Jump into an evaluation of the top programs in the country as Bryan ranks the NCAA Top 25.
This spring, while I continue to search for new ways to cover college baseball, I will nevertheless do one traditional exercise for anyone on this beat by ranking the national landscape to provide you with my own top 25 list. Yet, as I spent the offseason searching for the best schools to fill out the list and the best way to organize them, I began to see a few clear separations. More than specific rankings, there are what I see as relatively clear-cut tiers. Six programs stood out as the cream of the crop, 12 more are schools that are just a break or two away from contention, and after that initial 18 the final seven that make up my list are interchangeable with the bevy of near-misses that I'm sure will gain consideration or make it onto the list at some point during the season.
A tremendous slate of conference clashes helped resolve who's headed in the right direction.
We return to format this week, though last week was a useful way to provide a wider view of the national picture. It also highlighted numerous matchups this weekend that will prove paramount to the decision-makers in May. For example, USC traveled to UCLA-a long bus ride, I'm sure-and came away with two wins to open the series. However, because last week was highlighted by so many battles, that clash isn't even one of the six I'm highlighting today. In fact, you'll notice some cramming in a few places, because halfway through the season, no other weekend had as many notable developments as this weekend's action did.
Bryan handicaps who's got the best chances at making the college playoffs coming out of the best conferences.
Before the season, my initial preview of the college baseball scene was an analysis of the offensive structure of the game. I tried to show that despite the aluminum bats we weren't talking about a 30-run brand of baseball (even though Virginia defied me by dropping 27 on Coppin State in the season's first week). I really hoped to prove that it's a game where Brian Roberts' major league numbers are average, and that it's a brand of baseball where defense is inconsistent. To prove this, I used the averages of the 12 conferences that had at least one at-large bid in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. With a few exceptions, it's those 12 conferences that host the best baseball in the nation. While the midway point of the regular season isn't until next week or so, I decided to abandon our usual six-point structure just for this week to review the state of those 12 conferences. As a point of reference, last year 45 of the 64 NCAA tournament spots went to teams in these conferences.
Programs and prospects are sorting out who's atop the rankings, in the standings and on draft boards, respectively.
Generally, the outcomes from this weekend were pretty standard fare for college baseball. For the most part it seemed that the best teams won the weekend series, and usually the series were split two games to one. While that doesn't always make for the most interesting copy, it does help in terms of validating that we are beginning to identify the programs correctly. While we are still two months from the NCAA Tournament, we are certainly closer than we were a month ago at being able to look at which teams might host, which teams might find themselves on the bubble, and which teams were far too overhyped. We'll try to hit on that theme in today's edition of the six most interesting facts from last weekend.
Our new Thursday staple, previewing the the pro prospects of tomorrow and the action to come on college diamonds around the country.
Normally, the presence of four Top 25 teams would be enough to make a six-team weekend tournament the highlight of the weekend. This weekend's San Diego tournament--hosted both by Rich Hill's San Diego Toreros and Tony Gwynn's San Diego State Aztecs--will indeed bring together those two programs in a four-cornered contest with Missouri and Fresno State. However, the weekend tournament promises to not only be exciting but also historic--never before has such a collection of high-profile arms been brought together for one regular season tournament.
Who didn't make it to last year's College World Series, but rate highly enough to be seen as likely contenders this year?
Last week we looked in detail at the spring prospects for last year's eight Omaha finalists, and found that not one of them looks a sure bet for a repeat trip. So as I continue a comprehensive look at the nation's top programs and 2008 contenders, the logical next step is to see what teams that were close last season are poised to make the last leap. For today, I reviewed the final top 25 rankings in the Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, and the USA Today Coaches Poll from last June. Outside of the eight Omaha teams, 18 other universities were ranked in the top 25 by at least one of those three polls. Below are the prospects of each of these teams. Next week, we'll finish out this series on the eve of college baseball by looking at the team's that could rebound from a disappointing 2007 with a big finish in 2008.
Kicking off a series of previews of college baseball with a look at league strengths and park effects.
Last summer, I began covering the Cape Cod League because I felt it was a good introduction to the college game for BP readers. Many of the usual complaints about college baseball--aluminum bats, big offenses, frustrating mistakes--are absent in the nationally-renowned Cape Cod League. It was, I hope, an opportunity to see that college baseball still represents good baseball.
Jim has a series of creative propositions for you concerning the 2006 season.
Today, we're going to put the standings aside and look at some team propositions. What follows are five pairs of teams that either finished very close to one another in 2005 and/or are predicted to do so in 2006. Aside from that, there is a geographic component just to add subtext to the proceedings. In addition to the five pairs, there is one quartet of teams that also sort of fits this description. Your job is to pick which of these teams will win more games in the upcoming season.