DALLAS (NCBWA) – The Florida Gators are pre-competition No. 1 nationally for the first time in school history in the 2012 National Collegiate Baseball Writers 15th annual Division I preseason poll.
Coach Kevin O'Sullivan's crew was runner-up to fellow Southeastern Conference powerhouse South Carolina in the 2011 NCAA World Series and has a very solid nucleus returning. All-America catcher and 2011 SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino (.371 average-19 homers-67 RBI) is one of the top returnees along with dual threat Brian Johnson (8-3 pitching record, .307-5-29) and All-America DH Preston Tucker for the Gators.
Two-time defending NCAA champ South Carolina is No. 2 in the opening survey while 2011 NCAA Division I World Series participants North Carolina (No. 3 this year), Texas A&M (No. 5), Texas (No. 7), Vanderbilt (No. 11), Virginia (No. 23), and California (No, 26) return after being ranked among the Top Eight in the final NCBWA poll last June. Last year's preseason No. 1 TCU is No. 13 in the 2012 lidlifter.
The NCBWA continues its tradition of NCAA Division I polls for the 15th year with its 2012 preseason predictions and weekly surveys. Weekly polls will resume from Feb. 21-June 28 with the finale following the 66th annual 2012 NCAA World Series in Omaha, Neb., at two-year-old TD Ameritrade Park.
The poll voters come from 40 college baseball writers and related media persons from throughout the nation. After a preseason Top 35 listing, the remainder of the polls will feature a national Top 30 beginning with the Feb. 21 NCBWA survey.
LSU held down the No. 1 slot in the 1998, 2001 and '09 polls. Other NCBWA preseason No. 1 placers have been Southern California (1999), Miami (Fla.) (2000), Stanford (2002), Texas (2003, '06, '10), Rice (2004, '07), Cal State Fullerton (2005), Arizona State (2008), North Carolina (2009), and TCU (2011). South Carolina never had won a DI baseball crown before capturing the trophy in both 2010 and '11.
Last season, five different teams were rated No, 1 – TCU, UCLA, Florida, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and the champion Gamecocks.
This preseason poll has representation by 10 different conferences and independent Dallas Baptist among the 291 baseball-playing schools in the 2012 NCAA Division I ranks. The polls of 2011 had teams from 16 different DI conferences rated at least one week.