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The Road to Omaha has officially begun with the unveiling of the PG Top 25 rankings.
North Carolina leads the way entering the 2013 campaign, but certainly has some stiff company throughout the top 25. For instance, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Stanford, ranked 2,3 and 4, respectively, also had compelling cases to be the nation's top-ranked team.
Plenty of other squads also have a great chance to stake their claim this spring.
Without further ado, we take an in-depth look at teams in our rankings and make a compelling case for each.
1. NORTH CAROLINA
Head coach: Mike Fox
Conference: Atlantic Coast
2012 record: 46-16, 22-8 ACC
2012 accomplishment: Hosted Chapel Hill NCAA Regional
Top returning pitcher: LHP Kent Emanuel -- The talented left-handed pitcher had a fantastic sophomore campaign for the Heels last season, going 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA in 110 innings. He also struck out 100 and walked 23, while teams hit him at a .228 clip.
Top returning hitter: 3B Colin Moran -- The Tar Heels should be improved offensively with Moran back in the saddle. He had a productive sophomore campaign, hitting .365 with 11 doubles, a home run, three homers and 35 RBIs. He also slugged .494, had a .434 OBP and struck out 24 times (21 walks).
Freshman to watch: OF Skye Bolt -- The former Perfect Game All-American had a productive fall and will earn significant playing time this spring. Bolt was ranked No. 76 nationally out of high school, and is a polished hitter with plenty of upside.
Prospects to watch: 3B Colin Moran, LHP Kent Emanuel, LHP Hobbs Johnson, C Matt Roberts, 1B Cody Stubbs
Why to feel good: The Tar Heels might have something to prove at the plate, but the pitching staff is national championship worthy right now. UNC has an excellent weekend rotation with left-handers Kent Emanuel and Hobbs Johnson and right-hander Benton Moss leading the charge. Emanuel went 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA in 110 innings. He also has great command with a fastball into the low 90s. Johnson went 7-1 last season with a 1.56 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season, while Moss went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA in 79 innings. He also struck out 83 and walked 23. That's only the tip of the iceberg, as relievers Chris McCue (2.10, 25.2), Tate Parrish (2.89, 9.1), Chris O'Brien (3.46, 41.1), Shane Taylor (3.48, 41.1), Mason McCullough (3.86, 9.1) and Luis Paula (5.95, 19.2) return for another season. Also keep an eye on right-hander Chris Munnelly, who will serve as the midweek starter, while sophomore righty Trevor Kelley has really impressed with the coaching staff with his new-look motion.
Why there might be concern: North Carolina has potential to be a solid offensive club, but that potential must be put into practice this spring. The Tar Heels have a fantastic returning leading hitter in third baseman Colin Moran, but otherwise, don't return a single hitter that finished last season with a batting average .300 or better. Outfielders Chaz Frank (.293/0/39), Parks Jordan (.270/0/31) and Brian Holberton (.297/1/15) must rise to the occasion, while the same goes for first baseman Cody Stubbs (.258/5/35), and infielders Mike Zolk (.255/0/26) and Michael Russell (.269/0/24).
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