Commentary

Virginia leads an elite ACC field

Based on early returns, it's actually the best conference in college baseball

Originally Published: March 29, 2011
By Jeff Sackmann | ESPN Insider
Danny HultzenDarryl Dennis/Icon SMIDanny Hultzen has helped lead Virginia to the No. 1 ranking in the country.

From the college baseball headlines so far this season, fans might reasonably conclude that it's a down year for the ACC. Florida, UCLA, and Texas Christian dominated the early discussion for No. 1, and the most highly-touted draft prospects play for those teams, as well as the likes of Rice, Vanderbilt, Texas, and Connecticut.

To find an ACC star, you must look to Virginia's Danny Hultzen and Georgia Tech's Jed Bradley. Keith Law is one of the few prognosticators to put both players in the top 10 draft prospects. Even in Law's rosy view, only three players in the conference are worthy of inclusion in the top 50 -- shortstop Levi Michael of North Carolina checks in at No. 22.

Despite the lack of star power, these teams just keep winning. Last week, I revealed Virginia as the top team in the College Splits power rankings. Another five wins later (cumulative score of 33-5), the Cavs have further solidified their position atop the list. Friday's game against Maryland marked Hultzen's fifth win and he's up to 70 strikeouts in barely 40 innings.

For all of Hultzen's and Bradley's dominance, the secret to the ACC's success isn't a handful of studs. After all, Rice features the best position player in the country and they're outside of the top 25; the UCLA Bruins are built around two elite starting pitchers and they're struggling to stay in the top 10. The top ACC programs draw on depth that is unparalleled elsewhere in the nation.


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