This Week in the Pac-12, Mar. 16: First 2012 Baseball Editionby Scott Terrell on Mar. 16, 2012, under Sports
The Arizona Wildcats’ basketball season ended just in time for the baseball conference season to begin. It’s not the timing any of us wanted but here we are.
I have good news for you if you haven’t been following college baseball up to this point. Pac-12 hardball is the opposite of Pac-12 hoops this year. The league is really good and the UA is contributing to that goodness.
Let’s get up to speed, shall we?
TWIT-Pac (This Week In The Pac-12) is going to simplify things this year and cut off all the polls at 25. If you’re not in the top 25 of a poll you get credit for a ranking of 26 for the sake of the average. If you’re not in any poll’s top 25 you’re not on this list.
(The coaches’ poll is giving ASU the USC football treatment this year because the Sun Devils are banned from the postseason.)
Look at all those Pac-12 teams. I told you this wasn’t basketball.
It’s not football either. The Pac is 12-3 against the SEC this year.
Here are this weekend’s series for the opening of conference play. All games are Friday through Sunday.
WSU (9-6) at #9.0 ARIZONA (14-3)
The Wildcats picked up a solid two-game split at top-10 Rice this week. Freshman closer Mathew Toupe has given up at least a run in each of his last three appearances but he has two wins and a save in that span. The UA is 7-0 when the hard-throwing righty takes the mound.
The Cougars have a pedestrian record thus far but recorded an impressive victory in a single game at top-15 Cal State Fullerton this week.
#15.6 ASU (11-5) at #13.8 UCLA (13-3)
UCLA, the defending conference champ, has adjusted nicely to the loss of two of the top three picks in last year’s Major League Baseball draft.
This will be the Devils’ first test against a ranked opponent.
#16.0 Oregon (12-3) at Washington (10-6)
The Ducks are one of the surprises in the Pac-12 as they finished 8th last year and were picked to finish 7th in the league this year.
Washington is the most adventurous of the Pac-12 teams, having already played 10 true road games.
#24.0 OSU (11-5) at #23.2 Cal (11-4)
Cal is going to have trouble topping last season’s drama of getting its program canceled, then saving its program, then storming all the way to the College World Series.
The Beavers will be hard pressed to top last year’s negative drama of losing their last five regular season games to lose the Pac-12 by one game.
Utah (4-11) at #25.0 USC (12-4)
For Utah it is the basketball season all over again. The Utes are rebuilding after finishing 2nd in the Mountain West last year.
USC is the other surprising team so far in 2012. The Trojans had a losing record last year and the coaches slotted them 8th in the Pac-12 preseason poll.
#2.2 Stanford (13-2) – idle
After taking care of the likes of Vanderbilt, Texas and Rice in the early going, the Cardinal is content taking a bye week.
Colorado – permanently idle
The Buffaloes do not have a baseball team. Booo.
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¡Paco-Once! The good news about an 11-team conference is you play an even number of series so you get five at home and five on the road. The bad news is somebody has to play a non-league series (or no games at all) every week.
I’m very pleased to see that the old Pac-10 teams all finish the season playing their chief rival. That wasn’t the case as recently as last year and it’s an excellent change. Utah has a message for Colorado: Booo.
Stanford is hands-down the team to beat this year but it won’t be an easy path with the depth of this conference. Whoever comes out on top of this stacked deck will have earned it.
The game times for the Arizona/WSU series are 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and noon on Sunday. New Mexico State then comes to Tucson for games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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