The Regional Chase





See also: Midseason College Update

Here's how Baseball America sees the 64-team NCAA tournament field shaking out. National seeds indicated in parentheses. ^ regional host * automatic qualifier

Fullerton, Calif.
Los Angeles
1. (1) Cal State Fullerton^*1. Southern California^
2. Oregon State
2. Long Beach State
3. Fresno State*3. San Diego*
4. Illinois-Chicago*4. San Diego State*

Columbia, S.C.
Miami, Fla.
1. (2) South Carolina^*1. Winthrop*
2. Wake Forest2. Miami^
3. Elon3. Washington
4. Maine*4. Mercer*

HoustonNorman, Okla.
1. (3) Rice^*
1. Oklahoma^
2. Louisiana State2. North Carolina State
3. Missouri3. Wichita State
4. Southern*4. Oral Roberts

Clemson, S.C.
Tempe, Ariz.
1. (4) Clemson^1. Arizona State^*
2. College of Charleston*2. Kansas
3. Kentucky3. Pepperdine
4. Charlotte*4. Monmouth*

Starkville, Miss.
Atlanta
1. (5) Mississippi State^1. Georgia Tech^
2. Virginia2. Georgia
3. Notre Dame*3. Purdue
4. LeMoyne*4. Kent State*

Chapel Hill, N.C.
Austin, Texas
1. (6) North Carolina^*1. Texas^*
2. Old Dominion*2. Vanderbilt
3. East Carolina3. Tulane
4. Navy*4. Lamar*

Lincoln, Neb.
Fayetteville, Ark.
1. (7) Nebraska^1. Arkansas^
2. UCLA2. Baylor
3. Creighton*3. Cal Poly
4. Harvard*4. Austin Peay State*

Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Tallahassee. Fla.
1. (8) Alabama^1. Florida State^
2. Houston2. Florida
3. Ohio State*3. Florida International*
4. Birmingham-Southern4. Bethune-Cookman*


ANALYSIS

• Expect the committee to place its usual overarching emphasis on the Ratings Percentage Index, meaning that the nine Southeastern Conference teams should tie a record while the Atlantic Coast Conference, now a 12-team league, should benefit with eight selections. The Big 12 and Pacific-10 conferences are so close from top to bottom that league standings could prove the ultimate factor in which teams get in, squeezing out some bubble teams such as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and California.

• Parity makes selecting the final three host sites and No. 1 seeds tricky and often leaves little delineation between teams seeded second and third. Oklahoma earns the third host site and a No. 1 seed based on a projected third-place finish in the Big 12, though it will serve as host at Dale Mitchell Park rather than Oklahoma City's Bricktown Ballpark as the Triple-A team is home that weekend. Like Big South brethren Coastal Carolina a year ago, Winthrop will earn a No. 1 seed based on a strong RPI that includes series wins at Alabama and Miami. The Hurricanes, however, earn the only hosting slot as a No. 2 seed based on a strong RPI. Southern California earns the final host slot based on predictions of a second-place Pac-10 finish, a Top 16 standing in RPI and a need for another West Coast site.

• Louisiana State could push into the host discussion with a strong finish, though at 2-7 in the SEC it must get moving. The committee doesn't select sites based on money, though it might be hard to overlook a Baton Rouge, La., site that has generated nearly $2 million over the last eight seasons.

• No team seeded lower than second has served as a host, but watch for Ohio State to enter the discussion if parity persists and the Buckeyes win the Big 10 regular season and tournament titles. That finish could elevate Ohio State to a No. 2 anyway. Notre Dame could also factor into this discussion with a similar season.

• The Atlantic Sun should produce an interesting finish as North Florida, Kennesaw State and Mercer battle for the regular season title. But UNF and KSU, in their first seasons at Division I after moving up from D-II, aren’t eligible for postseason play, meaning the conference tournament could turn into a wide open shootout for the automatic bid.

• Conference USA entered the season with a chance to put six teams in the tournament, but Central Florida's poor overall showing and average years from Tulane, East Carolina and Southern Mississippi could pull down the league RPI and limit CUSA to four teams. That will make for an interesting battle of those three teams and Houston to join Rice in the 64-team field.

• UNC Wilmington and James Madison both are off to strong starts, but the selection committee scoffed at UNCW's 40-19, 21-3 record last year and left it out of the tournament after it lost in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. It also makes one wonder what might happen to Old Dominion (29-3, 12-0) should it falter in this year's conference tournament.

• St. John's and West Virginia, both off to strong starts in the Big East after double-digit win streaks, both could be among the last teams bumped out. Their schedules haven't featured enough southern flavor to earn favor in comparison to similar clubs such as Birmingham-Southern and Elon that have played and beaten better opponents.

• The Big West doesn’t own the same national prominence as the ACC, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC, though it ranks right with those leagues as a baseball conference with great teams and top-to-bottom strength. Last year, Cal Poly got snubbed despite the same overall and conference record as Long Beach State, a No. 1 seed and regional host. Series wins against Fresno State, San Diego and Washington should help earn Poly a bid this year, but UC Irvine and Pacific also should end up with resumes that merit inclusion.

• San Diego State started 6-24 and lost 14 straight games, but earns the projection as the Mountain West's representative. Why? The Aztecs rebounded from that start (which came against the nation's fourth-most difficult nonconference schedule) to win the league's preseason tournament, beating favorites Texas Christian and Nevada-Las Vegas in the process.