UNLV 2018 OOC Schedule Ends This Series of Posts
The Rebels have, until recently, been one of the better teams in the MWC. A coaching change and the passing of time was not good for the program. They were the last place team in 2017 replacing the Spartans of San Jose State which seemed to have a strangle hold on the position. A few good players can make things happen. We’ll see how they do early in the year against the opposition below.
Marucci Desert Classic – at home (Indiana State, Oregon, and Loyola Marymount)
The Sycamores of indiana State have one of the better names in college sports. Stanford does not have a death grip on trees as mascots after all. Y’all remember that this is where Larry Bird played his college basketball, right? Just goes to show you don’t have to go to Kentucky to get drafted. If you’re good you will be found; in any sport. Shall I comment on erstwhile Spartan Brandon Clarke and his transfer to Gonzaga? No? Ok. Anyway, they were a mediocre 29-26 last season and hit .270 and pitched 4.73 at a mediocre rate. They could hit dingers (63) but also could give them up (45). Thumbs sideways. Oregon is from the Pac 12 which is a strong baseball conference. They were a fair 30-25 overall and 12-18 in conference. Not that good. Pitching was pretty good at 3.86 and hitting was definitely subpar at .257. Thumbs up as it is a Pac 12 team. The LMU Lions were one of my favorites a few seasons ago as they had some great pitching. So, what have you done for me lately? Oooh, not bad at 38-18. Geez, 20 games over .500 and no NCAA invite? A travesty. They could hit at .292 but the pitching was just fine at 3.46 which was a run and a half better than the opposition. I’ll bet the team was not happy about this snub. I know I wasn’t. Thumbs up.
Columbia – 4 at home
The Ivy League is not a powerhouse conference but they turn out one good team a year, or thereabouts. Last season wasn’t their year as they started out a dismal 0-10 before winning their first game. The first seven games were toughies, I’ll admit, with three at Florida to start the year. Ouch. Anyway, 18-23 overall and 12-8 in the Ivy. No post season for them. They could hit (.291) with a fair amount of pop (36 home runs) but the pitching did not help (6.07). That puts the offense constantly behind the 8 ball and the reverse is also true. C’mon, you know it. They do have two freshman AA’s returning in OF Julian Bury and DH Liam McGill both of whom well over .300. Thumbs sideways as the pitching has to pick up the slack.
UC Riverside – 1 on the road
The Highlanders were ten games under .500 and I expected more out of them, especially pitching, as a former major leaguer in Troy Percival was the man in charge. It still is talent folks and coaching can’t compensate for that. Thumbs up.
CSU Bakersfield – 1 on the road
Another WAC team that has been up and down the past few years. Last season was sorta up at 32-24 but didn’t result in any post-season play other than the WAC Tournament. They could hit (.310) but had no pop at all and pitching was marginal at 4.81. I don’t think they shut down the opposition as much as they did single them to death. Eight .300 hitters can make life miserable for opposing pitchers. Thumbs up.
CSU Northridge – 1 on the road
Northridge was an average 26-29 in 2017. Both hitting (.261) and pitching (5.15) were subpar and that’s how you end up this way. Only one game but thumbs down.
Iowa – 3 at home
The Hawkeyes (actually falcon eyes, if you know your birds as I do) were a more than respectable 39-22 which was good enough to get them into a regional where they went 1-2. They beat Houston in their first game (at Houston) which was a bit of a surprise but then came suddenly back to earth. On the year they hit .284 with a astronomical 71 home runs which led the conference by 10! Pitching was only ok at 4.39. They return freshman AA Ben Norman in the outfield. Thumbs up as it’s a team from a power conference. Nice to beat them anytime in anything.
Utah – 2 split
A Pac-12 team that is hard to figure. Are they champs or just average. Last year was a small fall from grace as they were just about average after stunning the world in 2016 by winning the Pac-12 title. I think this will be a tough one for the Rebels. The Utes were a mediocre 27-24 that could hit (.287) and pitching was ok at 4.13. Thumbs up for the same reason I gave for Iowa above.
Arizona State – 2 split
This is a storied program in the same vein as USC. However, 2017 is not part of that story as they were a poor 23-32 and only 8-22 in conference. Hitting was ok at best at .270 and pitching was about the same. They did ok in the OOC portion of their schedule but caught hell in conference. Thumbs sideways as I don’t know what kind of team shows up on the field.
Grand Canyon – 2 on the road
A WAC team and they were a mediocre 29-25 that hit well (.293) with poor pitching 5.07. They are a relatively new D1 program and hit the ground running the first few years but last year wasn’t as good. I think they will be eligible for the NCAA tournament if they can manage a good enough record and/or win the WAC Tournament. The WAC doesn’t get much respect. Thumbs up.
West Virginia – 3 on the road
The Mountaineers; another great name. A member of the Big 12 which I’ll never understand. Yep, I’m still living in the 1960’s. Nebraska and Oklahoma on Thanksgiving. How can you top that? Then Nebraska moved on to greener pastures, or so they thought. How’s that worked out folks? Back to West by God Virginia. Not a bad year at 36-26 and then a regional where they went 2-2 eliminating Maryland and getting outed by Wake Forest. Only one comment: 10 games over .500 gets you into a Regional? Really? They hit .287 with a good 53 home runs but they gave up an equal amount with pitching at 4.23. Thumbs up; a tournament team.
Portland – 2 at home
The Pilots were a sad 10-41 overall as a member of the WCC. They used to have great pitching but not recently as the record indicates. I don’t know what has happened. They hit an abysmal .227 and pitching matched that at 6.01. As a Spartans fan I can sympathize. Thumbs down.
A decent schedule that UNLV hopes to use to their advantage. They will have some challenges here in West Virginia, Iowa, and their own season opening tournament. Ah, February weather in the desert is to die for. Go to those games.
This is the last of my OOC schedule analysis and I noticed a few things. Very little in the way of cupcakes such as NAIA or DII teams. I support playing one or two games with NAIA programs but no more. Gets some of the kids off the bench. I would still like to see any programs from the southeast. Not necessarily the SEC but that would be welcome. I’ve talked to coaches and some say they can never get home and home deals. I know San Jose State had tried to get Fullerton to come visit in the past and could never swing a deal for reasons I will not go into. Anyway, far away games are always hard to win and some of those possible opponents don’t travel; at all. Don’t tell me it’s not about money. Uh, what was I going to say? Take out the garbage? Walk the dog? Oh, my next series will probably start after the new year as I will be writing to the coaches to see if they’ll share with me who they think will start. Most respond as they know me a little but some don’t saying they haven’t made up their minds. I can respect that. I will post my ideas in any event. Anyway, don’t hold your breath.
One last thing which involves comments on St. John’s which plays New Mexico in a series. They had a great year last season and I was unconscious when I wrote them up as I missed some returning players. Sean Mooney returns as the Freshman Pitcher of the Year. That’s nation not conference, folks. Joe LaSorsa returns as a freshman AA reliever with great numbers. A third pitcher, Sean Mooney, has received pre-season AA nominations. That is three solid arms that the Lobos will have to face at some point. Good stuff and nuff said.