Commentary

Arizona State set for serious test

Updated: March 12, 2013, 1:18 PM ET
By Graham Hays

Alix JohnsonAP Photo/Alonzo AdamsCoach Clint Meyers and his Sun Devils haven't left Tempe yet this season, but head to California for the Judi Garman Classic this weekend.

1. Oklahoma (22-1)

With apologies to Drake and Northern Colorado, Oklahoma took batting practice over the weekend and picked up four wins for its trouble. The Sooners outscored their opponents 47-2 and needed just one more than the minimum 20 innings to secure four wins, two against each team. This week's schedule at the Judi Garman Classic isn't as difficult as that of some of the other teams in that event, but a second game this season against Arizona looms large. The Sooners won the first meeting 5-0 in Cathedral City.

2. Arizona State (25-1)

Last week was the first chance to see Alabama seriously tested. This week offers the same scenario for Arizona State, which leaves home for the first time all season and faces a full weekend of challenging games for the first time all season at the Judi Garman Classic in California. The highlight should be Thursday's game against Texas, but Michigan and Virginia Tech also await. Pittsburgh, UC Davis and New Mexico State offered little resistance this past weekend.

3. Florida (25-2)

The quickest remodeling job in college softball continues to earn rave reviews, notwithstanding a loss at Auburn over the weekend that prevented a perfect week. In addition to taking two out of three against the Tigers to officially open SEC play, the Gators rallied for six unanswered runs in an 8-4 midweek win at Alabama. It probably isn't fair to pick on last year's team for its mental toughness at this point, but it seems at least worth noting that it rallied to win from a deficit of two or more runs just twice all season.

4. Texas A&M (23-2)

The Aggies are one of four teams with a better slugging percentage than Oklahoma's vaunted lineup (the catch being no team has played a tougher schedule than the Sooners). Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas silenced those bats in the opening game of the past weekend's SEC series, but the Aggies bounced back to chase Thomas en route to an 11-3 win in the second game. Weather wiped out the rubber match. Nicole Morgan and Cali Lanphear, the latter one of the most impressive freshmen out there, are the only teammates in the country with double-digit home runs.

5. Alabama (23-3)

Let's just say it was a tough week for Alabama. The Crimson Tide managed at least a split in every SEC series last season, but they opened conference play this season with two losses in three games at Tennessee. And that came on the heels of a midweek loss at home against Florida in a game that didn't count toward conference standings. Still, Alabama was either ahead or tied in the late innings of all three losses. It was a setback, but it wasn't a team exposed. A stumble this week against South Carolina would be cause for more concern.

6. California (20-2)

A trip to Hawaii is always a mental test. (Hawaii players in the past told stories about knowing which teams took tournaments seriously by noticing which players had sunburns on the backs of their legs from too much pool time.) But this weekend's tournament in Honolulu is a softball test, too, with host Hawaii and Baylor's Whitney Canion among the obstacles to overcome. Jolene Henderson is as good as ever in the circle, but she's also one home run from matching her career high (six) as a hitter.

7. Tennessee (21-4)

A rough finale meant Tennessee actually ceded run margin to Alabama in this past weekend's three-game series, but you get the feeling the team from Knoxville will happily settle for winning two of three. It only gets tougher this week, with a trip to Gainesville for three games against Florida. The Lady Vols last won a game in Gainesville in 2007, and they last won a game in Gainesville pitched by someone other than Monica Abbott in 2001. Actually, that win in 2001 is the only time they beat the Gators in Gainesville without Abbott.

8. Texas (23-3)

Time will tell whether sweeping two games from Louisiana-Lafayette is an impressive accomplishment or the perk of playing an overrated opponent, but it's good enough for now to get the Longhorns back in the top 10. Of particular note a week after losses against Fordham and Hofstra when senior ace Blaire Luna didn't start in the circle, one of the wins against the Ragin' Cajuns came behind a three-hit complete game from Kim Bruins. Thursday's game against Arizona State won't make or break the season, but it's a nice measuring stick.

9. Baylor (22-3)

Granted, Purdue wasn't the highest-profile opponent for a three-game nonconference series this past weekend, but you can't take care of business much more efficiently than the Lady Bears did with three consecutive shutouts. Canion picked up two wins, including an 11-strikeout no-hitter in the finale against the Boilermakers. That sets the stage for -- pitching matchups willing -- a duel between Canion and Henderson in Hawaii this week.

10. Oregon (21-4)

It wasn't a lost weekend for Oregon, but it was a slightly underwhelming one. A marquee game against host Fresno State at a tournament in California was washed out, and Iowa State got the jump on the Ducks in an early-morning start the next day and pulled off the upset. The good news is the Ducks finished their three games with 28 hits and just one error. For a team with a spotty defensive history, that ratio works.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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