Sorenson: Why Vanderbilt Won’t Repeat
Yes, yes, yes, they’re now sporting big gaudy championship rings. They’ve had their backs patted until they’re red. Shoot, they’ve probably still got some confetti stuck in their hair.
Vanderbilt has spent the last eight months celebrating its hard-earned national title from the College World Series. And the college baseball pundits have been fawning over them left and right.
But now we have a problem. With the college baseball community leaving lipstick marks all over the defending national champions, everybody is assuming this’ll be a repeat national title for the Black and Gold. They are the overwhelming choice for preseason No. 1 after all. But nobody is talking about the factors that are working against the ‘Dores. Do we dare say they’ll fall short, for fear of scorn and ridicule?
Well, I’ll play devil’s advocate here. I’ll give you five reasons why Vanderbilt will not win the national title in 2015. Have your eggs, rocks and garbage ready to throw at me.
1. THE TARGET
Things completely change when you go from hunter to hunted. Vanderbilt is about to find that out. Every game will be a little bit tougher. Every opponent will give that little foot-pound of extra hustle. Everyone will want to tell their grandchildren that they were the ones that beat Vanderbilt back in their college days, especially in the postseason. The other side of that coin is the Commodore players and their press clippings. They are getting glossed like no team has in recent memory this preseason. Do you know what that does to young egos? It can make them soft. They start to believe their invincibility. Just show up and we win, right? Especially in this day and age of coddled athletes and the air of entitlement.
2. THE UCLA FACTOR
Remember 2011? UCLA was coming off a runner-up finish at the College World Series and had All-World aces Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer coming back in its weekend rotation and seven of nine starters too. Instead of dominating and plundering their way back to Omaha like a preseason No. 1 team should, their bats went colder than the Yukon Territory and they couldn’t hit a lick. So no matter how good the pitching was, they finished a rather pedestrian 35-24, getting beat in the Regional round. Could the same thing happen to Vandy? Keep in mind that the Black and Gold hit just .231 in Omaha last year, while their opponents hit .244.
3. THEY WEREN’T AS GOOD AS WE THOUGHT ANYWAY
The Commodores had a great postseason run to win the title, no doubt. But the thing people seem to forget is that the ‘Dores weren’t even a top-eight national seed last year. In fact, they were far from the best team in the SEC, finishing third in the Eastern Division and sixth overall. And you know how the postseason can be. Had Stanford not gotten hot and stunned Indiana in the Regionals, VU would’ve gone on the road to IU and we might’ve seen its season end in Bloomington in the Supers. As it was, Stanford gave Vandy all it wanted anyway and we came close to not having the Commodores in Omaha. Will that fickle finger of fate befall them this time around?
4. THE PRESSURE
Vanderbilt has so much talent dripping from its roster, it’s forming a puddle of drool from pro scouts. But there is always a downside when it comes to 21-to-22 year olds who are entering their draft years; they can press too hard. Suddenly, guys who were locked in and producing as sophomores feel they need to overcompensate on their draft-eligible year and the struggles of the game of baseball start to overwhelm them. Remember Tyler Ferguson not being able to throw a strike in Omaha last year? Remember Carson Fulmer walking six batters in 4.1 innings in the extra inning win over Texas? Things like this happen all the time. Especially when there is future money on the line.
5. BECAUSE THE HOTTEST TEAM WINS THE NATIONAL TITLE
It’s always the hottest team. Rarely is it the best team. What are the chances the hottest team will be Vanderbilt again? Probably better than most, especially given the talent level. But it’s still pretty small. One last history lesson. Remember when Florida was ranked No. 1 and had all that crazy amount of talent on its roster in 2012? Do you remember how the Gators season ended that year? With a loss to Kent State in TD Ameritrade Park. Comparing rosters, do you think Kent State matched Florida’s talent level that year?