The R Preseason Top 21

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No, the No. 21 does not pay homage to one of my father's all-time favorites, The Human Highlight Film, the offensive LT, The Big Fundamental or Prime Time, but rather the number of teams that appeared in all five national preseason polls: Baseball America,, Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA, and USA Today/ESPN Coaches. Here is a composite poll, with the number in the parenthesis representing the sum of the program's rankings in the five polls:

1. Texas (5) - March 5, March 16, March 23.
2. LSU (12)
3. Virginia (14)
4. Cal State Fullerton (19)
5. Rice (33)
6. Florida State (34)
7. UC Irvine (35)
8. Georgia Tech (41)
9. Florida (43)
10. Arizona State (44)
11. TCU (68) - March 7.
12t. Miami (74)
12t. Clemson (74)
14. North Carolina (77)
15t. East Carolina (81) - April 23-25.
15t. Coastal Carolina (81)
17. Louisville (83)
18. Oregon State (84)
19. Arkansas (86)
20. Ole Miss (107)
21. San Diego (108) - March 19-21.

Both Ohio State (No. 14 Collegiate Baseball; No. 21 Coaches'; No. 22 Rivals; No. 23 NCBWA) and Southern Miss (No. 21 Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball; No. 22 NCBWA; No. 24 Coaches') appeared in four of five polls while South Carolina (No. 10 Baseball America; No. 13 Rivals; No. 21 NCBWA) and Oklahoma (No. 22 Coaches'; No. 25 in Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA) were ranked in three. Rice will host the Golden Eagles on May 14-16.

This composite poll reveals 10 teams considered superior to the rest of the pack, and barring any unforeseen circumstances developing during the season, expect six or seven of those teams to reach the College World Series. The polls are top-heavy will powerhouse programs, led by consensus No. 1 and pitching-rich Texas, defending national champion LSU, and Virginia, which returns practically the same roster that sparked the Cavaliers to their first CWS appearance. Interestingly, Fullerton is No. 4 in four polls and No. 3 in the fifth, identifying the Titans as the class of the West Coast. Should the Owls meet expectations, they'd finish clear of any dreadful super regional matchups, with Texas and LSU likely to host inferior programs.

It serves Rice well that No. 15 East Carolina and No. 23 Southern Miss have garnered a modicum of national respect. The Owls' RPI will be bolstered if the Pirates and Golden Eagles continue to ascend, a scenario that would enable Rice to clinch a national seed should it win the Conference USA regular-season title by a substantial margin, or finish second in the league standings and claim the tournament championship. While the SEC and ACC feature extraordinary depth, C-USA is inching closer to challenging the Big 12 for regional supremacy. The Owls dominated the Big 12 in the aughts, and the more success their league mates enjoy out of conference, the more legitimate an argument C-USA can make as a top-5 league. If the Big West and West Coast Conference can push the Pac-10, C-USA can do the same to the Big 12, which has just two teams (No. 1 UT; No. 25 OU) ranked in the composite top 25 poll.

Of course, it's just the preseason. It will be interesting to note which programs among Texas, LSU, Virginia, Fullerton, Rice, Florida State, Irvine and Georgia Tech fail to make it to Omaha.

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