The favorite in the Atlantic is the #7 Louisville Cardinals. Dan McDonnell’s club will be led by a bevy of high-quality bats, including star 3B Alex Binelas (First Team All-American), catcher Henry Davis, and outfielder Levi Usher (both Second Team All-Americans). The Cardinals’ whole lineup is back from the COVID-shortened season, and the stars are looking to push this team further than their 2019 Omaha run got them.
It is always tough to recover when you lose first round draft picks, and even harder when those players are in the starting rotation. That is the case for The Cards, who lost Reid Detmers (10th overall) and Bobby Miller (29th overall) to the 2020 MLB Draft. Glenn Albanese and former closer Michael Kirian will look to fill those starting shoes and fiery Senior Luke Smith will round out the rotation. Louisville’s only question mark might be their starting rotation, but they will make up for that in bullpen arms. Head Coach Dan McDonnell likes Sophomore Jared Poland to take over the closer job from Kirian. Louisville is talented enough to make a push for Omaha in 2021.
Dark Horse Wake Forest did not have a great start to the 2020 season, which is why they are the Atlantic’s “dark horse”, but their powerful bats will help them in 2021. The Demon Deacons offense is led by 1B Bobby Seymour and OF Chris Lanzilli, who were among those that would have otherwise been drafted, if not for the shortened draft. Demon Deacons fans should consider themselves lucky that they get to experience not only that talented duo another year, but also DH Shane Muntz and C Brendan Tinsman, who were both draft eligible and returned for another year. Lanzilli, Muntz, and Tinsman all hit double-digit home runs in 2019, and they look to headline an extremely dangerous offense for 2021.
With Jared Shuster being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2020, the tall, fastball-throwing machine known as Ryan Cusick will take over the Friday night role and be the anchor for an otherwise talented Wake pitching staff.
What to Watch for
The ACC’s divisions are pretty balanced, historically-speaking. This year, however, pay attention to how many of the teams in the Atlantic division are in the tournament at the end of the year. Five of these teams are near “locks” for making the postseason and the other two are on the bubble, with the ability to play themselves into consideration. Louisville, Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, and Clemson are the teams that will be solidly in the tournament at the end of the season, while Boston College and Notre Dame are the bubble teams. If one team out of the Atlantic could be left out, it is likely to be Notre Dame. However, the Irish also finished the shortened 2020 season strong (including a sweep of North Carolina on the road), so look for them to ride that hot streak and maybe make some noise in 2021.