College Baseball Chat With Aaron Fitt

    Ray (Ohio): Kindly respond to this: National Algorithm guru Boyd ran a piece today showing all the warts, bruises, and blemishes of the Top 25 RPI teams as of yesterday. I have no use for the RPI, and choose to look at baseball winning and losing as it relates to pitching and matchups. All college kids can hit, and hit most anybody regardless of RPI. Q: Kent State was ranked by BA, then several other pollsters because they were winning and with the knowledge that their schedule was less than stellar. They have sustained a couple bumps, bruises, and warts like most of the top teams have and sit at 38-15 before the start of the MAC Tournament. Would a solid showing without winning the tournament, say a 3-1(41-16) overall record maybe sneak them in with an at-large considering not many teams are blemish free? Is this the year the NCAA doesn't reward mediocre teams from the ACC and SEC and give a few worthy other teams a chance?

Aaron Fitt: Hi everyone. Fun weekend — let's get going. Kent State must win the automatic bid—it blew its at-large chances down the stretch, losing series to Buffalo and Akron. If the Flashes had won those weekends, I do believe they would have an at-large safety net, because as you point out, there's a real power vacuum this year. But Kent State simply failed to take advantage of the vacuum. And the way Kent State has pitched this year is incredibly disappointing. I still like that offense quite a bit, but I no longer regard that team as a deep Omaha sleeper; Brad Stillings has had an abysmal year, and Kyle Smith is hurt.

    Tim (pittsburgh, pa): How do you see the Atlantic-10 Tournament playing out? Any chance that if Rhode Island slips up they could get strong consideration for an at-large bid?

Aaron Fitt: I still like URI to win the conference tournament, though it's pretty wide open. Give Dayton credit for a great season, and Xavier has been very solid also. And Charlotte is lurking ... watch out for those guys. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if the 49ers run through that tournament and steal the automatic bid. The Rams do have a real shot at an at-large bid thanks to the way they held their own against that tough nonconference slate. I think the committee will reward Rhode Island for playing teams like Fullerton, Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Miami — and playing them well. That said, losing a series to UMass last weekend hurt quite a bit. Still, I think the Rams have a real shot at an at-large if they can make a deep run this weekend.

    Davey Connor (Cleveland): Does San Jose State need to win the WAC tourney to get into regionals?

Aaron Fitt: The Spartans deserve an at-large bid even if they don't win the conference tournament — certainly more than Hawaii does, RPI be damned. I hope the committee will look beyond the RPI and pick the more deserving team, when push comes to shove. But will it happen? Who knows.

    Timmy (Pittsburgh, Pa): What is the status for Ole Miss pitcher Scott Bittle? Will he back for the SEC Tournament? Will he be back for the NCAA Tournament? Without him, I do not see Ole Miss getting to Omaha, but with him I feel confident in their chances. Your thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Mike Bianco said going into this past weekend that Bittle would not be available, but he seemed to suggest Bittle would likely be back in time for the SEC tournament, likely out of the bullpen. He's definitely the key to their national title hopes. They've got enough pitching that they might be able to get to Omaha without him, but I don't see them winning it.

    Jason Marks (Texas): FSU appears to be a year ahead of schedule, winning the ACC with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. Can they make any noise in the tournament? Any chance at a national seed if things go well in the conference tournament?

Aaron Fitt: I still don't believe in FSU's pitching, but if the Seminoles are home for regionals and/or supers, it's hard to bet against them. Few teams play better in their home parks than Florida State. I do believe the 'Noles will earn a national seed with a conference tournament title, or maybe just by reaching the title game. You can't ignore a team that wins the ACC regular season and conference tournament.

    Carlton (Gainesville, FL): What does Florida have to do in Hoover to get a national seed?

Aaron Fitt: Have a better week than Ole Miss. I think those two teams are neck and neck for a national seed, and this week could be the difference.

    Frederick (Oxford): What do the Ole Miss Rebels have to do in the SEC Tournament to secure a Top 8 seed?

Aaron Fitt: See last answer!

    Matt (New Orleans, LA): Do you think LSU will win the Sec tournement and be a national seed?

Aaron Fitt: LSU will be a national seed whether it wins the conference tournament or not.

    Jim Bob (tampa): Is it time to write off Rice as a true national title contender?

Aaron Fitt: No... but I don't feel great about their chances. I just worry about their situation on the mound — not a lot of quality depth, and some key guys with medical red flags.

    Joe (Marysville, Ohio): What has to happen for Ohio State to host an NCAA Regional???

Aaron Fitt: The Buckeyes need a big week in the Big Ten tournament, and they need Louisville to make an early exit in the Big East tourney. Otherwise, the Cardinals have the upper hand for a Midwest regional. There's little to no chances that both teams could host.

    tom (hillsborough, nc): any chance duke can sneak into a regional after upsetting ga. tech this weekend? also, what's up with nate freiman? leads the acc in home runs??? what does the june draft hold for him?

Aaron Fitt: I think Duke does have a real chance, but it probably needs to win at least two games this week to help offset its poor RPI. But how many bubble teams have two series wins more impressive than Georgia Tech and at North Carolina? And finishing 15-15 in the ACC with those two big weekends, plus a win in the head-to-head series against BC, ought to be enough. Again, this will be a test to see how much the committee uses the RPI as a crutch. And how much it punishes Duke for playing a soft nonconference slate. People out West really seem to resent East Coast teams that do that.

    Adam (Greenville, NC): Hey aaron, whats your view on ECU's chances of hosting after their 4-0 week and capturing C-USA's top spot?

Aaron Fitt: Decent. The Pirates are probably competing with South Carolina for a third host spot in the Carolinas (along with UNC and Clemson). It could come down to which team has a stronger week in the conference tournaments.

    Mark (California): If you were to guess right now who is your early pick to win the CWS?

Aaron Fitt: I'm sticking with North Carolina, and it's not because Chapel Hill is down the road from our office or any other nonsense reason like that. It's because the Tar Heels have the best player in the nation (non-Strasburg category) in Dustin Ackley, a power arm with a track record of Omaha success in Alex White, impact bats in Seager, Fleury and Levi Michael, two quality starters pitching well down the stretch in Adam Warren and Matt Harvey (plus a fourth solid starting option in Patrick Johnson), a dominant lefthanded reliever in Brian Moran, a quality righthanded reliever in Colin Bates — and three years of Omaha experience under their belts.

    Damian (Arlington, VA): Winning 10 of their last 11, what do you think about South Carolina's chances of making a deep run in the post season?

Aaron Fitt: I'm starting to like them more and more, especially if the Gamecocks are at home. That is a very powerful lineup once again, and if South Carolina gets the kind of starting pitching it got this weekend, they really can make a run to Omaha. I could envision them slugging their way through a regional and then sending Sam Dyson out there to dominate in the first game of a super. Then they could find a way to win one more — between Belcher, Cooper and Jay Brown, somebody might step up on the mound. I'm not saying I think South Carolina will be in Omaha, but I'm saying it could certainly happen.

    Jimmy (Miami, FL): Any Sun Belt teams that might make some noise in the regionals? How far do you think FIU has to go in the tournament to make it to a regional?

Aaron Fitt: I think Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State are both dangerous, though neither has a ton of pitching. FIU needs to win a few games, for sure, but I actually like its resume and think it could be the third team out of the Sun Belt.

    alex (moscow, russia): Aaron: Does Fullerton have enough pitching to reach CWS or do the freshmen need at least one more year?

Aaron Fitt: Yes, Fullerton has enough pitching to reach Omaha, though Tyler Pill's struggles are alarming. Serrano and Co. will find a way.

    Jimmy (Miami, FL): If UM is able to make some noise in the ACC tournament will they be under consideration as a host site for a regional?

Aaron Fitt: The Hurricanes probably need to make a good deal of noise to catch Clemson or Georgia Tech. Losing that home series against Bethune-Cookman last weekend was a killer.

    Joel (Norman): Huge weekend sweep for OU over a&m. Rocha was impressive on saturday and Richards dealt on Sunday with 11 K's. Is he a top 5 rounds talent? Also, with a strong showing in the tourny this week could OU be a national seed? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: Garrett Richards has one of the most electric arms in the nation, and yes, he's a top-five-rounds talent. Heck, he's got first-round arm strength, but his command issues will likely drop him to the fifth or so. I do think Oklahoma is a darkhorse national seed contender — see today's Three Strikes for a detailed discussion of national seeds candidates, as well as host and bubble candidates.

    Marvin (Malibu): Aaron, huge fan of the chats. This years West Coast Conference ended up being rather shaky, with Gonzaga and LMU in the conference championships. Pepperdine is finishing rather hot (winning 5 in a row- one of which a Top 25 team) and faces the combative Fullerton this Tuesday, if they are able to pull off a win, do they have a chance in a regional?

Aaron Fitt: No chance. Pepperdine's RPI is horrible. The strong finish is nice, but too little, too late. What a disappointing season for the Waves.

    William (Nashville, T.N.): In college baseball, momentium has alot to do with winning, who are some of the hottest teams going into this weekends tours.

Aaron Fitt: Louisville, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Missouri State, Coastal Carolina — those are some that come to mind.

    russel crane (roseville, ca): Just curious why Oregon State has seemed to be such a shoo-in for regionals. Are they partly benefitting from their past championships? I see other schools with similar or better resumes who haven't been so ordained. It really should be about what teams are doing this season — right now, and nothing else. Don't you agree? Thanks for the great coverage, Aaron.

Aaron Fitt: I do agree, and I don't think OSU is a shoo-in. If the Beavers lose this weekend against Stanford, they're in serious trouble — that would be five series losses in the final six weekends. But if they win this weekend, they'll be in, thanks to a solid RPI and a series win against Arizona State, plus solid work in nonconference play.

    The Swagger (Pasadena, CA): The Anteaters scored 36 runs last week against a lowly UC Davis team. Nevertheless, this team has shown all year that it can hit, pitch and play defense day in and day out. Do you think they are legitimate title contenders?

Aaron Fitt: Yes.

    Randall Mohr (Omaha): Interesting forces in favor of & against TCU as a regional host? Your last projection sent them on the road as a 1-seed due to their dismal record against the Big 12, but their road wins at Fullerton & at Ole Miss look as good today as in the beginning of the season. Meanwhile the state of Texas also only has 2 hosts per the last proejction - could the committee be determining between a regional in Norman vs. a regional in Fort Worth? How might the MWC tourney change things?

Aaron Fitt: TCU's stock improved as Kansas State's and Texas A&M's fell. I now like TCU's chances to host, provided the Frogs don't fall on their faces this week.

    Wayne (St. Louis): Thanks for the College Baseball coverage. We Nebraska fans are a worrisome bunch and several have questioned the program's ability to sustain the elite pace it has set over the last decade. Does this weekend's sweep of Baylor show that this team has the character necessary to bounce back next year from a miserable 2009 campaign or are there still some dark clouds on the horizon?

Aaron Fitt: They simply need to get more talent in Lincoln. I believe Mike Anderson is a good coach who usually gets the most out of the talent he's got (last year, for instance, Nebraska overachieved with a team that frankly wasn't that talented). But this year, the Cornhuskers were by far the least talented team in the league, and they could not overcome that disadvantage.

    John (Oxford): DO you think the Rebels earned a national seed with the sweep of Arkansas over the weekend? Also how far do you see Ole Miss going now that Scott Biddle is out for the SEC tournament and maybe the remainder of the season?

Aaron Fitt: Thanks for the update, John — indeed, news reports out of Oxford now say Bittle will not pitch this week. Big blow... but is there some Scheppers potential here? If Ole Miss wins the national title without Bittle, I'm petitioning Bill Simmons to add the Scheppers Corollary to the Ewing Theory.

    Sun Devil (Georgia): Do you think there is any chance ASU will not be a top 8 seed and what regional sites do you think will get matched up with one another for the super regionals?

Aaron Fitt: ASU will be a national seed — guaranteed. The Tempe Regional will be paired with some East Coast or Central regional, because all three West Coast hosts will be national seeds.

    Thomas (Greenville, NC): How many regionals will take place in the Carolinas?

Aaron Fitt: Three.

    Maddog (Ashburn, VA): ACC Tournament: Can you recall as tight a set of seedings as this year? Six of the top eight teams have legitimate shots at going to Omaha, with the seven and eight seeds (Duke and BC) rounding out a pretty competitive tourney. Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: Should be a great week — looking forward to it! I'll be on hand for every game, and will have blogs with my thoughts about the ACC tournament as well as the rest of the action around the nation.

    Bob (New Orleans): What does the Green Wave have to do to secure an at large bid?

Aaron Fitt: Two wins. Just one might even do it. That's a team that has played well down the stretch (winning six straight series) and has taken advantage of the vacuum that exists in some of the power conferences. Right now, I'd take Tulane over Vanderbilt, RPI be damned (I feel like I'm saying that a lot lately...). Seriously Vandy, how do you get swept at home by Tennessee with your regional hopes on the line? No excuse for that.

    Paul (Greenville, SC): South Carolina is red hot right now. And you guys reluctantly put them in at 25 it appears. Why jump on the band wagon now?

Aaron Fitt: Because South Carolina is red hot, maybe? Would you have preferred we jumped on the bandwagon after the Gamecocks were swept by Florida?

    Sun Devil Realist (Tempe, AZ): ASU is ranked #3, but that might be padded. A very weak Pac-10 (never, ever seen it so bad) schedule and a lack of typical Sun Devil hitting scares me. Seems like ASU can eat up bad pitching (who can't?) but against the quality opponents runs can be a struggle. Can ASU make it to Omaha on pitching alone? Also, whatever happened to USC and Stanford?

Aaron Fitt: I think you have reason to be concerned. This is a good, well-coached ASU team, but it's not a juggernaut like last year's team, and losing Josh Spence was a major blow, no matter how well their other arms pitched against the anemic bats of Oregon. I'll wait to see the matchups before predicting the Sun Devils to lose before Omaha, though.

    Robert (Boston): After Deck McGuire, GT looks like they may be in trouble if they can't rely on their offense to produce lofty numbers each game. What do you make of their last week of play that was nothing short of unspectacular to two struggling teams? Also I'm still assuming they are a lock for a regional, but did they put themselves in a position where they must win the ACC tourney outright to garner super regional considerations?

Aaron Fitt: Certainly, pitching after McGuire is Georgia Tech's weakness. They've got plenty of good arms — I was there Thursday and Saturday this weekend and saw Kevin Jacobs showing off his ridiculous arm strength, and I've seen Brandon Cumpton look like Cy Young against Wake Forest — but they're inconsistent. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to make of Tech's Omaha chances. It all depends which Cumpton shows up, which Jacob shows up, which Von Tersch shows up, which Bradley shows up... that's a lot of questions. Of course, Tech's offense is awfully good, certainly the most powerful and explosive lineup in the ACC. So maybe those guys can slug their way through. They're actually built a bit like South Carolina in that respect, except their No. 1 arm is more consistent and their other arms are more electric, though no more consistent.

    Noah (Durham): How bad are my Bulldogs right now? Have they really gone from a national top-8 seed to not hosting and being a 2 seed in someone elses regional in just a few weeks? Can they even make it out of a regional? What caused this?

Aaron Fitt: It's an odd year, not an even year. Georgia is certainly talented enough to turn it around, but that team is in a serious rut for sure. If it continues this week, the Bulldogs could be looking at a No. 3 seed.

    Bob (Chicago): Aaron, Coastal Carolina has won 10 in a row (I believe that is the longest streak in teh nation) and has the most wins in D1. With that said, I have two questions for you. Why are they not ranked and where will they be playing in the Regionals?

Aaron Fitt: Coastal is not ranked because it lacks quality wins. The Chanticleers have played just one game against the top 25 (a win at UNC in February), and just two other wins against regional contenders (midweek against Elon, and one win out of four games at Hawaii, which is a borderline regional contender at this point). I see Coastal as a No. 2 seed at either Clemson or South Carolina. OK folks, that's all I've got time for today — thanks as always for the questions. Remember to sign up for the Baseball America Bracket Challenge — once you sign up, you'll be on the Bracket Challenge e-mail list, and you'll receive e-mail notification when your bracket is available to fill out. Good luck to everyone, and enjoy the conference tournaments!