Baseball misses sweep, has tougher road ahead
For the third weekend in a row, USF took two of three games from a Big East rival, but after Sunday's 6-0 loss at Seton Hall, we can take a step back and address the Bulls' Big East season as a whole.
The first measure of any USF baseball success will be reaching the Big East tournament in Clearwater -- only the top eight of the conference's 12 teams get to play there. Toward that end, USF's 7-5 conference record puts them in fifth place right now, though the Bulls are only two games ahead of ninth place with 15 games to play. Plenty still to be determined.
Two things to remember: the Big East schedule is inherently unkind to USF this spring, and it's only going to get tougher for the Bulls.
On the first note, remember that baseball, much like Big East football, has an unbalanced schedule, with some conference teams having more home games than others in any given season. The conference baseball season is 27 games, or nine 3-game series, and USF has four at home this year with five on the road. To make matters worse, each Big East team has two conference rivals they don't play -- and USF's are pretty weak this year. The Bulls don't have to play Cincinnati (4-6, 10th place) and Georgetown (1-10, 12th), so they essentially have the toughest conference schedule in the conference, at least as it can be measured on this exact day.
On the second note, USF's remaining Big East opponents are substantially tougher than what the Bulls have faced so far. The four opponents they've played are a combined 19-26 in conference play; the remaining five are 37-21 (and three of the five series are on the road). That includes series against the current top three in the league: Connecticut (10-2), Pittsburgh (8-3) and St. John's (8-4), plus road series at Louisville (6-6) and Notre Dame (5-6). In other words, all five remaining series are against teams with better records than the Seton Hall team that beat USF 6-0 on Sunday.
One thing in USF's favor is that across the board, there is ridiculous parity in the Big East this year. No team has more than 21 wins right now, and no team has fewer than 12 losses. If last-place Georgetown were to take a three-game sweep from first-place Louisville, they'd have the same number of overall wins. That means that only one Big East team is probably making the NCAA Tournament, but that team could be just about anyone good enough to make the field in Clearwater next month.
So while the Bulls have won three straight series and are in fifth place entering the middle weekend of the conference season, they will have to play better over the next five weeks just to be in that same position when the regular season ends on May 21.