happened to Puk and Faedo just because they all were teammates. I still don’t fully understand what happened with Puk – if you redraft 2016 right now, Puk is going 1 or 2. Faedo started slowly after injuries cost him most of the fall and he got penalized for it. At this point, the change at the top of the board is more about what Mize has done right, not what Singer has done wrong. Mize has always had the stuff to go 1-1, it was just a matter of proving he was durable enough. So far, he’s done just that.

Ryan (Dallas):

    How good is Drew Mendoza? Does he look like a top ten pick in 2019 and does he have any hope of sticking at SS or is he destined for 3B?

Teddy Cahill: I’m a huge Drew Mendoza believer and what he’s doing at the plate so far this season is very impressive. He has top-10 potential, but he’s going to have to show more this summer with a wood bat than he did on the Cape last summer. A lot of guys hit a lot better their second time around the Cape – Greyson Jenista springs to mind – and Mendoza needs to make that kind of jump either back with Y-D or with Team USA to get into the top 10. I don’t think he’s going to go out as a shortstop, but I also don’t think it matters. He’s going to have no problem profiling at third.

Ryan (Dallas):

    Could you rank based on upside: Singer, Kowar, McClannahan, Mize, and Beck?

Teddy Cahill: I hate just looking at upside, so let’s do this on realistic upside: Mize, McClanahan, Singer, Kowar, Beck. But give me any of them and I’ll be quite happy.

Will (Greenville, NC):

    Love the chats! What is your opinion on the outcome of the UCF-ECU series this weekend? Do you see ECU potentially emerging as the front runner for the AAC? Also, do you think it’s time for Wayne Graham to step aside at Rice? The owls haven’t been to the CWS since 08, and they were almost every year contenders from 2004-2008.

Teddy Cahill: I was really impressed with what ECU did this weekend. Talked about that series on the podcast, which I’d encourage you to listen to later today. What impressed me the most was how the Pirates bounced back after losing Friday night and really took to the Knights over the rest of the weekend. The American remains very tight, but, yes, right now, ECU is making its case as the team to beat. As for Wayne Graham and Rice, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Owls to be able to do what they were doing in the early 2000s any more. As previously mentioned, CUSA just isn’t the same conference it was back then and it’s really hurting it on the diamond. Rice definitely can be better than they have been the last couple years. Maybe that requires a coaching change. But a little consistency on the staff would be a good place to start too. Graham has run through several assistants in recent years, which hasn’t been helpful for the Owls.

Brett (Jax, FL):

    FSU started the season with good pitching from both the starters and the bullpen with the bats struggling. That paradigm has seemed to switch…and the bullpen seems especially shaky with no clear closer. However, the bats have been (mostly) more dependable. With Holton gone for the season…can this team make a deep run with such a non-descript ‘pen and up and down starters (see: Sands, Cole)?

Teddy Cahill: I remain a be3liever in Florida State’s potential to make a postseason run. But there’s no question it’s gotten a lot harder without Holton and it may have put a new ceiling on the Seminoles. But FSU reached Omaha last year with some of these same issues and has more talent on the pitching staff this year. It’s going to be up to Mike Martin and Mike Bell to find the right combination, as they were able to do last season down the stretch.

Jeff (Greenville, NC):

    Early 8 for Omaha?

Teddy Cahill: You can see my Eight for Omaha every Monday in Off the Bat. This week’s is here:

#9 (Palo Alto):

    Is there a more formidable weekend rotation in College Baseball than what Stanford has gotten so far this year from Beck, Bubic and Miller?

Teddy Cahill: I’ll take Florida’s trio, but that Stanford group is very impressive.

Mark Donaldson (Orlando, FL):

    UCF had a rough week going 1-4 against some pretty good opponents which knocked them out of the top 25. How far are they from getting back into the top 25 mix as well as in-state rival USF, who has been playing very solid baseball?

Teddy Cahill: UCF remains No. 25.

Joshua (Charlotte NC):

    Can we address the elephant in the room that is the Texas A&M bullpen and Rob Childress lack of ability to manage it?

Teddy Cahill: When I saw A&M last weekend at Auburn, I was not impressed with the Aggies’ bullpen, which was surprising, considering the number and quality of arms on that staff. That’s an area that’s going to have to be worked out for sure. But that was the case last year and Childress did it and A&M went to Omaha. The talent is there. The Aggies just have to get it going in the right direction.

Eric Simmons (Thornton Colorado):

    Is it time to write Virginia off after their RPI is down in the 100s?

Teddy Cahill: The thing about doing that to any team in the ACC or SEC is that they all still have plenty of opportunities to dig out of that hole. But the margin for error is very limited now for UVA after getting swept at Miami to fall to 3-6 in the ACC. The Cavs really need to get right over the next two weeks against Pitt and Virginia Tech.

FullertonBaseballFan (Fullerton, CA):

    The Big West is playing like a mid-major one bid conference and that is likely all that they will deserve to receive on Memorial Day is one spot in a regional, which will probably be a 4 seed at one of the Pac 12 schools. With the conference such a hot mess this season, the question is who do you predict will be the last team standing and in first place on Memorial Day to secure the automatic bid?

Teddy Cahill: Long Beach. It’s been a massively disappointing year in the Big West, but I think Long Beach is starting to figure it out after playing an incredibly difficult nonconference slate. Winning the series this weekend against Fullerton was a nice weekend for Beach and I think it has built some momentum with conference play set to start soon.

Andrew (United Kingdom):

    Where do you Trevor Larnach in the June draft? Do you think his ascension could make him a worthy pick for the Cubs with the 24th pick?

Teddy Cahill: I’ll leave the task of identifying college hitters to the Cubs – they’re pretty good at that. But Larnach has made a really big jump this spring, especially as a power hitter, and is rising on draft boards. I don’t know if that gets him into play at 24, but the more he hits and hits for power, the more likely it is that he gets that kind of play. And he’s been critical to the Beavers’ success this season.

Eric Simmons (Thornton Colorado):

    What team has been the most disappointing? I would say Mississippi State, Virginia or Cal State Fullerton.. What team has been the most surprising? I would say Georgia, San Diego State, UNLV or Illinois,Stetson!

Teddy Cahill: I’ll give Mississippi State a pass – it also was the lowest ranked team in the preseason of the ones you mentioned. For most disappointing I’d go with North Carolina or Fullerton. They’re disappointing on different levels. UNC is a team I thought was going to Omaha and hasn’t played like it to this point, but still looks like a solid club. Fullerton was a cut below that and now is probably going to have to win the Big West to get to regionals. Most surprising – of the group you listed, probably Illinois. Stetson and SDSU were projected to win their conferences, that’s what they’re doing right now. SDSU being ranked is a bit of a surprise, but not overly. As I said earlier in the chat, I still need to see more from Georgia. UNLV is a great story too, but I’ll go with the Illini. They’re on a great run right now.

Max (Virgiinia):

    Kentucky’s offense has looked really good overall, but their pitching has been letting them down in some games that they should have won (first doubleheader against Auburn yesterday). Do you think they can figure out there pitching and can they make a run at the championship in Omaha. Also, is Zack Thompson hurt since he hasn’t been starting on the weekend?

Teddy Cahill: Yeah, I’m not worried about Kentucky’s pitching. There’s plenty of talent there and pitching coach Jimmy Belanger will get it all figured out. But, most importantly, with the way the Wildcats are hitting, their pitchers have a cushion to work with. I don’t think the Wildcats are going to win the national title, but they have what it takes to make a run at their first CWS appearance.

Jeramey (Locust Grove):

    According to the Pseudo RPI rankings, Northeastern is 13. If they stayed in the top 16ish, would they have the means to host a regional? And do you think the committee would give them the opportunity to host? The committee seems to like regional diversity when it comes to hosting.

Teddy Cahill: I wouldn’t worry about that. Not because Northeastern isn’t good – I think the Huskies have a pretty good team again this year – but because staying that high in the RPI would basically require Northeastern to go undefeated the rest of the way (BoydsWorld says it needs 25-27 more wins to stay in the top 16, it has 32 games left). Such is life in the CAA. After playing series against four top-40 teams, Northeastern has just one series left against a top-100 opponent (Charleston). Losing even a couple games against 100+ RPI teams will destroy Northeastern’s mark.

Tyler (Loganville, GA):

    What does my alma mater, Georgia Tech, have to do to get going back in the right direction for the future?

Teddy Cahill: Georgia Tech needs more pitching. That’s been the story for a few years now in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets thought they had that weakness corrected a couple times, but injuries have been brutal there. I think this year’s team is interesting, especially with Tristin English getting back on the mound the last couple weeks. Curry and English in the rotation is solid, but Georgia Tech needs to find a couple reliable arms in the bullpen. They had a series all but won this weekend at NC State, but couldn’t find a way to close out the rubber game. If a couple guys emerge in the second half, I think Georgia Tech can compete with this year’s ACC contenders.

Eric Simmons (Thornton Colorado):

    Why isn’t Missouri ranked

Teddy Cahill: Essentially because it doesn’t have a Top-25 resume. Missouri is playing good baseball and has a nice record, but has yet to win a series against a team that I’d predict right now as a regional team (I suppose Mississippi State might qualify there, but the Bulldogs are trending in the wrong direction again). I like what’s happening in CoMo, but I need to see more. Will be very interested to see how Mizzou fares this weekend at Auburn.

Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today’s chat. Thank you for all the questions. We’ll see you back here next week to do it again.

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