UCLA is picked to finish 3rd in the Pac-11 this season (it can't be the Pac-12 if one team doesn't field a team) in the annual coaches' preseason poll. Oregon State is picked to win, and Oregon is picked to finish 2nd. This is consistent with the Baseball America preseason top 25.
Last year, UCLA was picked to finish 2nd behind Stanford. Oregon State was picked to finish 3rd and Oregon was picked to finish 4th. The final actual standings last year were Oregon St 1, Oregon 2, UCLA 3, and Arizona St and Stanford tied for 4th.
Finishing 3rd in the conference worked fine for UCLA last season, on the road through Omaha to the national championship. The key in terms of conference finish, at least to me, is whether you host in the regionals and the super-regionals. Finishing 3rd last season was not a problem in terms of being the regional host. Oregon St and Oregon both hosted super-regionals last season. Finishing 3rd last season was a problem for UCLA in terms of having to beat Cal State Fullerton on the road in the super-regionals. I am not sure we should count on being able to pull that off every year.
Baseball America is publishing conference previews every day, alphabetically. Pac-12 should hit early next week. The conference previews to date help shed some more light on UCLA's opponents.
UCLA plays Cal Poly in a 3 game series at home, Feb 21-23. Cal Poly is not in Baseball America's top 25, but is projected to finish 2nd behind Fullerton and to make the NCAA tourney.
UCLA plays UCSB in a home and away mid-week series, home on Feb 25 and away on April 29. UCSB is not in Baseball America's top 25, but is projected to finish 3rd behind Fullerton and Cal Poly and to also make the NCAA tourney.
UCLA plays Houston in a single game at home on March 8. Houston is projected as a NCAA tourney team, finishing 2nd in the new AAC conference behind Louisville. They have 2 quality starting pitchers, so UCLA is bound to see one of them.
UCLA plays UC Irvine in a home and away mid-week series, home on March 11 and away on May 13. Irvine is projected by Baseball America as "in the mix" for a spot in the NCAA tourney. The same holds for Long Beach State, who also play in a home and away mid-week series, home on March 25 and away on April 4.
There are also individual games (NC State), midweek series (Fullerton) and weekend conference series against preseason top 25 teams (Oregon, Oregon State), and other likely projected NCAA tourney teams from the Pac 11. I will add the info on the additional Pac 11 teams from the Baseball America preview early next week.
There don't seem to be too many Prairie View's and Chattanooga's on the baseball schedule. Should make for some interesting times.
Final note- ESPN released its regular season national TV schedule, and the Bruins are on twice. Game 2 of the series at Arizona, on Saturday night, April 12, will be televised on ESPNU beginning at 7:30pm. And game 2 of the home series vs. Stanford, on Saturday night, May 3, will also be televised on ESPNU beginning at 7pm.
Go Bruins !!