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Several teams rose to the occasion the first half of the season. Plenty of others left something to be desired.
The better question now is which teams will elevate their level of play the second half of the season and make their way to the College World Series?
If Arizona State, UCLA and Virginia play the second half of the season the way they did the first half, there's a good chance those three teams will be vying for a national title at Rosenblatt Stadium in a couple of months.
The Sun Devils are having an amazing campaign with a new coach and without All-American pitcher Josh Spence, UCLA is the biggest surprise of the season with a fabulous record, a surprising offense and a weekend rotation that continues to make professional scouts salivate. Virginia, meanwhile, had a hiccup at N.C. State last weekend, but still is one of the frontrunners to compete for the national title.
On the other end of the spectrum, Georgia easily has been the biggest disappointment so far this season. The Bulldogs entered the campaign with high hopes even without sluggers such as Joey Lewis, Bryce Massanari and Rich Poythress. But the team has sputtered and the pitching staff has an ERA over eight.
Perennial powers Rice and North Carolina also were disappointments the first half of the season.
The stage is set the first half of the season.
Dreams are made the second half of the season.
Let the games continue.
Most surprising team: UCLA
The Bruins were on the cusp of our rankings before the season, but they are now sitting at No. 2 in the country with a fabulous 23-2 record. Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and the Bruins' pitching staff has done exactly what was expected of them so far this season. But most impressive is the offense, which has tallied a .347 batting through 25 games. The Bruins have three hitters with batting averages over .400, including Tyler Rahmatulla, Dean Espy and Justin Uribe. It'll be interesting to see if the Bruins can sustain their success the second half of the season.
Three more surprises: Arizona, Oregon, Oklahoma
Most disappointing team: Georgia
It's true the Bulldogs lost several key hitters after last season, but the issues with this team go well beyond the offense. Actually, the offensive lineup has a respectable .291 batting average this season. Georgia's issue is the pitching staff. The Bulldogs have a wealth of talented arms, but it's safe to say those arms haven't produced. Ace pitcher Justin Grimm has a 4.46 ERA and fellow starting pitchers Michael Palazzone and Jeff Walters have ERAs of 8.24 and 8.62, respectively. The Bulldogs also have an overall team ERA of 8.62. That simply will not cut it in the SEC. It also is the chief reason the Bulldogs are 10-19, 2-7 in the SEC, at this point in the season.
Three more disappointments: Rice, San Diego, North Carolina
Team to watch the second half of the season: Cal State Fullerton
Remember when the Titans seemed to be in deep trouble just a few weeks ago? Well, the Titans are now riding high and couldn't be happier about their level of play. The Titans have a chance to make their biggest statement this season in a series at UC Irvine. The Titans started the season on a cold streak at the plate, but now are hitting .327 with shortstop Christian Colon finally hitting well over .300. Gary Brown, Billy Marcoe and Carlos Lopez each are hitting .400 or better this season. On the mound, sophomore Noe Ramirez has been fantastic, but the Titans could get better starts from Tyler Pill and Daniel Renken the second half of the season. Fullerton is playing with a lot of passion and is the team to watch down the stretch. They're finally playing like Titans.
Best player: Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox
Cox entered his collegiate career with high expectations. He finished last season with a wealth of power production, but lacked a solid batting average. This season, though, Cox has taken his game to another level, perhaps the level that everyone expected at the beginning. Cox is hitting .420 with four doubles, five homers and 31 RBIs. He also is slugging .589 with an incredible .522 on-base percentage. It will be interesting to see if the hot-hitting third baseman can keep up this clip the rest of the season. But it has been so far so good for Cox and the Hogs this season.
Three more to watch: Zack MacPhee (Arizona State), Austin Wates (Virginia Tech), Micah Gibbs (LSU)
Best pitcher: Mississippi pitcher Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz had solid freshman and sophomore campaigns for the Rebels, but he didn't experience anything like he has so far this season. The junior left-handed pitcher is increasing his MLB draft stock each week. Pomeranz has started seven games this season and has a 5-0 record and a 1.65 ERA in 43 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 65 and walked 17 and opponents are hitting him at a .178 clip. Pomeranz told us earlier this season he believes he has been much more consistent with his pitches this season.
Three more to watch: Texas' Taylor Jungmann, Georgia Tech's Deck McGuire, Virginia's Danny Hultzen
Most surprising player: Arizona State infielder Zack MacPhee
The Sun Devils made a valiant march to the College World Series last season, but MacPhee wasn't a huge part of the plan at the plate. He finished his freshman season with a .270 batting average and just 39 RBIs. This season, though, MacPhee has taken his game to another level. In 98 at bats for the Sun Devils, MacPhee is batting .429 with three doubles, 10 triples, three homers and 36 RBIs. He also is slugging .755 and has an amazing .525 on-base percentage. Also worth noting, MacPhee is 11-for-12 in stolen bases. In MacPhee's case, it's safe to say he has made a complete transformation.
Most disappointing player: Alabama infielder Ross Wilson
Wilson was a Rivals.com Preseason All-American with incredibly high expectations, but now the junior just hopes to finish the season with a batting average around .300. Wilson has six homers and 29 RBIs through 29 games, but the rest of his offensive line definitely leaves something to be desired. Wilson is hitting just .245 with a .445 slugging percentage and .344 on-base percentage. He also has struck out 25 occasions with just 16 induced walks. It'll be interesting to see if the talented infielder can turn things around the second half of the season.
Best coaching job: Arizona State coach Tim Esmay
Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised with how well Esmay is doing this season. After all, he spent several seasons as an assistant with the Sun Devils and knows exactly what it takes to win at Arizona State. Esmay, though, has done a marvelous job of taking a program in the midst of turmoil at the end of last year to the No. 1 spot in the land through the first 28 games of the season. Interestingly, Esmay was hired as the interim head coach before the season began. But plenty of insiders in Tempe, Ariz., believe Esmay will become the full-time head coach at the end of the season. Based on what he has done so far this season, it's safe to say Esmay deserves a crack at the head job.
Three more great coaching jobs: UCLA's John Savage, Virginia's Brian O'Connor, Louisville's Dan McDonnell
Coach needs to win, and win now: USC's Chad Kreuter
USC is the nation's most historic program with 12 national titles, but you would never know that by the way the Trojans have played the past few seasons. Kreuter has been with the program for four seasons, and has yet to guide the Trojans to an NCAA regional appearance. He entered the season with an 83-85 mark in three seasons. This season, Kreuter has guided the Trojans to a 15-14 record through 29 games. The Trojans have a respectable RPI and are over .500, but still a plethora of work to do the rest of the spring to make a postseason appearance. Either way, though, the program should demand much more than just competing for a regional bid.
If the season ended today, the national champion would be: Arizona State
Virginia was my preseason pick to win the national title, and I still think the Cavaliers will have a solid chance to win the title at the end of the season. But for now, the edge has to go to Arizona State. The Sun Devils have an opportunistic and productive offensive lineup that is hitting .349 this season. The pitching staff also has done a fantastic job with a 2.69 ERA. That ERA has been compiled without veteran pitcher Josh Spence, who should be ready to pitch in the near future. The Sun Devils are a special team with a chance to do something extra special at the conclusion of the season.
The best conference at the halfway point: SEC
There's no question the Pac-10 is the most surprising conference so far this season. The league has five ranked teams, and even Oregon is making major strides. But the SEC is the best overall conference again this season. The league boasts of seven ranked teams, with three of those teams in the top 10. Even Auburn has taken a small step forward this season, while Kentucky is still in the mix for an at-large NCAA regional berth despite having an unimpressive conference record. The bottom of the SEC leaves something to be desired, but there's not a conference schedule more rigorous than that of the SEC.
The most disappointing conference at the halfway point: Conference USA
So much for Conference USA taking a huge step forward. The West Coast Conference also has been a disappointment so far this season, but near to the level of C-USA. Rice was the headliner entering the season, but has a 17-13 record and an unimpressive RPI of 37 by the Owls' standards. East Carolina was expected to take a step forward this season, but now has an 18-11 record with an RPI of 78. Tulane, the lone surprise, still has an RPI of 66 and needs a series win over Rice this weekend to improve that mark. Overall, C-USA is the nation's No. 7 conference from an RPI standpoint. That is more than just disappointing for a league expected to do big things this season.
Five prospects to watch
P Anthony Ranaudo, LSU – The teams picking high in the first round will have their eyes on how Ranaudo throws the rest of the season after his injury.
P Drew Pomeranz, Mississippi – Pomeranz was a solid prospect before the season. Now, after putting up amazing numbers, he could be the second college pitcher taken in the draft. Could he also move ahead of Ranaudo? It certainly is possible.
P Chris Sale, Florida Gulf Coast – Sale is a tremendous pro prospect and his numbers speak for themselves. Sale has struck out 62 and walked just five this season. Pretty incredible numbers, indeed.
C Micah Gibbs, LSU – Gibbs was a fringe top 30-40 prospect before the season, but one has to believe he has increased his stock this season. Gibbs is hitting .402 with five homers and 31 RBIs, and also is doing a great job behind the plate.
P Deck McGuire, Georgia Tech – McGuire was going to be a first-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft no matter what, but he might be increasing his stock a bit more with another fabulous campaign for the Yellow Jackets.