Extolling ACC baseball is like berating the IRS. It's an easy mark – darn near all the time. But the sheer volume of 2013's quality merits compilation as the conference enters the regular season's final week and prepares for the league tournament – and beyond.
Start with the NCAA's Rating Percentage Index – yes, the RPI has infested sports other than basketball. The most recent version, posted Tuesday morning, has 10 of the ACC's 12 teams among the top 35, led by Nos. 2 North Carolina, 3 Virginia, 5 Florida State, 7 North Carolina State, 12 Clemson and 13 Virginia Tech.
Oh, and future ACC members Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are Nos. 21, 42 and 64. The lone league teams below Pitt are No. 67 Duke and No. 166 Boston College.
By comparison, eight Southeastern Conference teams are among the top 25.
North Carolina and Virginia rank 1-3 nationally in scoring at 8.6 and 8.1 runs per game. The Tar Heels are fifth in team ERA at 2.44, obscenely low in the aluminum-bat era.
For you sabermetric buffs: The NCAA tracks WHIP (walks plus hits-per-inning), and UNC and U.Va. are 10th and 17th.
Individually, N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon averages a Division I-best 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He's fanned 122 in 82 innings.
Also, Georgia Tech's Daniel Palka and Zane Evans are among the top 10 in home runs with 15 and 14, respectively. North Carolina's Colin Moran and Cody Stubbs are Nos. 1 and 4 in RBI with 78 and 65, while Virginia's Mike Papi checks in at 12th in batting average at .403.
Fittingly, the ACC's best, the Tar Heels (45-6, 20-5) and Cavaliers (42-8, 20-7), close the league regular season with a three-game set Thursday-Saturday in Chapel Hill. Coaches Mike Fox and Brian O'Connor may rest regulars as postseason beckons, but if they stick to their pitching rotations, the matchups will be compelling.
Freshman southpaw Brandon Waddell (4-1) has emerged as Virginia's No. 1 weekend starter, while junior lefty Kent Emanuel (9-2) is North Carolina's ace for a second consecutive year. Both teams' No. 2 starters, Cavaliers senior right-hander Scott Silverstein and Tar Heels sophomore righty Benton Moss, are 8-1.
Moreover, Virginia closer Kyle Crockett, a left-handed junior from Poquoson, is No. 2 in the conference with 10 saves. He's worked to a 1.26 ERA.
Seeding for the ACC and NCAA tournaments hardly makes for high stakes, but this series could well be Super Regional-caliber.
Virginia and North Carolina have warm-up games Tuesday night at home, the Cavaliers versus VCU, the Tar Heels against Appalachian State.
This will mark Virginia's 10th consecutive NCAA tournament, all under O'Connor. The Cavaliers advanced to the College World Series in 2009 and '11.
North Carolina's NCAA streak is poised to reach 12, and the Tar Heels have reached five College World Series in the last seven years. They were runners-up in 2006 and '07.
The ACC tournament is May 22-26 in Durham, N.C., and with Tyler Horan, Mark Zagunis, Chad Pinder, Andrew Rash and Sean Keselica hitting between .315 and .332, Virginia Tech (33-19, 13-14) has clinched a spot in the eight-team event for the first time since 2010.
Coach Pete Hughes' Hokies, who won two of three from Virginia last month, close the regular season Thursday-Saturday at home against Wake Forest (28-24, 9-18, No. 38 RPI). Comrade Wood will have much more on Poquoson grad Pinder and Tech later this week in the Daily Press.
How all this translates to NCAA tournament bids is unclear. The most ACC teams to make the NCAA tournament was eight in 2010, when Clemson and Florida State advanced to the CWS.
The NCAA will unveil its 64-team bracket May 27, Memorial Day, at noon on ESPNU.
As mentioned every year around this time, for all the ACC's depth, no league team has won the College World Series since Wake in 1955, a baffling drought for a conference this good.
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