Just a week after the reveal of the 2012 schedule, Mizzou softball fans have something else to get excited about. ESPN preseason rankings were announced this morning and Mizzou found itself with the highest preseason ranking in school history. The Tigers will go into the season ranked 5th in the country only behind Florida, California, Alabama, and the defending National Champion Arizona State Sun Devils.
With the number five ranking, Mizzou is also the top rated Big 12 team going into the season. The Tigers are one of six ranked teams in the Big 12 along with Oklahoma at number six, Baylor at seven, Texas A&M at 15, Oklahoma State tied for 16, and Texas at 19. The Pac-12 continued its legacy of softball dominance this season, having seven ranked teams. While the Big 12 and the SEC, ironically, both had six ranked teams. With the numbers being so close this season it can’t help but be noted that if Mizzou was playing in the SEC this season the Pac-12 would be tied with another conference for number of preseason ranked teams for the first time in NCAA softball history.
While the news of receiving a top five ranking is exciting to any Mizzou softball fans, there is a catch. The Tigers aren’t the undisputed number 5 team in the country. Early this week the USA Today/ NFCA poll was released with Oklahoma at number five and Mizzou at number six. The Sooners will definitely provide a test for any team this year. They have a majority of their 2011 squad returning this season along with a talented young class of freshman. Five members of the Oklahoma team also saw international action this offseason, which will make them a force to be reckoned with, especially at the plate. Keilani Ricketts, Jessica Shults, Destinee Martinez, and Lauren Chamberlain all suited up for the US national team over the offseason to go up against some of the best pitching in the world. Chelsea Thomas and the rest of the Tigers will have their hands full with this powerful lineup.