Pitching powers preseason favorite Rice

Baseball America runs down the strengths, weaknesses and questions for the top 25 teams in the country.

Updated: February 5, 2007, 12:19 PM ET
By Aaron Fitt | Baseball America
The preseason Top 25 has a few things in common with the final Top 25 rankings of the 2006 season. For starters, College World Series participants Rice, Clemson and North Carolina begin the new season where they left off: in the top five. Fellow 2006 Omaha team Miami is no longer an upstart and moves up to No. 2. Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wichita State face much loftier expectations this year than they did a year ago, and all four have joined the top 10. As for last year's champion, Oregon State remains in the rankings at No. 16 despite losing the core pitchers from its title run.

1. Rice
2006 Record (Ranking): 57-13 (4). RPI: 2
Coach (Record): Wayne Graham (684-270, 15 years)
Last June, Rice was sitting pretty. The nation's top-ranked team had won its first two College World Series games and needed just one win against a pitching-weary Oregon State club to seal a trip to the CWS championship series. Eighteen consecutive scoreless innings later, the Owls were headed home, wondering what the heck had just happened.

"We didn't address going the opposite way well enough last year -- we worked on it, but there's nothing like two games like that to convince people what they need to do to be better hitters," Rice coach Wayne Graham said. "You use those lessons, they help you teach. There's nothing like experience to teach you. And our hitters, we were basically a sophomore ballclub."


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