Thursday, May 19, 2011

series preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: Thu.-Sat., May 19-21; 7:00, 7:00, 2:00

TV: None unless you want to shell out for the UNC video production

History against the Heels: 92-167-4

Last matchup: UVA series win, 3-0 (3-2, 5-1, 5-3), Charlottesville; 5/15-5/16, 2010

Last game: UVA 5, Miami 4 (5/15); UNC 7, App. St. 2 (5/17)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 series win over Miami (2-6, 3-2, 5-4); UNC 1-2 series loss to GT (3-2, 8-9, 0-3)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; UNC #17
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; UNC #16
NCBWA: UVA #1; UNC #14
Perfect Game: UVA #1; UNC #15
Coaches: UVA #1; UNC #13
Composite: UVA #1; UNC #14

RPI: UVA #2; UNC #3

Opposing blogs: It's Carolina, so baseball is something that other teams play during the basketball offseason.  Seriously.

UVA's established itself (at a pretty good time to do so) as the king of the rankings; for the first time this season the Hoos are #1 in all five polls.  Such is the power of Virginia baseball that Miami actually moved up in some polls as a reward for not getting swept last weekend.

This week, another test for UVA: a road trip to Chapel Hill.  UNC is similar to Miami in the sense of having a good pitching staff and only fair hitting.  Better pitching, in fact, but slightly worse hitting, and very solid fielding.  The result is a team that's surprisingly (to me) third in the RPI.  Maybe it's that series sweep over 37-10 Stony Brook.

UNC's staff is one you'd feel very confident going into a weekend series with; the rotation is strong and the bullpen is stronger.  Their pitching staff is second in the nation in strikeouts (guess who's first?? yup, very interesting matchup this weekend) and the leader there is Patrick Johnson, who'll pitch tonight against Cody Winiarski.  Johnson does it with command and control; he's not overpowering, which could be a plus for UVA and their patient ways at the plate.  Bottom line for UVA batters, though, is that they're facing a pitching staff very much like their own: going for strikeouts and not working the corners hoping for a generous umpire.

Carolina's got a few dangerous hitters - they're no murderer's row but there are a couple guys worth watching out for - but the real star of the team has been a freshman: third baseman Colin Moran, who's hitting .349 with nine home runs.  Yes, that's a big number in the brave new world of bats that go clank instead of ping.  He and shortstop Levi Michael lead the team in RBIs, and Moran has 63 to Michael's 45 so it's not real close.

I think the Heels' #3 RPI overrates them quite a bit.  How has UNC fared in the ACC this season?  A little bit underwhelmingly.  They're 9-0 against the real dregs (Duke, VT, and Maryland) but inexplicably lost their series with Wake Forest and even more inexplicably got swept by NC State.

The pitching rotation is a little bit different this weekend.  UNC hasn't changed anything, but it's Brian O'Connor's custom to shake things up and realign his rotation for the postseason; accordingly, Tyler Wilson is off this weekend with Winiarski starting tonight, Danny tomorrow, and Will Roberts on Saturday.  All it takes is one win this weekend or one GT loss and the #1 seed in the ACC tourney is ours; BOC is anticipating needing pitchers Wednesday (probably Winiarski), Thursday (Wilson), Saturday (Danny himself), and then hopefully Sunday (Roberts or Johnny Wholestaff.)  That's my guess at the rotation next weekend.  That Thursday game, assuming we're the 1 seed, will be against the 5 seed: probably UNC.  See the logic of keeping Wilson back this weekend?

Honestly, this weekend UVA has nothing to prove.  A series win would be a reaffirmation of awesomeness - series wins at GT and UNC and a sweep at Clemson, that'd be a record to be reckoned with - but barring the Rapture or some kind of catastrophe in the next couple weeks, UVA will be hosting a regional and getting first dibs on a super-regional, too.  That won't change if we have the misfortune of going 1-2.

Rest of the ACC:

NC State at Boston College
Wake Forest at Maryland: BC and Maryland are toast; the two road teams here will be vying for placement in the 2-3-6-7 pool in the ACC tourney.  NC State won the series against Wake, and so has the tiebreaker - both are 12-15.
Clemson at Florida State: A single win will give FSU the Atlantic Division and the #2 seed.  Clemson can win it if they sweep.
Duke at Miami: Good chance for Miami to get some separation from UNC in the standings, but it matters little since it'll probably be for the 4th seed over the 5th.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech: GT must sweep and hope for a UNC sweep in order to win the division.  Otherwise they'll almost definitely be the 3rd seed, having already beaten Miami and UNC in their series.

Probable ACC finish:

1. Virginia
2. Florida State
3. Georgia Tech
4. Miami
5. North Carolina
6. Clemson
7. NC State
8. Wake Forest

Remember, the teams are sorted into 1-4-5-8 and 2-3-6-7 pools, so whatever happens this weekend, expect to have to do it again the next.  That's why BOC isn't letting UNC get a look at Tyler Wilson.


Bonus: Good news is afoot on the basketball recruiting trail.

- First, as predicted, Mike Tobey is starting to see a serious upward kick in his rankings.  Rivals gave him a fourth star and lists him now as the #100 prospect in the country, giving UVA two of the top 100 for 2012 along with Evan Nolte.  24/7 also puts him in their own top 100.  Time to be legitimately excited for a true center with major talents.  If Tobey pans out that way he could be the first real scoring center since, I dunno, Ralph?

- And two of the top 100 might be just the beginning; last night, rumors went 'splodey all over the tubes about Justin Anderson - a five-star to Rivals, top-25 player to just about everyone, and holding "god given off the charts athletic ability" according to ESPN.  By any measure, precisely the kind of player you always have room for on your roster.  Anderson is a Boo Williams player from Virginia and technically a Maryland commit at the moment; the coaching change and apparent loss of his lead recruiter there are causing him to have second thoughts.  The rumor mill is in full swing in the way that the rumor mill does, with affirmations and denials of everything and I'm not gonna even get into all that because I don't really do that.  Here's the bottom-line point: keep your eyes open for the next couple days because the possibility exists that the 2012 hoops class, which is already starting to look mighty awesome, could look twice as awesome by the end of the weekend.

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