Last season, the Virginia Cavaliers ranked as the #2 team in the nation. They won 47 games, 22 conference games. They came within a single game showdown with Vanderbilt of being named College World Series Champions, losing the national title in a deciding third game against the Commodores. They were the preseason #1 team in Baseball America's poll, spent eight weeks atop that ranking, six weeks as the coaches' choice as the best team in the nation.
All that, and they didn't even win their division.
In a whacky year in the ACC, the 'Hoos finished second in the ultra-competitive Coastal Division behind Miami and went 1-2 in the conference tournament. They didn't so much as sniff ACC hardware. But the strength of their roster coupled with their success last season was good enough to seed them as the preseason favorite to win the league crown. The preseason #3 team in the nation, Virginia enters the season as the preseason coaches poll favorite to win the ACC, released on Tuesday.
10 of the 14 ACC coaches voted the Cavaliers to win the ACC Championship with four choosing the preseason Atlantic Division favorite, Florida State, to win the overall crown. The 'Hoos picked up 13 first place votes for the Coastal Division.
Florida State received seven first place votes and 91 points in the Atlantic Division with four first place votes and 84 points or second place conference newcomer Louisville. Clemson slotted third with three first place division votes and 77 overall points. NC State is fourth with 53 votes. Wake Forest is fifth with 39 points. Notre Dame is sixth with 25 points.
The coaches selected Boston College as the last place team in the Atlantic Division with 23 points.
In the Coastal Division, Virginia's 97 points was the overall conference leader, with North Carolina in second place with 78 points. Miami received the only non-Virginia first place vote, but they finished behind the Tar Heels with 75 points. Georgia Tech seeded fourth with 54 points, and Duke was fifth with 43 points. Virginia Tech had 24 points to finish sixth, and Pittsburgh, the overall last place team in the league, received only 21 points.
Boston College, as noted above, is the last place team in the Atlantic Division. Their conference schedule is expected to be brutal right out of the gate with their first six games in conference play at Florida State and Louisville on March 6-8 and 13-15, respectively. The 'Noles and Cardinals are ranked 11th and 12th in the preseason rankings, respectively. Clemson, the third place team, is ranked 28th in the nation.
Both NC State and Wake Forest won 30 games last season. The Eagles finished ahead of only Notre Dame in the division, but the Irish finished with a better overall record at 22-31 (.415 win percentage compared to the 22-33, .400 season by Boston College).
For cross-over games, BC avoids both Miami and Virginia this year, a huge asset considering both went to the national tournament and won 45 games last season. The Hurricanes are the defending regular season conference champions, and they've advanced to the last 42 consecutive national championships dating back to 1973. Virginia's resume is listed above.
Conversely, the Eagles miss Pittsburgh, the overall last place team in the league, meaning they have key series scheduled with Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina. Last season, BC took one of three games against the Tar Heels at home in April. They did not play Georgia Tech, Duke, or Virginia Tech.
In order to make the conference tournament, BC will need to key on those series. The top 10 teams in the league make the ACC Tournament, to be held this year at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, NC. The ACC Tournament utilizes a round robin format with eight teams playing each other in two pools.
The 7th seed plays the 10th seed in a one-game play-in round game, while the 8th seed plays the 9th seed (lower seeds receive the benefit of being the home team in the play-ins). The teams then reseed into two groups with the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 8th seed playing in Division A and the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th seeds playing in Division B. Last season, 9th-seeded Georgia Tech, the lowest team in pool play, won the conference championship. They defeated 8th-seeded Wake Forest in the play-in game, then won Division A with a 2-1 record (winning a head-to-head tie-breaker over Clemson). Maryland, the #6 team, went 2-1 in Division B to advance to the finals (winning a head-to-head tie-breaker over Florida State). Georgia Tech won, 9-4, in the finals to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
For BC's purposes, the road to the ACC Tournament—where they haven't appeared since 2010—goes through those middle-tier teams. Even if they're swept by Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville, they'll still have a good chance to finish in at least 10th place because they avoid Miami and Virginia. Duke went 16-14 in league play last year, while UNC went 15-15, and Georgia Tech went 14-16.
If BC can win two of those three series and split with NC State and Wake Forest, they'll at worst be in position to have 10 league wins. If they can then knock off Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, they'll be in position to have anywhere from 14-16 league wins—last year that gets them into the ACC Tournament as either the ninth or tenth seed.
Boston College opens up the 2015 campaign with a series against Wofford, Xavier, and USC Upstate in South Carolina on February 13-15. They'll then head to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers on February 20-22.