Don't look now, but the start of the college baseball season is about two weeks away. The latest sign: the new preseason USA Today coaches poll, one of a handful of surveys that ranks the teams in the SEC's second-best sport. Unless you think that basketball is a strong point, in which case we probably need to talk.
However, the preseason No. 1 honors do not belong to an SEC team or even a team from a BCS automatic qualifying conference. Instead, the top place goes to a midmajor you might have heard of.
|RANK||SCHOOL (FIRST-PLACE VOTES)||2013 RECORD||POINTS||FINAL 2013 RANKING|
|1||Cal State Fullerton (18)||51-10||729||10|
|4||Mississippi State (4)||51-20||632||2|
|9||North Carolina State||50-16||533||5|
None of the SEC names are a huge surprise: LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida are generally four of the better teams in the conference, while Mississippi State finished as the runner-up in last season's. (Winner UCLA ended up in 10th place.) Florida's place in the Top 20 is mildly interesting, simply because of the Gators' disappointing 2013 season, but betting against Kevin O'Sullivan fielding a competitive team is a waste of money most of the time.
The SEC is tied for second in the number of teams ranked -- the ACC has six and the Pac-12 also has five. None of that is surprising to the long-time baseball watcher; the three conferences combined essentially run the sport. Fresno State's 2008 title was the last one to go to a team not in the SEC and the Pac-12, and the only one since Texas won in 2005. As for the ACC -- well, they don't do the actual "winning championships" thing so much in baseball. A contemporary member of the conference hasn't won since Wake Forest did in 1955, though Miami (FL) won a few as a member of the Big East.
And everyone applaud the fact that a B1G team is not just ranked, but ranked just outside the Top 10. Maybe that will persuade Jim Delany to leave the sport alone for a while.