With the weather in the Cincinnati area below freezing, it's never too early to talk about one of Cincinnati's grand pastimes, baseball. But while the Reds will be heading to spring training in February, it's time to talk a little Big East and UC Bearcats baseball now.
This week the Big East announced it's projections for the upcoming season. With expansion this season, many feel the Big East can become a much greater conference from top to bottom in the coming years. Cincinnati who finished 25-30 last season overall (10-19 C-USA) didn't fair too well when all the votes were counted.
Projected to be the top team in 2006 is Notre Dame. The Irish finished third last season in the Big East but return many top players. Pittsburgh came in second after finishing fourth and South Florida is projected to be the third best team in their first year in the Big East Conference.
But while these early projections are only ink and paper, you could see a small bias in the selections of the Preseason All-Big East Team. Only one player from a new member school was selected for the team. South Florida's Casey Hudspeth (P) earned a spot while all other positions were filled with longtime member schools.
How will the Bearcats be this season? Well look for Logan Parker to continue his dominance at the plate. The senior first baseman hit .313 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI in 2005. And if LaFringe Hayes can stay healthy, the senior outfielder can set the table and cause havoc on the base paths.
Veteran Head Coach Brian Cleary is looking to use his top of the line facilities to help build the Bearcats program into a top contender in the Big East. Look for great improvement from the Bearcats in their new conference. As a member of C-USA, Cincinnati was always at a disadvantage going against southern programs that have access to outside facilities year round. Now in the Big East the Bearcats are on equal footing as almost all of the conference schools are northeast of Cincinnati. Only Louisville and South Florida are farther south now.
Here are the complete preseason rankings for the 2006 Big East Baseball season.
1. Notre Dame
5. St. John's
(Villanova and West Virginia each received 51 pts)
11. Seton Hall
Coach Brian Cleary and his team will open the 2006 season on February 10, 2006 in Gainesville, Florida against the University of Florida. The Bearcats first home game is March 3, 2005 against Niagara and their first Big East game is set for a road trip to Connecticut on March 24, 2005. The first official Big East game will come against for C-USA rival South Florida on March 31, 2006.
Stay with Bearcat Insider for more coverage of the Bearcats baseball program.