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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Six Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

We've made lots of predictions over the last month. Some were a little out there, some a bit more sane. But as we continue counting down the last few days to the Division 1 regular-season's start, here are a sextet of bold predictions for the season to come:

1. There will be no more than one PAC-12 team in the Women's College World Series.
The nation's traditionally-dominant conference has slipped of late, thanks in no small part to the emergence and depth of the SEC's softball contingent. Though I expect several PAC teams to make the NCAA tournament, we will not see any more than one of them in Oklahoma City.

2. At least six Power Five schools will see coaching changes at season's end.
The coaching carousel never stops - and it will hit the Power Five group of schools in a big way after this season. Barring disaster, I do not expect any midseason firings, but at least six of the fifty-four P5 schools will see change at the head coaching position before 2017, and that number could grow.

3. A pitcher will not be named Player of the Year for only the third time ever.
Not since 2011 has a non-pitcher won the National Player of the Year award and only two field players in history (namely Stacey Nuveman and Ashley Hansen) have taken home the trophy. In recent years, the award has been predominantly bestowed upon "dual-threat" players who pitch and swing the bat, but with so many talented offensive stars at the top of the game, 2016 will see a full-time position player add the POTY trophy to their mantlepiece.

4. 30% of the top ten Player of the Year finalists will come from mid-majors.
Several mid-major schools have come on strong over the last several seasons. Postseason stalwart Louisiana-Lafayette remains a highly-ranked team year-in and year-out. James Madison has made a strong push over the last few years. UCF, part of the American and just outside the Power Five, has become a postseason regular. Several schools have ace pitchers or offensive stars that have challenged for all-American awards and at least a handful of those same stars will be named among the ten best in the country at season's end.

5. Florida State will relinquish their position as the second-best team in the Sunshine State.
Second-best is not exactly a sought-after title, but with the twice-defending champion Gators firmly entrenched at #1, second is not a bad place to be. The Seminoles have had a lock on the spot and have challenged the Gators for #1 at times, but with a pitching staff firmly in "TBD" status and other questions abounding, coupled with the success of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic especially, this will be the year that the 'Noles are not a sure-fire second-best.

6. A Division 2 player will be drafted to the professional level for the first time ever.
As far as my research shows and sources can recall, no Division 2 player has ever been drafted to play in the NPF. That will change this year. Two players I specifically have my eye on - and both of whom make appearances on my Big Board, to be released shortly - are UIndy pitcher Morgan Foley and UMSL pitcher Hannah Perryman. Both have stellar statistics and dominance from the circle. This will be the year that the Division-Two-to-Pro path will be blazed in the sport of softball.

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