BOZICH | Swofford says ACC baseball has caught SEC at the top
The SEC believes its the best college football conference in America. The ACC considers itself Number One in basketball. Which one has bragging rights in baseball?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Southeastern Conference considers itself the most robust college football conference in America – and, yes, I am aware that Clemson defeated Alabama for the national championship in January.
The Atlantic Coast Conference considers itself the nation’s most robust college basketball conference – and, yes, I am aware that the SEC put three teams in the Elite Eight in March.
Be careful of the prevailing narratives. They don’t always fit.
There’s one more way to ignite a hissing contest between the two super conferences: Suggest that one league is better than the other in college baseball, especially with the best ACC teams in town for the conference tournament.
On Tuesday, as Eric Crawford and Katie George finished their interview with ACC commissioner John Swofford at Louisville Slugger Field, I had a final question:
Has the ACC closed the gap with the SEC in baseball?
“I feel like we’ve caught up,” Swofford said, confidently.
“No disrespect, but I feel like our league is as good in baseball as any league in the country. I’ve felt that for the last four or five years.”
Let’s look at the Tale of Tape:
1. Most Projected Teams in the 2017 NCAA Tournament
The numbers have tightened this week. Two days ago WarrenNolan.com projected that 10 SEC teams would make the 64-team field while the ACC would advance six into the tournament.
The numbers have changed. On Wednesday the gap was 9-7 -- and the Miami Hurricanes were the second team on the wrong side of the bubble.
It’s unlikely the ACC can pull even, but don’t tell Swofford. (Link to projected NCAA baseball field.)
2. Most Projected NCAA Tournament Regional Hosts
Selection Monday should be a glorious day for the SEC. Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana State and Arkansas are all projected to host regionals with the Gators and Tigers listed by Warren Nolan as national seeds in line to host super regionals, too.
It will be a more glorious day for Swofford and the coaches in his league. Nolan projects that five of the ACC teams in the NCAA bracket will host regionals.
Those teams will be Wake Forest, Louisville, Virginia, North Carolina and Clemson – with Cardinals and Tar Heels certain to earn national seeds, too
3. Most Projected 2017 First-Round Draft Picks
Another dandy debate. Of the 30 projected first-round picks by Baseball America, a dozen are players from these two leagues.
But the winner, by a 7-to-5 margin, is the SEC.
Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright has moved to the top of BA’s mock draft as the player the Twins will take with the first selection. Louisville pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay is projected to be taken second by the Reds. (Link to Baseball America's mock draft.)
4. Best Players in the Big Leagues
You don't have to be Bruce Bochy or Joe Maddon to win with a lineup of former SEC stars in the big leagues. Plug Ian Kinsler (Missouri) at second base, a healthy Josh Donaldson (Auburn) at third and Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas) with his Boston teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. (South Carolina) in the outfield.
Either Max Scherzer (Missouri), James Paxton (Kentucky) or Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas) could start with David Robertson (Alabama) primed to close.
But could it beat this team?
Buster Posey (Florida State) catching; Yonder Alonso (Miami) at first; Trea Turner (North Carolina State) at shortstop; Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia) at third; Charlie Blackmon (Georgia Tech) in center field; Adam Duvall (Louisville) in left; Ryan Braun (Miami) in right.
Give the start to Marcus Stroman (Duke) or Carlos Rodon (N.C. State) before Andrew Miller (North Carolina) closes. Remember, Posey has three World Series rings.
5. Most Players in Big Leagues.
The numbers change daily. Guys slump and return to the minors. Guys improve and jump to The Show. Guys go on the disabled list.
I defaulted to the list compiled by the SEC Network on Opening Day of the 2017 MLB season. (Link.)
The ACC put 41 players on Opening Day rosters. That’s an impressive number. But it’s one less than the Pac-12 and 27 less than the SEC, which loves baseball almost as it loves football.
OK, spring football.
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