If you thought there was uncertainty with the football and basketball teams this year surrounding how they were going to perform, you ain't seen nothing yet. Unlike football and basketball however, I don't think we have to worry about the baseball program not making the postseason no matter how much rebuilding they are going through. You can thank Coach O'Connor and Co. for that.
With that little primer, let's get into the schedule. Shall we?
In typical Coach O'Connor fashion, he is going to rely heavily on the ACC strength of schedule to get this team into the NCAA tournament, and I can't say that I blame him too much. The Hoos start off the year traveling down to Greenville, NC to take on ECU like they did in 2010. ECU had somewhat of a down season last year but was able to make the NCAA tournament and play in the Chapel Hill regional. This year, they could be one of the top teams in Conference USA. If the series was in Charlottesville, I'd give the edge to UVa, but since it's in ECU, I am going to give the slight edge to the Pirates and say they take the series and win two out of three.
After the ECU series the level of competition goes downhill rapidly. William and Mary, Bucknell, Harvard, Toledo, VMI, and George Washington will all come to Charlottesville before ACC play begins and we all should expect a plethora of wins. Obviously there is likely to be a let down game somewhere in there (because there is every year for every team; it's just the nature of the beast), but there shouldn't be more than one. As ACC games begin, I'd expect the Cavaliers to be sitting somewhere between 9-4 and 11-2.
And then the fun begins
Maryland starts off the ACC slate, and being Maryland I expect nothing from them. Hoos sweep and start to build momentum.
Traveling to Clemson the next weekend presents another challenge. The Tigers are going to be about as young as the Cavaliers and I expect it to show on the field. Given the success against Jack Leggett though, Hoos win this series two games to one and will be starting to feel not so young anymore.
Unfortunately after Clemson it gets really tough. The Wolfpack will be in Charlottesville afterwards and this is not your grandma's NC St team. This team is poised to make a CWS run and will be lead by their stud of a Friday starter, Carlos Rodon. Friday is almost a guaranteed loss if Rodon lives up to the hype he built up last season. Saturday and Sunday will probably be more competitive, but the Cavalier's youth shows up a bit too much. NC St sweeps the series.
Wake Forest is next in line and is on the same level as Maryland. I don't think the boys will sweep the series but taking two out of three from the Demon Deacons should be attainable.
Georgia Tech is probably going to have another Georgia Tech season. Their picked to do big things but they never seem to be able to put it all together. Playing in Atlanta in May likely won't be too easy either with the GT fans. Similar to Clemson, Coach O'Connor just knows how to beat the Yellow Jackets (more on that in the season). Cavaliers take a game but lose the series.
It's sad that the conference didn't schedule FSU in Charlottesville early in the season like they did in 2009, because it's always fun to watch Florida boys try and play in 40 degree weather. This is where I think the Cavaliers will finally be hitting their stride, and coming off a series loss, won't want to have to deal with the coaches. Hoos shock some people and take two of three from FSU.
No surprise here, but I hate Virginia Tech. They aren't as terrible this year as they have been in years past but shouldn't be as good as the Hoos. Normally I'd just put down three wins, but this year, I'm only going to give the Cavs two. The pitching should be almost all healed up and the hitters should have enough experience that they can't be considered young anymore.
Duke is going to battle BC, UMD, and Wake for the bottom of the conference, but always seems to test UVa no matter if the game is in Charlottesville or Durham. The good thing is, by this time, everything should be in place and roles will be set. Unfortunately, Hoos underperform against the Blue Devils nearly every year. Cavaliers take two but drop the Sunday game.
Ending the year in Chapel Hill is actually a blessing. UNC is damn good this year. They're widely regarded as the top team in the land and anything less than an appearance in Omaha will be a let down. Luckily, they'll likely have the #1 ACC seed wrapped up and probably a top seed for the NCAA tournament by the time UVa travels down there. The bad thing for us? UNC hates UVa. Coaches, players, and everyone in between. I'd like to give UVa a win, but I don't think it will happen. UNC sweeps.
The rest of the out of conference games are mainly with in state foes who the Cavaliers should be more talented than. Like the other out of conference games, the boys will probably drop a game but no more than two.
All in all, this season reminds me of the 2008 season. The team is young and will have some serious down days, but they are talented enough to make a regional. I don't think they will host a regional, but they will be competing in June.