Last year this was a three-parter, but I had more than enough material for the late winter months this year and it got squeezed. It's really too late to bother with a full-out preview since we're two weekends into the ACC season, so this year you get short capsules in one post of each ACC team instead of something larger. Tell Mike London to stop signing so many recruits so I won't be finishing up those profiles in March - or make basketball less interesting - and it'll be easier next year.
Mediocre team last year, mediocre this year. They had two mashers in 2010 - Mickey Wiswall and John Spatola - and both graduated, leaving behind a lineup that looks a lot like UVA's in the home run department (which is to say, they don't hit any) but nothing like UVA's in the contact department. There's but one hitter batting over .300 at the moment (CF Tom Bourdon), and he's a freshman. The veterans are up and down at best, with a few other semi-reliable hitters scattered throughout the order. The pitching is equally meh, and BC still hasn't really settled on a rotation yet, although John Leonard is pitching very well and gives them at least one building block there. There are some reliable arms in the bullpen, too - it's probably the strength of the team.
Prediction: Another 8 seed in the ACC tournament, at best.
Now this is a lineup. Kyle Parker is a professional baseball player now, so his 20 home runs aren't in the lineup any more, but despite a few losses to graduation, he was the only really irreplaceable player. There's a pleasant conundrum at catcher, where Spencer Kieboom grabbed the starting spot in last year's NCAA tournament and hasn't let go, starting the year with a .453 batting average. The only problem is that Phil Pohl, the supposed heir apparent, is hitting .426, though mostly at DH. Clemson has five other regulars over .300 as well, all of them seasoned veterans, and is getting quality RBI production from spots 1 through 9. Clemson's bullpen is generally excellent, and the only thing holding them back from national elite status is the lack of a back end of the rotation. Will Lamb and Scott Weismann are getting bombed. The only reliable starter so far has been David Haselden, who got bumped from Sunday to Saturday for the Duke series last weekend and might get bumped further. They may call on Justin Sarratt to help shore up the rotation, who was a respectable pitcher in his first three seasons but lost 2010 to an elbow injury. He's been lights-out so far and Clemson could be a CWS contender if they just get their rotation in order.
Prediction: Solid 4th seed in the ACC tournament, but UVA exposed their rotation in the opening-weekend sweep. Ripe for an upset in an NCAA regional.
Clemson swept 'em, but look out. The Blue Devils have been bottom-feeding for a while, having made the ACC tournament just once (as a 7 seed) since expansion to 12, when the ACC stopped letting everyone in. There's a huge crop of freshmen, though, and they're hitting. Most of the lineup is freshmen, and they're bumping the veterans out of the way. Five players are batting over .300 and none of them played an inning of college ball last year except for Jeff Kremer, who is now a sophomore and had 14 at-bats last season. The pitching hasn't been tested much against ACC bats, but it's certainly better than the mess Boston College has to offer. Dennis O'Grady is the only senior on the team, and he's both a reliable Saturday starter and decent htter. Duke's already won a series this year (against NC State, which swept them last season) and figures to gather plenty more than the eight ACC wins they had last year.
Prediction: 7th seed in the tournament, their highest since the pre-expansion days. Potential surprise NCAA tournament team. And maybe more to come in the future.
What can you say? 32 innings of baseball this weekend hardly proved anything, except that UVA and FSU are the class of the ACC. Few if any weak spots in the lineup, an exceptional bullpen, and just one chink in the rotation (Brian Busch is pitching poorly, but he's proven he's better than his 6.75 ERA and just our luck will probably toss a two-hitter against us in the tournament.) And they seem to have found a good one in Scott Sitz, to go along with Friday stalwart Sean Gilmartin. Probably have to do a little rebuilding next year, but this is a veteran bunch with their sights set on Omaha.
Prediction: 2nd seed in the tournament and a date in at least a super-regional.
A revamped lineup and no Deck McGuire and it doesn't even matter. A couple of puzzling losses and the aforementioned personnel changes held their rankings down early in the year, but they're rocketing right back up the charts again. More hitting than a team should be allowed to have, and their pitchers haven't allowed a home run yet. Like Duke, they're being propelled by freshmen, so they've got an even brighter future ahead. And wouldn't you know - they get to skip Florida State this year.
Prediction: 3rd seed in the ACC, but if I'm right and they meet FSU in the ACC tournament, things could get interesting quick. And it wouldn't surprise if they win their division and the 1 seed. Major threat to make Omaha.
The suck is more than I can handle, or it would be if it weren't Maryland. Actually, the Terps' pitching staff ain't bad. Explains how they managed to pull off a win against Texas(!). Last year the Maryland schedule was cratered with 20-run losses (which the Maryland headline writers hilariously never expounded on beyond "Maryland falls to some team" without ever mentioning the scoreboard explosion.) This year they've found pitchers, and they probably won't be giving up any more of those 20-run wonders. But they won't be scoring much, either. Two regulars are below the .200 Mendoza Line, and two more are flirting with it. They got swept by GT but the Friday game was just 1-0; probably not the first time that score will show up on the Maryland schedule. Hey, it's better than 27-4, which was the UVA Saturday score from last year. Maryland's pitching will probably steal them a few games, but there's a long way to go to respectability.
Prediction: No tournament, but probably more than their 2010 total of five wins. Might even crawl out of the cellar.
Started the ACC season 6-0, but that start is masking some major issues in Coral Gables. It's not your daddy's Miami. Your daddy's Miami could play some ball. This one can't hit a lick. One of the sorriest lineups in the whole ACC. Not as sorry as Maryland's, but pretty bad. Hell, even Maryland has a couple .300 hitters. Miami has one, and their team OPS is .697. And it's kind of a shame because the pitching is nasty. The competition so far leaves something to be desired, but they did hold Florida to one run in the Saturday game of their series. (And got one-hit, and lost 1-0.) Losses to Appalachian State and Illinois State are ugly blemishes, and they'll give Tim Weiser and his committee of fools something to think about when seeding the NCAA tournament. Leave Miami out? Hasn't happened since 1972.
Prediction: The pitching gives them a shot. Honestly, the pitching is good enough to get them a high seed in the ACCT. And the hitting is bad enough to leave them out entirely. We'll meet in the middle and say a 6 seed. If they get into the NCAAs it'll be as a regional 3-seed, nothing more.
Is UNC back? A win over Cal-State Fullerton says "sure." A series loss to Wake Forest says "definitely not." I'll learn toward yes. It was certainly strange to have an ACC tournament without UNC, but that's what happened last year. This year, they'll be back. They've got the hitting, the veterans, and the pitching to do it. But are they the powerhouse of a few years ago? No. Carolina is solid but no longer among the ACC's elite.
Prediction: 5th seed, and a regional 2-seed in the NCAAs. They could make someone's life miserable there and make the supers, but they won't be a huge contender in the conference.
Awful, just awful. They had a solid lineup last year which could do some damage, but the leftovers include a few guys who can hit and a few guys who definitely can't. They'll give you five innings of some danger and four throwaway innings. The bullpen is good, but they're so rarely handed a lead that it doesn't matter. Cory Mazzoni is a quality Friday starter but there isn't much else for Saturday and Sunday, and he gets bupkis for run support. Losing series to Penn State and Duke is all you need to know about where they fall on the ACC pecking order. They'll still probably take two of three from UVA, though, just because that's how they roll.
Prediction: No tournament.
Prediction: The 1 seed, of course, and a super-regional in Charlottesville. Tim Weiser would say otherwise, but Weiser is the Dennis Nedry to Hultzen's dilophosaurus.
Last year's Hokies had a bunch of seniors, especially senior pitchers, and came within an extra-inning run of going to the ACC championship game. There are a few hitters, but the bottom dropped out of the pitching (that amazing Miami lineup scored a season-high 11 against the Hokies; the only other double-digit effort was against Appalachian State.) With an 0-6 start to the ACC season against two of the ACC's decent-but-not-elite teams in Miami and UNC, I don't see where the wins are going to come from to get VT back into the tournament. Either the ACC or NCAA variety.
Prediction: Scrapping for an 8th seed and probably not getting it.
They've never been good. They still ain't. They got swept in their own invitational tournament, to which they invited Fordham, Towson, and Radford. Somehow they pulled off a series win against UNC, mainly by giving their one quality starter (Tim Cooney) some run support and then stringing together a big inning in the rubber game. Might be the highlight of the season, since the lineup is among the weakest in the conference and did I mention they have one reliable weekend starter?
Prediction: Still no tournament.
For those who didn't keep track, here's the handy guide to the seeding predictions:
5. North Carolina
8. Boston College
2. Florida State
3. Georgia Tech
If you put a gun to my head and made me order the rest, too, I'd say VT 9th, NC State 10th, Maryland 11th, and Wake 12th. Pretty good tournament draw; anything that keeps FSU and GT the hell away from our pod is the goal. Now you know what we're getting into the rest of the season.