Oregon State 10-10
Washington State 4-15
Another good weekend for the Pac-10 as it was the final
weekend of the season with all non-conference games. The marquee series
was down in Los Angeles where USC and Cal State Fullerton split a rain-shortened
two-game series. The Trojans also won a midweek game and now have their
record back at .500. 11-11 may not look pretty but USC had a very difficult
non-conference schedule and are missing numerous key pitchers due to injury.
I would expect USC to finish in the upper part of the conference and
once again qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Arizona State finally played
a decent team as they continued their 19-game homestand last weekend by taking
2-of-3 from Oklahoma. The Sooners won the first game of the series before
ASU came back to notch easy 10-3 and 10-2 victories to claim the series victory.
Cal got back on track after their tough weekend at Stanford by taking
2-of-3 from UC Irvine in Berkeley. Arizona took a break from their
difficult non-conference schedule to pound on Portland and Wagner last week
to the tune of a 5-0 record. Oregon State and Washington played a two-game
series at a neutral site last weekend with the teams splitting the games.
Meanwhile, Washington is on a roll as they swept lowly Cal State Northridge
up in Seattle to run their winning streak to 10 games. The Huskies
haven't exactly been playing a lot of tough teams as four of those wins are
against Northridge, three versus WSU, and two versus Oregon State, but if
nothing else, it proves Washington doesn't belong among the bottom tier teams
in the conference. Stanford and UCLA had the weekend off for finals.
UCLA did go 0-2 last week though with losses to Pacific and UC Riverside
on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively to fall back below .500.
Pac-10 play finally gets started this weekend with three
series'. The big one obviously is Stanford at Arizona State but USC
also has a big series as they travel south to take on Arizona. The Wildcats
had a successful non-conference season posting a 17-7 record. Cal has
a chance to get an early jump in the conference season as they welcome perennial
cellar-dweller Washington State to Berkeley for a three-game set. Washington
has a non-conference series at UC Irvine, UCLA welcomes a talented Wichita
State team to Westwood for two games while Oregon State hosts UC Santa Barbara
Stanford's Pac-10 Outlook :
No series to review this week, so instead, I'll take a
look at Stanford's Pac-10 schedule and their chances of winning the conference
title. The Cardinal get things started with a bang when they travel
south to battle the third ranked and 30-2 Arizona State Sun Devils. The
key for Stanford is not to get swept. If ASU wins all three games, the
Cardinal will already be in a big hole as they'd be three games behind the
Sun Devils in the standings. And while Stanford could easily make up
three games in the standings over the final seven weeks of conference play,
ASU will have already played the toughest team on their schedule, so the
Cardinal likely won't get a lot of help. Another down side to getting
swept would mean it would be Stanford's second time getting swept this year.
Granted, it would be to two very good teams (Fullerton is the other)
but the selection committee isn't going to look too fondly at Stanford when
they see an 0-6 record on the road to a pair of top ten teams. The committee
values road success and the Cardinal's chances of garnering one of the eight
national seeds would take a huge hit if they were swept this weekend. Winning
1-of-3 games wouldn't be bad this weekend. Obviously, you want to win
every series but in this scenario the Cardinal would only trail ASU by one
game in the standings and would avoid another road sweep. If Stanford
could manage a series win they would be sitting pretty in the Pac-10 race
and the national scene.
Looking ahead, Stanford's schedule gets a lot easier after
this weekend. I would separate the conference into four tiers right
now: ASU and Stanford in the top tier as they are the favorites to win the
conference ... Arizona, Cal, and USC in the second tier as these teams have
the looks of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament but appear to be a notch below
the Sun Devils and the Cardinal ... the third tier features UCLA and Washington
as these teams have had some good moments but I think will be hard pressed
to qualify for the tournament ... the bottom tier includes Oregon State and
Washington State as these two teams don't look like they're going anywhere
in 2003. So, examining Stanford's Pac-10 schedule it would seem they
have a fairly easy road immediately after the ASU series. The Card
will have a moderately difficult series at home versus Washington during the
last weekend of March. 2-of-3 is a must that weekend while a sweep is
very possible. Then starting on April 1st, Stanford moves into their
easiest part of the year. A stretch of 11 games will have the Cardinal
favored heavily in all 11. Now, there's always a chance Stanford runs
into a pitcher who is in a groove, but on paper, none of the 11 games (against
six teams) match up anywhere close to the Cardinal. Those 11 games :
4-1 vs. USF, 4-4 to 4-6 at Washington State, 4-8 at Santa Clara, 4-11 to 4-12
vs. Sacramento State, 4-15 vs. San Jose State, 4-17 to 4-19 vs. Oregon State.
WSU and OSU are looking like the two worst teams in the conference so
this would be the time for Stanford to roll in the Pac-10 season.
After that stretch of games, it starts to get more difficult
for the Cardinal. They host Arizona the last weekend of April before
traveling to USC and Cal the first two weeks of May. All three of those
teams are in my second tier and will likely have a shot at claiming the Pac-10
title when Stanford plays them. This will be the time for Stanford to
separate themselves from these clubs as they look to capture the conference
title. Taking 2-of-3 in each of these weekends is a realistic goal and
if Stanford can do this they should be looking good for at least one of the
top two spots in the conference. The thing to watch for though is that
this is typically the time of year when Stanford struggles (see the late
April struggles in both 2001 and 2002). Finally, the Card wrap things
up in conference play with three games at home versus UCLA. The Bruins
will likely be out of the conference race and out of NCAA Tournament contention
by then. Stanford plays very well at home, so winning at least 2-of-3
is very probable. The Cardinal finish the regular season with a three-game
home set against Cal Poly which would be a great opportunity to get some
momentum heading into the tournament.
Bottom line, if Stanford wins the Pac-10 they will be one
of the eight national seeds which means they would host a sub regional and
a super regional (if they were to advance). Stanford is a dominant team
at Sunken Diamond so this is key. If the Cardinal finish second in
the conference they still have a shot to garner one of the national seeds.
Stanford has finished second the last two seasons and both times received
national seeds due to their out-of-conference wins. Stanford again had
a strong non-conference record in 2003, but a second place finish in the
Pac-10 is no guarantee for a national seed. If, for example, Fullerton
finishes second in the Big West and the last national seed is between the
Titans and the Cardinal, who do you think the committee is going to award
the seed to? Again though, if Stanford can win the conference you can
take it to the bank, the Cardinal will get a national seed. And the
journey starts this weekend with a huge series in Tempe against the Sun Devils.
"Super Sixteen" Poll :
1. Florida State
* Seminoles remain in the top spot after a 5-0 week including a series sweep of Virginia in their ACC opener.
* Owls move up a spot after 4-0 week that included a midweek win over Texas and sweep at Hawaii ... Rice has now won 16 straight games.
3. Georgia Tech
* Jackets saw their winning streak snapped when they fell to Kent State in the series finale on Sunday.
4. Arizona State
* Sun Devils remain at #4 after taking 2-of-3 from Oklahoma.
5. Cal State Fullerton
* Titans bounced back from Minnesota series loss with a 2-1 week (1-0 vs. San Diego, 1-1 at USC).
* Cardinal had the weekend off for final exams.
7. Long Beach State
* 49ers continue to impress with a two-game series sweep at Wichita State.
* Longhorns dropped tough 2-1 decision to Rice in a midweek game, but came back to sweep Missouri in their Big 12 opener.
* Bears opened Big 12 play by winning 2-of-3 at home versus Texas Tech.
* Tide make big jump after 4-0 week which included a series sweep of Georgia.
* Tigers fell to Georgia Tech in a midweek game, but rebounded to post series win over Tennessee.
* Huskers suffered their first series loss as they dropped 2-of-3 at ranked Texas A&M.
13. Wake Forest
* Demon Deacons lost midweek game to Liberty, but came back to sweep Maryland over the weekend.
14. South Carolina
* Gamecocks take a tumble as they lost 2-of-3 at home to unranked Arkansas.
* Spiders with a quality series win over Virginia Commonwealth.
State 13-2 16
* Bulldogs opened their conference season by taking 2-of-3 from Vanderbilt.
Opponents Update :
Florida State and Texas began their conference seasons
last weekend and each had easy home sweeps of overmatched teams. Cal
State Fullerton continues to play well with an 18-4 overall record. The
Titans will play Long Beach State in a huge three-game series next weekend.
Baseball America Poll :
Stanford dropped one spot to #7 in this week's Baseball
America poll. Long Beach State vaulted ahead of both the Cardinal
and the Titans to #5. Rice took over the top spot in the poll with Georgia
Tech at #2, ASU at #3, and Florida State at #4. Besides Stanford and
Arizona State, there are still no other Pac-10 teams ranked.
Up Next for Stanford :
It's the showdown in the desert this weekend when the #7
Cardinal take on the #3 Sun Devils. It will be the Pac-10 opener for
both schools. ASU is 30-2 this season (they have two games versus Wichita
State before playing Stanford) and average more than 10 runs per game. The
series will start on Saturday at 6:00pm (PST), Sunday's game is at 12:00pm
(PST), while the finale on Monday begins at 3:30pm (PST). Chad will
have full series preview in a couple of days.