Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Conference USA Forecast

Team that might surprise us all: UAB Blazers
The 2013 UAB Blazers after they upset #15 Louisville in the
Regional round.
     (You're probably questioning me already: "Justin," you're saying, "how is a team that reached the Super Regionals last season going to surprise anybody?" The Blazers took the regular-season crown and were surprisingly upset by the Marshall Thundering Herd in the conference tournament semifinals. They rebounded in the NCAA tournament, upsetting both #15 seed Louisville and UCLA in the regional before losing two one-run games in the Gainesville Super Regional. The surprise will come in, I believe, when the Blazers repeat and perhaps even better that feat. Conference USA is, for the most part, a very level, even conference, but UAB is one of maybe two or three that stand out head-and-shoulders above their conference foes. I honestly expect Marla Townsend's team to repeat much of their 2013 success, and put up a good fight to go even farther in the postseason. The pitching duo of Lannah Campbell & Leigh Streetman is a great one, and while three of the squad's top five 2013 hitters have graduated, I expect first baseman/designated hitter Kristen McGrath to have a breakout season at the

Team that might disappoint us all: None
     (Like I said above, this is a very level conference, and I really couldn't come up with any team that fits this spot. There are a few that may have "down" seasons from their 2013 campaign, but none so much as to qualify for this spot.)

Player of the Year: Taylor Schoblocher, North Texas
Pitcher of the Year: Aimee Creger, Tulsa
Coach of the Year: Marla Townsend, UAB

Conference Champs: UAB Blazers

Players to Watch:
Ashley Kirk, North Texas - One of the very understated potential NPF draft picks for this season, Kirk's one of the best pitchers in Mean Green history. She's a dominant strikeout-oriented hurler, with a sub-2.40 ERA and a .203 opponent's batting average in her 2013 stat line. I may have predicted Aimee Creger to be Pitcher of the Year, but I think Kirk stands the best chance of anybody in the conference to "upset" Creger for that award. A second-team all-conference selection last season, I fully expect to see her earn a first-team nod this campaign.

Kaelynn Greene, Marshall - Shonda Stanton is going to need a couple of breakout superstars this season, and Greene is primed and set to be someone who fills that role. After a freshman campaign that will go down as one of the best in Herd softball's history, Greene comes into 2014 looking to build even on that, and I honestly believe she will do so. She was named to the all-conference first team, as well as the all-freshman team, and ranked in the top ten in three different categories in Conference USA. I fully expect another first-team nod and a couple of top-five finish in conference statistical categories.

Laura Dukes, Middle Tennessee - On a floundering MTSU team, Dukes is a shining star. She led her squad in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and walks in 2013, and I see no reason she won't continue that pace this season. I don't think a .290/12/30 line is out of reach for her by any means.

Conference Projection:
1. UAB
2. Tulsa
3. North Texas
4. East Carolina
5. Marshall
6. Louisiana Tech
8. Florida International


  1. Very hard to review and forecast a conference when you omit one third of the conference. You have left out Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee and Southern Mississippi.

    1. If you'll notice (you can even look back at last year's Forecasts), I've always mentioned just the top eight teams for each and every conference. The teams that I've left out of the projected standings are those that I believe will be in the bottom of the standings. Thanks for commenting.

    2. Good enough. Since I just started reading your blog, it would have been nice to have been aware that these were the top 8 teams.