SEC Surprises; Buffalo Drops Baseball

SEC STANDINGS UPSIDE DOWN
The top three teams in the current SEC baseball standings failed to make of the post season last year.

Auburn (23-7, 7-2 SEC) and Arkansas (23-6, 7-2 SEC) lead the SEC Western Division through nine games. Neither team qualified for the 2016 SEC Tournament in Hoover. Auburn has won all seven series this season, including SEC series with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The Tigers are equaled their overall win total from last year. AU finished 23-33 in 2016.  Arkansas has won is first three SEC series with Miss. State, Missouri and Alabama (the latter two on the road) and has equaled its conference win total from last season.

Kentucky (22-6, 7-2 SEC) sits alone atop the SEC Eastern Division standings after nine games. UK lost its only SEC Tournament game and failed to make NCAA Tournament last year. Kentucky swept a three-game series at Texas A&M to open league play and then posted back-to-back home series wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the last two weeks.

Kentucky opened the season 0-4 under first year head coach Nick Mingione. UK is 22-2 since losing its first four games.

Mississippi State (19-10, 6-3 SEC) and LSU (19-10, 5-4 SEC) also appear to be challengers in the SEC Western Division.

MSU has been involved in three sweeps this season. The Bulldogs were swept at Arkansas to open league play but has bounced back the last two weeks with sweeps over Tennessee and Ole Miss.

LSU opened the season with a series win over Georgia but have lost the last two series with Florida and Texas A&M.

Ole Miss (16-12, 3-6 SEC) started with a 7-0 record but has scuffled to a 9-12 mark in the last 21 games.

South Carolina (19-8, 6-3 SEC) and Florida (20-9, 5-4 SEC) are serious challengers in the SEC East.  The Gamecocks opened with series wins over Tennessee and Alabama before losing two out of three at Auburn last weekend.  Florida was swept on opening weekend by Auburn but has bounced back with series win over LSU and Missouri the last two weeks. The Gators host Tennessee this weekend in Gainesville.

Vanderbilt (18-11, 4-5 SEC) has been inconsistent all season, including home non-conference series losses to UIC and Cal State Northridge. Vandy has perhaps the toughest schedule the first five weeks of the season against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida. Three of the first four series (Ole Miss, UK and South Carolina) are on the road. The Commodores play Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Alabama the final five weeks. Those teams are a combined 17-28 in SEC play and only Arkansas has a winning conference record.

POWER FIVE LEADERS
Clemson (24-5, 10-2 ACC), Louisville (24-3, 10-2 ACC) and North Carolina (22-6, 9-3 ACC) are the heavyweights in the Atlantic Coast Conference so far in 2017.

Clemson and Louisville are tied first place in the ACC Atlantic Division. Wake Forest (21-8, 8-4 ACC) is two games behind the division leaders.

North Carolina owns 3-game lead over second place Virginia Tech (17-3, 6-6 ACC) and Pitt (13-12, 6-6 ACC) in the Coastal Division standings.

Two perennial powers Miami (12-17, 5-7 ACC) and Florida State (18-11, 6-6 ACC) have struggled the year. The Hurricanes have made the NCAA Tournament every year since 1974, that streak appears to be in jeopardy at the midpoint of the college baseball season.

It’s still early but the Big 12 Conference just might be decided when the TCU Horned Frogs and Texas Tech Red Raiders meet in late April. TCU (22-5, 8-1 Big 12) owns a 2.5 game lead over Texas Tech (25-6, 4-2 Big 12), West Virginia (15-10, 4-2 Big 12) and Oklahoma (25-6, 4-2 Big 12). Big 12 teams play eight conference series and have two bye weeks during the season. TCU and Texas are the only teams to play three conference series to date.  Oklahoma posted a huge home series win over Texas Tech last weekend.

Minnesota (18-8, 6-0 Big Ten) is the hottest team in the Big Ten Conference through two weekends of league play. The Gophers have won 9 straight games, including back-to-back conference sweeps against Ohio State and Michigan State.

Maryland (18-8, 5-1 Big Ten) has series wins over Michigan and Rutgers. Nebraska (15-10, 2-0 Big Ten), Michigan (22-6, 4-2 Big Ten) and Iowa (17-9, 2-1 Big Ten) have won six straight games.

Nebraska won both games at Indiana this past weekend, while the third game ended due to travel curfew in the 12th inning on Sunday.  Michigan outscored Penn State 39-9 in a three-game sweep this past weekend.

Oregon State (24-1, 9-0 Pac 12) is running away with the Pac 12 Conference after three straight sweeps over Arizona State, Arizona and Stanford. The ASU and Stanford series were on the road. The Beavers have won 19 straight games, the longest winning streak in the nation. OSU leads the NCAA in ERA (1.75), hits allowed per nine innings (5.83) and WHIP (.92) and ranks second in NCAA with six shut outs.

BUFFALO DROPS BASEBALL
The University of Buffalo announced Monday that the school is dropping four of its 20 varsity sports, including baseball at the end of the 2017 season. In addition men’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving and women’s rowing are being eliminated in an effort to save the athletics department $20 million per year.

“This has been a very difficult decision made only with extensive deliberation,” UB President Satish K. Tripathi told te Buffalo News. “The unfortunate reality is that we no longer have the resources to support 20 competitive Division I athletic teams. I know that this is a difficult day for our student athletes, our coaches and the entire athletics program and university.”

The cuts bring UB’s sports teams down to 16, the minimum number required to compete at the NCAA’s top level of Division I athletics, known as the Football Bowl Subdivision. Three other Mid-American Conference schools – Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan – were at 16 teams this year. The rest of the MAC is between 17 and 21 teams.

The Bulls began playing baseball in 1949. The program was disbanded following the 1987 season and reinstated in 2000. Buffalo joined the Mid-American Conference in 2001. Buffalo had its best season under head coach Ron Torgalski in 2013. The Bulls finished 33-24 overall and 19-7 (2nd place in MAC East) in conference play.

Buffalo will play its final regular season home game against Kent State on Sunday, May 14. The final regular season game in program history is slated for Saturday, May 20 at Western Michigan.

Here is the complete story from Monday’s edition of the Buffalo News.

http://buffalonews.com/2017/04/03/ub-will-drop-four-sports-teams-athletics-budget-cutback/

COLLEGE BASEBALL NOTEBOOK
Alabama State (14-15, 10-2 SWAC) leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division with a 10-2 record. The Hornets have a season-high seven straight games.

Cal Poly (10-17, 2-1 Big West) is in a four-way tie for first place in the league standings after its Big West opener series win at UC Irvine this past weekend.  It was the Mustangs first at Irvine since 2009. Cal Poly hosts red-hot Hawaii (18-9, 0-0 Big West) next weekend.

Elon (15-13, 5-1 Colonial) and College of Charleston (13-15, 5-1 Colonial) sits atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings. Elon owns a 6-game winning streak after sweeping James Madison this past weekend. Elon plays a home-and-home midweek series with Wake Forest before playing at William & Mary this weekend. College of Charleston is coming off a three-game sweep with UNC Wilmington this past weekend.

Grand Canyon (12-14, 6-0 WAC) has the best record in the Western Athletic Conference. The Antelopes have recorded back-to-back sweeps over Cal State Bakersfield and Northern Colorado. Grand Canyon plays a two-game midweek series at Arkansas beginning Tuesday.

Mercer (24-6, 5-1 SoCon) owns the best record in the Southern Conference following its three-game sweep at Furman this past weekend. Mercer leads the league and ranks third in the NCAA with 49 home runs this season. The Bears also lead the nation with 45 sacrifice bunts.

Morehead State (22-6, 8-1 OVC) owns a 9-game winning streak. The Eagles posted a 22-0 win over UMass on Sunday to complete the weekend sweep of the Minutemen. It marked the second time this season the Eagles have scored at least 20 runs in a game. Morehead State is tied with St. John’s for the highest batting average (.340) in the nation this season.

New Mexico (18-10, 11-1 MWC) owns a 2-game lead over San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference standings. The Lobos are the nation’s top scoring team with 9.0 runs per game.

Rhode Island (14-10, 5-0 A-10) sits atop the Atlantic 10 Conference standings after a pair of wins over St. Louis this weekend. The three-game series was reduced to two games due to weather. The Rams have won eight straight games, which is tied for the fifth-longest winning streak in the nation.

St. John’s (21-2) has won nine straight games. The Johnnies opened the season with nine straight wins and is having its best season since 1981. St. John’s opens Big East play this weekend at Creighton.

St. Peter’s (0-9, 0-3 MAAC) remains the only winless team in the nation. The Peacocks were swept in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opening series by Niagara. St. Peter’s plays six games this season, including red-hot St. John’s (21-2; 9-game winning streak), Fordham (DH; April 4) and Rider (April 8-9).

Sam Houston State (20-8, 9-0 SLC) is the lone undefeated team in Southland Conference play. The Bearkats have opened the year with three straight sweeps against Lamar, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Abilene Christian. SHSU leads the league and ranks 12th in NCAA with a .312 batting average. The Bearkats lead the league and rank in the Top 5 nationally in sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.

San Diego (19-6, 8-1 Big West) and Loyola Marymount (18-10, 7-2 Big West) are the two hottest teams in the Big West Conference. LMU has won seven straight games, while San Diego owns a 4-game winning streak.

Southern Illinois (15-4, 3-0 MVC), Missouri State (18-9, 3-0 MVC) and Dallas Baptist (18-9, 3-0 MVC) all opened Missouri Valley Conference play with three-game sweeps this weekend. SIU swept Evansville, Missouri State swept Bradley and Dallas Baptist swept Illinois State.  Missouri State hosts Dallas Baptist this weekend.

Southern Miss (21-5, 8-1 C-USA) is having a terrific season after winning its first three Conference USA series against Louisiana Tech, Marshall and Western Kentucky. The Golden Eagles lead the league in batting average (.308) and earned run average (3.38) this season. Matt Wallner leads the league with nine home runs.

Tennessee Tech (23-7, 12-0 OVC) has won its first 12 Ohio Valley Conference games for the first time in school history. The 12-0 start is tied for the second-best start in league history. Southeast Missouri State opened the 2016 season with a 12-0 record. The 2001 Eastern Illinois team owns the best start in league history with an unbelievable 17-0 record. Tennessee Tech leads the nation with 263 runs scored this season.

UConn (16-9, 3-0 American) opened American Athletic Conference play with a three-game sweep at East Carolina this past weekend. The Huskies have won five straight games.

Wright State (18-7, 9-0 Horizon) is 9-0 in Horizon League play for the first time in school history. The Raiders have opened the season with three straight sweeps over Valpo, Milwaukee and Oakland. WSU leads the league and ranks 12th in the NCAA with 50 stolen bases this season. Zach Weatherford ranks first in the league and 10th nationally with 15 stolen bases.

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