NCAA Tourney Preview: Mid Atlantic Edition

Carlos Rodon - Liz Condo, USA Today Sports

It's tourney time folks! The field of 64 is set, the sixteen regional hosts are set, the players are amped, the fans are amped, hell, I'm amped. Why? The road to Omaha has officially begun!

In today's tournament preview, I'm going to focus in on four of the sixteen regional host sites. Those mid-atlantic four are the Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and NC State regionals.

(Note: Top Draft Prospects are according to Baseball America Top 500)

Charlottesville Regional

Regional Host: #6 Virginia

Gametimes

1 Virginia (47-10) versus 4 Army (29-21) - FRI 1:00 ET, ESPN3

2 UNC Wilmington (37-21) versus 3 Elon (32-28) - FRI 6:00 ET, ESPN3

Team By Team Breakdown

Virginia - ACC - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: Kyle Crockett - LHP (103)

(Outfielders Mike Papi and Derek Fisher are two intriguing names to follow for the 2014 draft)

- Top Two Starters: Scott Silverstein, Nick Howard; Closer: Kyle Crockett

- Top Hitters: They're all good; 7 of 9 starters batting over .300; Mike Papi leads team with .400/.536/.635 slash line

- Team Slash Line: .314/.412/.469, Team ERA: 3.81

Virginia's lineup packs a big punch as the Cavaliers rank third in the nation in total runs scored. Instead of going through all the other categories they rank in the top ten, I'm just going to link Boyd's World Team Stat Leaderboard and you can Control + F "Virginia" and you'll see for yourself. It's impressive. The rotation isn't terribly impressive but the bullpen depth is as the Cavs feature five relievers with sub-2.50 ERA's. Kyle Crockett has been lights out as closer (1.81 ERA, 49.2 IP, 35 H, 6 BB, 61 K).

UNC Wilimington - CAA - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: Justin Livengood - RHP (364)

- Top Two Starters: Jordan Ramsey, Mat Batts; Closer: Kelly Secrest (Livengood sets up)

- Top Hitters: Michael Bass, Ryan Lagrange, Luke Dunlap

- Team Slash Line: .290/.390/.419, Team ERA: 3.81

While it's easy to overlook a team from the CAA, the Seahawks have a fighters chance at making things interesting in the Virginia regional. After all, this is the team that upset North Carolina in a mid-week game back in April. However, like many mid-majors, this team lacks the depth in my opinion to advance to the super regionals. Beyond Ramsey, Batts, and the three hitters I mentioned, there isn't much for host Virginia to worry about. They also enter the regional having been upset by Towson in the CAA tournament.

Elon - Southern - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: None

(Ryan Kinsella, a junior catcher, did finish second in the nation with 20 home runs and I'd imagine he'll be taken at some point in the draft)

- Top Two Starters: Kyle Webb, Dylan Clark; Closer: Andrew MacDonald

- Top Hitters: Sebastian Gomez, Ryan Kinsella

- Team Slash Line: .288/.381/.415, Team ERA: 5.35

Hacker Alert: The Elon ballclub ranks 9th in the nation in team strikeouts with 445.

I also have a big issue with that Team ERA. That does not bode well against a good UNC Wilmington lineup and an outstanding Virginia lineup. Webb and Clark seem like reliable starters but the bullpen ERA's are putrid. They can hit some but as the high team strikeout total suggests, they are an all or nothing lineup that I expect to be shut down by UNC Wilmington's Jordan Ramsey. I don't expect Elon to have much of a chance in this regional.

Army - Patriot - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: None

- Top Two Starters: Chris Rowley, Alex Robinett; Closer: None

- Top Hitters: Patrick Mescher, Mark McCants

- Team Slash Line: .267/.366/.332, Team ERA: 3.97

For the second straight year, Army and Virginia meet up in the tournament. Behind returning ace Chris Rowley, Army nearly upset the Cavs last year. They've been here before and while Army is an average team at best, they shouldn't be fazed by UVA. Army lacks the firepower to advance to the Super Regionals but with a strong defensive club and a pitching staff that doesn't beat itself (7th lowest walk total in nation), they are certainly capable of winning a game in this regional, probably not against Virginia.

Prediction: Virginia advances easily

The combination of offensive starpower looks to be too much for these mid major clubs to keep up with. Even if they can, Virginia's stellar bullpen gives them a clear advantage in close games. I'd be shocked if any other team but the Cavs advances.

Blacksburg Regional

Regional Host: Virginia Tech

Gametimes

2 Oklahoma (40-19) versus 3 Coastal Carolina (37-21) - FRI 1:00 ET, ESPN3

1 Virginia Tech (38-20) versus 4 UConn (34-26) - FRI 5:30 ET, ESPN3

Team By Team Breakdown

Virginia Tech - ACC - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: Chad Pinder - 3B (54), Tyler Horan - OF (293)

- Top Two Starters: Joe Mantiply, Devin Burke; Closer: Clark Labitan

- Top Hitters: Pinder, Horan, Mark Zagunis

- Team Slash Line: .290/.360/.439, Team ERA: 4.31

This is the first time in school history the Hokies are a regional host. Unfortunately, I feel they could be in some trouble if their pitching doesn't step up. No doubt, this team can score and they can drop bombs too as their team total of 52 places them just outside the top ten in the nation.

Oklahoma - Big 12 - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: Jonathan Gray - RHP (1), Dillon Overton - LHP (60), Matt Oberste - 1B (120), Billy Waltrip - LHP (356)

- Top Two Starters: Gray and Overton (Best 1-2 punch in the land); Closer: Jacob Evans

- Top Hitters: Matt Oberste, Max White

- Team Slash Line: .283/.360/.398, Team ERA: 3.01

Unsurprisingly, with rotation stalwarts Gray and Overton, the Sooners rank 4th in the nation in total team strikeouts. They match up well with a high scoring but also free swinging Virginia Tech club (assuming they meet up). I would like to say that it seems to me this offense lives and dies by how well Matt Oberste, their leading hitter by a landslide, performs. I feel like if he can be contained, the Sooners would likely struggle to put up runs. That may not matter however, with a strong bullpen and the lowest Team ERA of all four of these teams favoring the Sooners in a close contest.

Coastal Carolina - Big South - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: Jacob May - OF (203)

- Top Two Starters: Ben Smith and Seth Lamando; Closer: Ryan Connolly

- Top Hitters: Jacob May, Ted Blackman, Colin Hering

- Team Slash Line: .271/.370/.354, Team ERA: 3.16

Frankly, the Chanticleers are lucky to be here as I thought fellow Big South member Campbell was a little more deserving of a bid. Moving on. This year's club is a shadow of previous Coastal Carolina units, like the one that was a national seed in 2010. Looking at the numbers, this seems like just a solid average team that neither does anything particularly great nor bad on offense. The pitching staff looks above average but I'm not entirely certain they can contain a lineup like VaTech's should they match up.

Connecticut - Big East - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: L.J. Mazzilli - 2B (250)

- Top Two Starters: Carson Cross, Brian Ward; Closer: Pat Butler

- Top Hitters: Mazzilli, Billy Ferriter

- Team Slash Line: .269/.368/.352, Team ERA: 3.46

Aside from Mazzilli, this is a pretty uninspiring collection of hitters. If it turns into a slugfest in game 1 versus the Hokies, I don't see UConn keeping up. I am somewhat impressed with the Husky rotation as they have a couple more quality starting options beyond the top two I mentioned in Anthony Marzi and Jordan Tabakman.,Overall, this group is better than your typical four seed, they won an competitive Big East tournament, and I wouldn't be surprised if they win a game or two in Blacksburg if they can get enough offensive support.

Prediction: Oklahoma gets by Virginia Tech

I'm agreeing with consensus analysis thus far when I say that this sets up very well for Oklahoma and I think they will advance. Virginia Tech was handed a tough deck of cards here as Coastal Carolina and UConn are solid competitors too.

Raleigh Regional

Regional Host: NC State

Gametimes

2 Ole Miss (37-22) versus 3 William & Mary (37-22) - FRI 2:00 ET, ESPN3

1 NC State (44-14) versus 4 Binghamton (30-23) - FRI 7:00 ET, ESPN3

Team By Team Breakdown

NC State - ACC - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: None

(Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner are two likely 1st rounders next year though)

- Top Two Starters: (The Almighty) Carlos Rodon, Ethan Ogburn; Closer: Chris Overman and/or Grant Sasser

- Top Hitters: Trea Turner, Bryan Adamentz, Jake Fincher

- Team Slash Line: .280/.365/.389, Team ERA: 3.24

Rodon is a beast but the next two starters have struggled to be reliable options, especially in big games. However, the bullpen is a different story. It features five relievers with sub-2.00 ERA's. The offense is centered around stud-muffin Trea Turner. However, the rest of the lineup is generally solid, if unspectacular, but not much in the way of legitimate power hitters.

Ole Miss - SEC - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: Bobby Wahl - RHP (36), Stuart Turner - C (110), Mike Mayers - RHP (188)

- Top Two Starters: Wahl and Mayers (Lethal Combo); Closer: Brett Huber

- Top Hitters: Turner, Andre Mistone, Austin Anderson

- Team Slash Line: .276/.358/.366, Team ERA: 3.11

Not only does the Wahl-Mayers combo impress me, but the 3 and 4 guys Sam Smith and Josh Laxer have also put up nice numbers, giving Ole Miss some quality rotation depth if needed. The bullpen is terrific and closer Brett Huber has amassed 1.54 ERA and 12 saves despite high walk totals. This is an average overall offensive unit with big Stu Turner the main catalyst. If he gets shut down, this group will likely have difficulties putting up ideal run totals. However, the pitching impresses me and I think this team is built well to win low scoring ballgames.

William & Mary - CAA - At Large Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: None

(John Farrell might make a decent Senior sign)

- Top Two Starters: John Farrell, Jason Inghram; Closer: Matt Wainman

- Top Hitters: Michael Katz, Ryan Lindemuth, Ryan Brown

- Team Slash Line: .296/.383/.378, Team ERA: 4.16

This is another team I scratched my head seeing they got an at large bid but I understand the reasoning. They can hit some, but not for much power, and this lineup likely hasn't seen the much of pitching quality they'll see with Ole Miss this year in the CAA. They lack pitching depth, but Senior ace John Farrell is capable of pitching them to an upset win if he brings his A game. However, the rest of this pitching staff is mediocre at best and I don't give the Tribe any chance of getting by Ole Miss and NC State.

Binghamton - America East - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: None

- Top Two Starters: Jake Lambert, Jack Rogalla; Closer: None

- Top Hitters: Jake Thomas, Daniel Navares, Shaun McGraw

- Team Slash Line: .296/.383/.378, Team ERA: 4.16

Sophomore OF Jake Thomas has been outstanding, leading the offense with a .382 AVG, 5 HR, and 44 BB to just 20 K. However, that's about all there is to talk about as the rest of the lineup is average at best. The rotation is pretty solid; deep with senior veterans that know how to pitch. 6'9" Jake Lambert, if on his A game, might keep things interesting with NC State. The bullpen, though, is a question mark with no truly dominant late inning reliever to put an opposing team away. Ultimately, Binghamton simply lacks the talent and depth to win multiple games, if any, in this regional.

Prediction: Ole Miss advances

Rodon is amazing and all, but the follow up act (Ogburn and Brad Stone) is pretty underwhelming which gives me pause about the Wolfpack's chances of survival. Both NC State and Ole Miss feature strong bullpens which will help them in close games. It's a tough call but I'm giving a slight lean towards Ole Miss over the hosting Wolfpack.

Chapel Hill Regional

Regional Host: #1 North Carolina

Gametimes

2 Florida Atlantic (39-20) versus 3 Towson (29-28) - FRI 1:00 ET, ESPN3

1 North Carolina (52-8) versus 4 Canisius (42-15) - FRI 6:00 ET, ESPN3

Team By Team Breakdown

North Carolina - ACC - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospects: Colin Moran - 3B (7), Kent Emmanuel - LHP (61), Hobbs Johnson - LHP (332)

- Top Two Starters: Emmanuel and Johnson; Closer: Trent Thornton

- Top Hitters: They're all good with the Moran/Skye Bolt/Cody Stubbs threesome particularly deadly

- Team Slash Line: .305/.410/.442, Team ERA: 2.52

They're number one for a reason. They have scored the nations highest run total at 490. Divide that by 60 games played and you have 8.16 runs per game. Pitching wise, they have been stingy as their stellar Team ERA is tied with Louisville for 5th in the nation and their opponent BA (.208) ranks 1st in the nation. If there was ever a year for the Tar Heels to get off the schnide and win their first national title, this is it.

Florida Atlantic - Sun Belt - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: None

(Austin Gomber looks like he could be a name of interest in 2014)

- Top Two Starters: Austin Gomber, Jeremy Strawn; Closer: Hugh Adams

- Top Hitters: Brendon Sanger - INF, Nathan Pittman - OF, Levi Meyer - C

- Team Slash Line: .289/.365/.416, Team ERA: 3.60

The Sun Belt had itself a banner year sending for teams to the tourney. Florida Atlantic flew under the radar somewhat because they lack any exciting draft prospects. They have an above average offense, led by outstanding freshman outfielder Brendon Sanger and his .372 AVG. The pitching staff lacks necessary depth beyond the top two to have even a moderate chance of advancing by UNC. However, the bullpen is solid and I think the Owls could at least make things interesting.

Towson - CAA - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: None

(Volpe and Andrew Parker could be Senior signs)

- Top Two Starters: Mike Volpe, Paul Beers; Closer: None

- Top Hitters: Dominic Fratantuono - OF, Kurt Wertz - OF, Peter Bowles - INF

- Team Slash Line: .294/.394/.455, Team ERA: 5.13

Patience, something head coach Mike Gottlieb needed plenty of, having waited 22 years to finally make the tournament again (he's coached at Towson for 26 years). Patience, something the Towson lineup does well, having drawn the 9th highest walk total (288) in the nation. Ah, yes, the team right in my backyard just a couple mile down the street from my high school. As happy as I am for Towson, they are probably the weakest 3 seed in this tournament. They have been murdering the ball lately on offense, averaging about 12 runs per game in the CAA tournament so I'll give them that. However, the pitching is very weak so it will come down to whether the Tigers can slug their way to victory. We shall see.

Canisius - MAAC - Auto Bid

- Top Draft Prospect: None

- Top Two Starters: Garret Cortright, Alex Godzak; Closer: Jon Fitzsimmons

- Top Hitters: Jimmy Luppens - 1B, Brooklyn Foster - C

- Team Slash Line: .307/.418/.430, Team ERA: 4.04

Now here's a team that can hit the crap out of the ball which they will need to do if they want even a fighters chance with UNC. Who knows how much of that production is inflated by weaker competition? Should be interesting to find out. Rotation wise, Garret Cortright had a tremendous year, but we'll see how he stacks up against a premier lineup like the Tar Heels. Beyond Cortright, Godzak, and Fitzimmons, the pitching looks subpar. Ultimately, this team likely wont win a game in this regional although I think they can at least be competitive.

Prediction: Tar Heels easily advance

Thoughts: That's right, everyone. Despite Vandy finishing the regular season no. 1 in the poll, LSU finishing the season season no. 1 in the poll, North Carolina who spent most of the season no. 1 in the poll has been awarded the top overall seed in the tournament. The slate of teams headed into Chapel Hill reflects that as none of them would be particularly threatening to any of the host seeds, let alone UNC.


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