Sorenson: Off The Top Of My Head, March 18


This is always one of my favorite marking points of the college baseball season. Most of the conferences are just about to get into conference play – except for the ACC, which always starts a little earlier than others – and it’s a perfect time to look at the numbers to see how the non-conference schedules stack up. My hunch is always the same and I am for the most part proven right: most top teams play too easy of a non-conference schedule and they are rewarded in the rankings but it hurts them in the post-season.

On the heels of the subject I covered in my Baldcast last week, here are some of the strength of schedule ratings according to college baseball’s regal math mastermind Boyd Nation and his more-sane ISR rankings:

1- Florida (18-1), S.O.S. No. 136
2- Vanderbilt (16-1), S.O.S. No. 193
3- Texas A&M (16-1), S.O.S. No. 204
4- Oregon State (12-2), S.O.S. No. 147
5- Louisville (14-2) S.O.S. No. 150
6- North Carolina (13-2), S.O.S. No. 29
7- LSU (12-3), S.O.S. No. 199
8- TCU (13-3), S.O.S. No. 76
9- Ole Miss (16-1), S.O.S. No. 110
10- Miami (13-3), S.O.S. No. 92
11- Florida State (13-4), S.O.S. No. 117
12- California (10-4), S.O.S. No. 125
13- N.C. State (14-4), S.O.S. No. 46
14- Arkansas (14-3), S.O.S. No. 272
15- Mississippi State (12-4), S.O.S. No. 135
16- South Carolina (16-2), S.O.S. No. 170
17- East Carolina (11-6), S.O.S. No. 99
18- Virginia (12-5), S.O.S. No. 212
19- Clemson (12-3), S.O.S. No. 98
20- UCLA (8-7), S.O.S. No. 2
21- Oregon (8-5), S.O.S. No. 26
22- Long Beach State (11-5), S.O.S. No. 63
23- Cal State Fullerton (10-6), S.O.S. No. 47
24- Louisiana (10-6), S.O.S. No. 74
25- Oklahoma State (11-6), S.O.S. No. 20

As you can see, it is evident by most of the rankings that the key to staying near the top of the rankings is to schedule lightly. Granted, there have been a few good matchups here and there in the first month of the season, but for the most part you guys are making us yawn.

On the other end of the spectrum, here are the teams who have played the toughest schedules in the country according to Boyd’s ISR rankings. In other words, the heroes of our sport.

1- Xavier (3-12)
2- UCLA (8-7)
3- San Francisco (4-14)
4- SIU-Edwardsville (0-12)
5- Radford (2-15)
6- Stanford (7-5)
7- Northwestern State (8-7)
8- Valparaiso (4-11)
9- Eastern Illinois (1-15)
10- Texas (7-10)
11- Rice (8-8)
12- Gonzaga (9-6)
13- LMU (6-11)
14- Youngstown State (4-9)
15- Eastern Michigan (4-11)
16- St. Mary’s (9-6)
17- Oakland (6-9)
18- UT-San Antonio (9-7)
19- Hartford (6-4)
20- Oklahoma State (11-6)
21- UC Santa Barbara (12-3)
22- Arizona (12-4)
23- Cal State Bakersfield (5-10)
24- USC (7-8)
25- Nebraska (9-6)

There are the usual suspects here on this list; in other words it’s mostly a bunch of Northern teams who shouldn’t be scheduling so tough and a bunch of West Coast teams who love to schedule tough. Coaches with names like Garrido, Graham, Savage, Marquess, etc. those are the guys whose non-conference schedules I wait for each fall in giddy anticipation.

We all love Stanford's Mark Marquess because his non-conference schedules always keep things interesting.We all love Stanford’s Mark Marquess because his non-conference schedules always keep things interesting.

The highest rated team in the RPI who is not ranked in the Top 25 is…
– Michigan State. 
The Spartans seem to be on a mission after barely missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament, racing out to a 13-1 mark this year. And most impressively, they have done it against the 82nd-toughest slate in the country, according to the RPI.

The Top 25 team with the lowest RPI rating is…
– Arkansas. 
As of Tuesday morning the Razorbacks were No. 14 in the D1baseball Top 25, but in the RPI they were ranked No. 207. The problem? Their strength of schedule (in the RPI) was ranked at No. 287. Despite a great Houston College Classic performance, the Hogs best win so far is against No. 40 Rice. They have played No. 193 Central Michigan (3 games), No. 299 Mississippi Valley (2 games), No. 224 Eastern Illinois (3 games, one a loss) and No. 284 Western Illinois (3 games). The only time Arkansas played a team inside the top 40, they lost to No. 12 Gonzaga by a 15-10 score. That is what makes the Razorbacks a team worth keeping an eye on.

Now that Georgia Tech has lost and all the unbeatens have taken a hit in the L column, let’s turn our concentration to the teams in college baseball who have yet to win.

– Delaware State, 0-16
The Hornets have been battered pretty badly. Only twice this season they have scored more than three runs and have been held scoreless or to one run eight times.

The Good News: They start MEAC play this weekend and open at Norfolk State, the 296th ranked team in the RPI.

– SIU-Edwardsville, 0-12
The Cougars have played the fourth-toughest schedule in the country, so cut them a little slack. But they still haven’t had a one-run game yet and just two of their losses have been by two runs.

The Good News: This weekend sees them play at Murray State, a team that is 7-9 and No. 260 in the RPI. They’ll get a win here.

After four weeks of the season, guess what? There are NO tank jobs from the Preseason Top 25. Yes, it’s true. The only team that comes close to being labeled a tank job would be Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers opened the season at No. 24 in the rankings from Mr. Fitt and Mr. Rogers. They have gotten out to a 10-7 start and rank No. 70 in the RPI and No. 75 in the ISR. To their defense the Chants have played the 66th-toughest slate in the country and their losses have all been to really good teams. Their only “bad” loss was a 10-7 defeat to No. 163 Cincinnati, who has suddenly caught fire of late.

p.s.: The Wednesday night results saw the Chanticleers take down a pretty good UNC-Wilmington team, 6-4. The Seahawks came into the game ranked No. 102 in the RPI.

If the Super Regionals ended today, here are the eight teams who would be boarding buses that always seem to get stuck in bad Omaha traffic on the way to TD Ameritrade Park:

– Florida
– Louisville
– Vanderbilt
– Ole Miss
– Cal State Fullerton
– North Carolina
– Miami
– California

– Eastern Kentucky. 
Boy howdy, these guys need to bottle whatever they had in them this week and save it for the post-season. The unheralded Colonels put the major beatdown on the midweek pitching of both Mississippi State and Alabama A&M and beat the Bulldogs 16-12 in 10 innings and beat the other Bulldogs 11-6. In Starkville, give the Colonels a metric ton of credit as they had to battle back from a six-run deficit over the last two innings of regulation in a wild environment to push the game into extras. EKU scored four runs on five hits in the extra frame and Caleb Johnson threw 3.0 innings of one-hit ball to secure the win. Against A&M, Mandy Alexander had two hits in the fifth inning, one a leadoff single and the other a three-run homer, to help quell the SWAC version of the Bulldogs.

– Mississippi State. 
In addition to losing that slugfest to EKU by a 16-12 count, Wednesday saw the Bullies drop a 3-1 decision at home to Oral Roberts. Four Eagle pitchers combined to hold the Dogs to six hits and 12 strikeouts. Meanwhile ORU hurler Cale Tims came into the game having lasted just one inning in each of his previous six appearances in his career but went 5.0 innings giving up just four hits and striking out six Bulldog batters. The worst part for MSU? Now the 12-5-1 Bulldogs are looking down the barrel of an angry gun known as the Vanderbilt Commodores. They’ll open SEC play this weekend vs. the No. 3 ranked ‘Dores in Nashville. God’s speed Bulldogs. God’s speed.

– The Field of 68 was announced on Sunday and it has already been whittled down to 64 as the tip-off of the Big Dance begins. Here are the last four in, according to the NCAA Selection Committee:


And here are the first four out: 


What does this tell us? Well what jumps out at me is the mistreatment of low-majors like St. Bonaventure and Monmouth, the kind of teams that have long been given the shaft in baseball. The Bonnies had an RPI of No. 29. Twenty-freakin-nine, and didn’t get an at-large bid. And Monmouth beat teams like Notre Dame and Iona, who made the NCAAs, and also took down traditional programs like UCLA and Georgetown. The idea here is, what the hell else does a team like Monmouth have to do to get an at-large bid? They scheduled out the ying-yang and didn’t get rewarded for it, despite the Hawks’ 27-win campaign.

It also unveils a side of the argument that the baseball selection committee took note of last year. In the basketball circles, No. 61 Vanderbilt, No. 57 Michigan and No. 58 Tulsa got bids. But the Bonnies at No. 29, Valparaiso at No. 49 and Monmouth at No. 53 were overlooked.

Remember Oregon (baseball) last year? If I remember right weren’t the Ducks ranked in the low-60s of the RPI but got a bid to the dance?

If you recall, the biggest injustice in NCAA tournament history – basketball OR baseball – was when Missouri State was ranked No. 21 in the RPI, had a 20-8 overall record and beat NCAA-bound teams like Arkansas and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but did not get an at-large bid back in 2006. Which reminds me, remember Utah Valley in 2012? That Wolverines squad won 47 games, including 40 of its last 41, and still didn’t get an NCAA bid.

All this doesn’t bode well for the mid-majors in our sport. Hell, as irony would have it, St. Bonaventure’s baseball nine entered the week at 9-2 and ranked No. 37 in Boyd Nation’s ISR rankings. Apparently that’s not good enough Bonnies.

ESPN’s Wednesday edition of Sports Center with Lyndsay Czarniak highlighted Furman baseball’s jog-off 9-7 over College of Charleston – thanks to Carter Grote’s three-run home run – which came 20 minutes after the Paladin basketball team hit a shot at the buzzer to beat UL-Monroe 58-57 in the CIT basketball tournament. Here is what Grote’s home run looked like on the SoCon Sports Network:

You remember Oscar-award winning director Richard Linklater, right? He’s the one who directed the very epic movie “Dazed & Confused” about high school life on the last day of school in 1976 and was also behind the camera for the Augie Garrido documentary “Inning By Inning” a few years ago. But Linklater is most famous for “Boyhood”, the movie that spanned 12 years about a boy in his growing years from five years old to his college days. Well Linklater has now directed a movie that is loosely based around his own baseball-playing days in high school and at Sam Houston State called “Everybody Wants Some.” It’s being marketed as an 80s version of Dazed & Confused, based around a fictitious school named Southeast Texas and the players therein. Here is a very cool trailer for the flick, which should be released in April:

Oh, keep in mind that the lead character in the film is an actor named Tyler Hoechlin, who actually played college baseball. He started his career as a bench player at Arizona State, before transferring to UC Irvine for the 2008 season. Hoechlin became a Hollywood name a couple years earlier when he played one of the two main characters in the Tom Hanks 2002 film “Road To Perdition” which also featured Paul Newman, Daniel Craig and Jude Law. Here is a trailer which features Hoechlin in most of the scenes:

Ole Miss had a few T-Rex dinosaurs doing some Jurassic Park work in the Rebels game with Grambling:


Apparently this became quite the viral hit online as USA Today, Bleacher Report. SB Nation and Fox Sports all retweeted it. Well done Rebels.

Okay, that’s enough for now. More next week. Have a good college baseball weekend guys and dolls.

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