I'm a bit disappointed with myself for not writing this article a week ago, since I have always assured myself that Virginia (2-1 v. No. 18 ECU) is the true No. 1 team in college baseball, over the likes of Texas (1-2 v. New Mexico) and LSU (3-0 v. Centenary).
Although it's apparent that Texas has the best pitching staff in the nation, and the likes of LSU and Cal State Fullerton the championship pedigree and a strong core of returning players, Virginia demonstrates the most top-quality balance out of the elite college baseball teams—Virginia returns their entire top-ranking offense, and returns a quality pitching staff minus the loss of Andrew Carraway to the draft.
Texas's offense minus Brandon Belt, Preston Clark, Michael Torres, and Travis Tucker wasn't great against New Mexico (although I fully recognize that the relief pitching in game 2 lost them the series), while LSU lacks a Sunday starter and will miss DJ LeMahieu's impact despite having a talented offense.
Other teams such as Cal State Fullerton (lost key players on offense), UC Irvine (lack of a superstar on offense, which the loss of Orloff doesn't help fix), Florida State and Rice (bullpen questions), and Florida (how good is their pitching staff?) have holes to fill and questions to answer.
Virginia separates itself from the other Omaha contenders because it has the least holes to fill, demonstrates great balance, and lacks player losses to the draft.
Virginia fans and college baseball followers alike can question the Cavalier's lack of a bona fide Sunday starter and perhaps its bench depth, but that's it. Virginia, additionally, has a flurry of talented pitchers battling for the No. 3 spot that would command weekend spots on other top teams.
Considering Virginia took the series against ECU, an Omaha contender and the best Carolina team this year, at Clark-LeClair, one of the most intimidating environments in college baseball, Virginia deserves no less than the recognition of being the prohibitive favorite to do great things in Omaha.
I recognize that we've only been through a week of a long season, but we that shouldn't prohibit me from answering my pre-season intuitions and forming a few conclusions.
George Horton isn't going to turn Oregon into a national power, and the Pac-10 isn't going to suddenly become the best conference on the West Coast.
My beloved USC won't smash 7.5 runs per game. San Diego State isn't going to be the inferior San Diego team come conference-tournament time (although I regard USD very highly and could very well see USD being the better team; I'm just trying to make a point). TCU isn't the best team in Texas, and Oklahoma can't be better than Texas (could that ever happen in baseball?).
Nonetheless, Texas needs to answer its offensive questions and respond against confident Stanford team. Rice concurrently needs to buck up against Elon and rebuild a confidence-empty bullpen against its other weak opponents before it faces Texas and USD in a end portion of its non-conference schedule.
Fullerton needs to make a statement against a great TCU team. LSU needs to win better than they did against Centenary before they face real teams like Pepperdine and Kansas.
Overall, it was a great opening week for college baseball. Some teams showed their true colors, while others showed their immense potential. Some giants fell from the top, while other big-name sleeper programs (i.e. USC, Stanford, Baylor, Kentucky) stepped-up and make national statements, and Virginia stepped forward as the team to beat this season.
I'm looking forward to the next coming weeks of baseball; it's looking to be a beautiful season this spring.
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