Virginia tops first power rankings
The Cavaliers' 19-2 record -- including a 13-game win streak -- has them at No. 1
Both Virginia and Vanderbilt lost tight games on Sunday, marking only the second loss for each team. Those losses weren't enough to keep them from the top two spots in this year's first set of College Splits Power Rankings.
Vanderbilt entered the season at No. 1, and it has done little to disappoint -- all that has gone wrong is a tremendous start from the Cavaliers. In fact, much of the ACC has been strong in the early going, as the third and fourth slots in the rankings belong to Clemson and Florida State, both of which are a fraction of a percent from overtaking Vandy.
The CS Power Rankings are based on a lot more than just winning percentage and strength of schedule. They take into account run differential (to reflect the effectiveness of teams that are regularly drubbing their opponents), and they consider the amount of time each team has spent at home, because home-field advantage is a big factor in college baseball and varies wildly, especially early in the season. Georgia Tech has played 19 of 21 games at home, while Connecticut has hosted only one game on its own field.
However, 20 games, especially early-season games and their lopsided matchups, don't tell you everything about a team's ability. That's why we consider the skill of each school's returning players, as measured by wins above replacement (WAR). It's what earned Vandy the preseason top spot, and it helps us avoid overreacting to a hot or cold start that a team isn't likely to maintain.
Put all that together, and you have a cutting-edge method for comparing teams from different conferences and regions. Here are this year's first College Splits Power Rankings:
1. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC, 19-2)
Coming into the season, we ranked the Cavs at No. 7. Since then, they've won 19 of 21 games, highlighted by a 13-game win streak that included a sweep of No. 3 Clemson. Both of their losses were by one run, suggesting that if a few breaks went the other way, the Cavaliers could be undefeated.
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Insider has assembled a team to expand college baseball coverage in 2011. ESPN columnists Ryan McGee, Jeff Bradley and draft expert Keith Law are joined by CollegeSplits.com's Jeff Sackmann and longtime expert Will Kimmey in breaking down the top trends and stories each week.