The ACC has been one of the most dominant baseball conferences in the country for years, but success in the College World Series has not been easy to come by. Wake Forest is the only program with a championship, coming back in 1955, but this year features a loaded collection of talent looking to reverse history.
Before those teams are able to do that, they must first take care of business against each other in the 2015 ACC Baseball Tournament.
It took an entire regular season for the schedule to come into focus, with Louisville coming in as the No. 1 seed and favorite to win the conference tournament title after putting together a 42-14 record.
Team Seeds, Standings
|2015 ACC Baseball Tournament Bracket|
|Pool A||Pool B|
|No. 1 Louisville Cardinals (42-14, 25-5)||No. 2 Miami Hurricanes (42-13, 22-8)|
|No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (37-19, 17-13)||No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (35-19, 17-13)|
|No. 5 Clemson Tigers (31-25, 16-13)||No. 6 North Carolina State Wolfpack (31-20, 15-14)|
|No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels (32-22, 13-16)||No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers (33-19, 15-15)|
|No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies (27-26, 13-16)||No. 10 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (32-22, 13-17)|
The conference standings were a two-horse race between Louisville and Miami, with everyone else fighting for scraps. The Cardinals came out on top with a 25-5 mark in the ACC, three games ahead of the Hurricanes to lock up the top seed.
Louisville's terrific season was capped off by a series win against North Carolina State, highlighted by coach Dan McDonnell's 400th victory on Friday (via Louisville Baseball):
McDonnell has built Louisville into one of the best baseball programs in the country, with seven NCAA tournament appearances in the past eight years, three trips to the College World Series (2007, 2013-14) and another team set up for a deep run this year.
The Cardinals are led by ace pitcher Kyle Funkhouser, who will be a high first-round pick in June's MLB draft. His control can be erratic with 40 walks in 93.1 innings, but the 21-year-old brings power stuff from the right side with 90 strikeouts and just one home run allowed.
Funkhouser can get himself into trouble because of the walks, but he's shown a knack for being able to get himself out of it, as Baseball America's Jim Shonerd noted in the right-hander's final regular-season start on Friday:
Pitching has ruled the College World Series once the action moves to Nebraska, so having a dominant starter who can carry a team is essential. Louisville certainly has that with Funkhouser.
On the other side of the pool-play format is Miami, which is certainly not a stranger to being on the big stage. The Hurricanes have made the NCAA tournament every year since 1973 and are coming into the conference tournament on fire.
Jim Morris' team is riding a 12-game winning streak and has pummeled opponents into submission by outscoring them 170-21, including a 22-1 thrashing of Georgia Tech on Friday.
Per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald, the gap between the Hurricanes and their recent ACC opposition is like the 1927 Yankees against everyone else:
"UM has hit .390 during the streak. Its opponents: .174," Degnan wrote.
"And for those who surmise the Canes’ pitching staff hasn’t contributed, consider that Miami’s earned run average has been 1.67 during the win streak. Its opponents’ ERA: 13.91."
Miami has a great duo in the lineup with George Iskenderian and David Thompson, who set the table for everyone else to get their licks in, per Christy Chirinos of the Miami Sun-Sentinel:
The stage is set for a Louisville-Miami showdown in the championship game. Those two teams played one three-game series in March during the regular season in Louisville with the Cardinals winning twice, but Miami has changed dramatically in the subsequent two months.
|2015 ACC Tournament Schedule|
|Game||Date||Matchup||Start Time (ET)||Watch|
|1 (Play-In)||Tuesday, May 19||No. 7 Virginia vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech||11 a.m.||ESPN3|
|2 (Play-In)||Tuesday, May 19||No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech||3 p.m.||ESPN3|
|3||Wednesday, May 20||TBA vs. TBA||11 a.m.||ESPN3|
|4||Wednesday, May 20||TBA vs. TBA||3 p.m.||ESPN3|
|5||Wednesday, May 20||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||ESPN3|
|6||Thursday, May 21||TBA vs. TBA||11 a.m.||ESPN3|
|7||Thursday, May 21||TBA vs. TBA||3 p.m.||ESPN3|
|8||Thursday, May 21||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||ESPN3|
|9||Friday, May 22||TBA vs. TBA||11 a.m.||ESPN3|
|10||Friday, May 22||TBA vs. TBA||3 p.m.||ESPN3|
|11||Friday, May 22||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||ESPN3|
|12||Saturday, May 23||TBA vs. TBA||11 a.m.||ESPN3|
|13||Saturday, May 23||TBA vs. TBA||3 p.m.||ESPN3|
|14||Saturday, May 23||TBA vs. TBA||7 p.m.||ESPN3|
|15 (Championship)||Sunday, May 24||TBA vs. TBA||1 p.m.||ESPN2|
Full rosters for all 10 teams can be found at TheACC.com by clicking on the program-specific page, which will provide stats.
The format in the ACC is different than a typical conference because of its size following the addition of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse two years ago and Louisville last year. The four lowest seeds match up in a play-in game with the winners moving into pool play against the top six seeds.
Pool play consists of the teams in each group playing each other, and the one with the best record advancing to the championship game on May 24. It's a unique layout that does separate the ACC from other conferences, though it's not something everyone is happy about.
Speaking to Aaron Schoonmaker of WRAL-TV, North Carolina State head coach Elliot Avent noted that pool play was not met with much enthusiasm when all of the ACC coaches were asked to vote on it:
“The setup is not good. As coaches, we voted to take it to a 10-team, double-elimination,” said Avent. “That never came about, I don’t understand it because we passed that a couple years ago.”
Duke head coach Chris Pollard says in Schoonmaker's article that the benefit for pool play is generating television interest because it "allows for some really good matchups and allows for some good matchups to be put on the field that are very fan-friendly and very TV friendly."
Despite the potential for more marquee matchups in a conference tournament the way this is laid out, it's basically negating what teams like Louisville and Miami accomplished in the regular season by putting them on equal footing with everyone else.
In basketball, top seeds traditionally get at least one bye and sometimes two depending on the size of the conference. It requires teams like Louisville and Miami to put in the same amount of work as lesser teams—though one could argue if those two really are better than everyone else, they should make it through regardless of the format.
Things aren't always that black and white, but based on how the Cardinals and Hurricanes enter the tournament, don't bet against them.