We are now within 50 days of the start of the College Baseball season. I thought we would take a look at my top ten storylines for the upcoming season. We did put out our 2011 College World Series Predictions back on July 6th.
10. What team will have a breakout season in 2011?
Last year, we can say that the UConn Huskies had a breakout season by making an NCAA Regional and hosting it in Norwich CT after going 48-16 and finishing second in the Big East conference. Who will be that team this season? I think St. John’s will join UConn and Louisville in a great three way battle for the Big East title while an Arizona team could become a major player in the Pac-10 conference.
9. Will the NCAA let Arizona State in the NCAA Tourney?
The NCAA ruled that Arizona State would be barred from the 2011 NCAA Tournament on December 15th. It was announced on December 19th that Arizona State would appeal that ban to become eligible for a possible postseason bid. ASU was ranked 11th in the 2011 Preseason Collegiate Baseball News poll.
8. Can USC make a Regional?
University of Southern California will be looking for their first appearance in an NCAA Regional since the 2005 season. Things will be different in Troy though as former Loyola-Marymount head coach Frank Cruz takes over the program for the 2011 season. Will it make a difference? I don’t think so but we shall see what happens.
7. When will the ACC breakthrough with a NCAA Title?
The ACC has been one of the top conferences in the country the last 20 years, but a team from the conference hasn’t won an NCAA title since the 1955 season when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons brought home the title. It is one of those statistical oddities in sports but it is amazing that Florida State, Clemson, or Georgia Tech haven’t brought home the championship from Omaha yet.
6. How will the pitch clock affect games?
The NCAA has put in a pitch clock when no runners are on base this season. It never came into play during the 2010 SEC Tournament where it was experimented. I believe this will be mainly a non-issue this season but the media has already started to talk about it.
5. Can Garrett Wittels and FIU overcome the distractions?
This past week, it came out that Florida International infielder Garrett Wittels was arrested and charged with rape in the Bahamas after an incident on December 20th. Wittels currently holds a 56 game hitting streak for the Golden Panthers while FIU won the 2010 Sun Belt Postseason Tournament to make the NCAA’s. Can the team and Garrett put aside the distractions to make the NCAA Tourney and break Ventura’s hitting streak record?
4. Will TCU make it back to Omaha in 2011?
The TCU Horned Frogs were ranked first in the 2011 Preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll and are set to bring back most of the team from last year’s squad. The biggest player they are missing is emotional leader Bryan Holaday who won the 2010 Johnny Bench Award which goes to the top catcher in the country. He ended up hitting .355 with 17 homers and 53 RBI while starting all 68 games last season.
3. Who will be the next breakout star this season from the football field?
Last season, we saw a couple of football players standout on the the college diamond. Most prominent of them last season was Kyle Parker who ended up being selected in the first round by the Colorado Rockies. He ended up signing with the Rockies at a discounted rate so he could play this fall with the Clemson Tigers on the gridiron. The season was a disaster for him as he ended up losing his starting job and broke a few ribs in the Meineke Car Care bowl on December 31st. Who will be the next football player to step up on the baseball field?
2. What will be the reaction to the new bat standards?
The NCAA put in new bat standards for the 2011 season and many coaches have already stated they are not a fan of the new bats. They tend to have less of a pop on them and balls need to be squared up to travel farther. Will the NCAA change the bat standards back after the season or will they give the new bats another season?
1. Will new T.D. Ameritrade Stadium catch on with fans?
The College World Series has been a great fan-friendly event in a neighborhood throughout the years, but in 2011 the games will be moving downtown to the new T.D. Ameritrade Stadium. I hope it has some sort of homely feel like the games did at Rosenblatt, but it seems to me that the NCAA is making the CWS more of a corporate event like several other NCAA Championships. We should see how it goes.
What are you looking forward to in 2011? Leave your comments below.