Opening Day for South Carolina is this Friday and it's time to preview the 2016 season and get excited about Gamecock baseball! We're starting out with a look at the preseason rankings and expectations for the Gamecocks. Below are the top 25 rankings for each of the five biggest college baseball polls. South Carolina's opponents are italicized.
|D1 Baseball||Baseball America||USA Today Coaches Poll||Perfect Game||Collegiate Baseball|
|3||Vanderbilt||Texas A&M||Vanderbilt||Texas A&M||Vanderbilt|
|4||Texas A&M||Virginia||Texas A&M||Vanderbilt||Miami|
|5||Oregon State||Oregon State||LSU||LSU||Texas A&M|
|8||Oklahoma State||California||Oregon State||California||Oregon State|
|10||NC State||UCLA||Oklahoma State||Louisiana-Lafayette||UCLA|
|12||Southern California||Houston||California||Oregon||Cal State Fullerton|
|16||North Carolina||Southern California||Cal State Fullerton||Houston||Florida State|
|17||South Carolina||Florida State||Mississippi State||Mississippi State||Missouri State|
|19||TCU||NC State||NC State||Oklahoma||Tulane|
|20||Florida State||Mississippi State||Southern California||Florida State||Rice|
|21||Cal State Fullerton||Oklahoma||North Carolina||Coastal Carolina||Georgia Tech|
|22||Houston||Cal State Fullerton||Arkansas||North Carolina||North Carolina|
|23||Texas||Coastal Carolina||South Carolina||Michigan||Michigan|
|24||Coastal Carolina||Ole Miss||Rice||Notre Dame||Arkansas|
|25||Arkansas||Kentucky||Missouri State||Texas Tech||Oklahoma State|
It's no surprise that after last year's massive letdown, nobody is very high on the Gamecocks heading into the 2016 season. South Carolina only appears in the top 25 in two polls, though they are ranked 35th by Collegiate Baseball.
The national expectations for the Gamecocks obviously range a good bit from poll to poll, but with the exception of D1 Baseball everyone believes they're somewhere outside of the top 20. The 2016 team shouldn't be as bad as the 2015 team was (although in fairness, the 2015 team shouldn't have been as bad as it was), but until they demonstrate that there are massive improvements, it's hard to argue against the national perception of where the South Carolina program is.
It is possible for Carolina to turn things around quickly this season with the new, talented players and with improved play from returning players. If Carolina baseball can get back to the level that it should be at, there will be plenty of opportunities for the team to prove itself against tough competition and move up in the rankings. Preseason rankings are, by their very nature, based on guesswork and therefore susceptible to being dramatically wrong. However, it is noteworthy that the Gamecocks have at least five preseason top 25 opponents no matter which poll is used and that nine different Carolina opponents are ranked in at least one poll. Three of South Carolina's conference opponents are consensus top 5 teams and Florida is at the top across the board.
Stay tuned throughout the rest of the week for a breakdown of the different parts of the 2016 Gamecock baseball team as we count down to Opening Day!