Chip Hale has taken Arizona to the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons coaching his alma mater, just barely sneaking in a year ago. Based on preseason predictions, making it three in a row may be difficult.
The Wildcats were picked to finish ninth out of 11 schools in the Pac-12 this season by the league’s coaches, it was announced Wednesday:
The UA will host the top three teams in the predicted Pac-12 standings at home this season, along with ASU and Washington State. Arizona’s toughest road trips, based on projections, include the opening series at USC on March 8-10 and at Oregon later that month. The top nine schools will advance to the Pac-12 Tournament in Scottsdale.
Arizona is coming off a 33-26 season in which it reached the Pac-12 tourney final, a run that helped it grab one of the last at-large bids to the NCAA tourney. The Wildcats then went 0-2 at the Fayetteville Regional, opening with a loss to eventual College World Series participant TCU and then getting eliminated by Santa Clara.
Gone from that team are five players who were taken in the 2023 MLB Draft, including first-round pick Chase Davis and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Nik McClaughry. Arizona also lost center fielder Mac Bingham and right-handed starting pitcher Aiden May, among others, to the NCAA transfer portal.
The top returners include outfielder Emilio Corona, infielders Garen Caulfield and Mason White and pitchers Jackson Kent, Trevor Long, Dawson Netz and Bradon Zastrow. The Wildcats have a new pitching coach in Kevin Vance, as well as a new player development director in John DeRouin.
The UA opens the 2024 season on Nov. 16 at Hi Corbett Field against Northeastern, the start of a 3-game series.