Projected Field Of 64: May 14

Southeastern Conference could get nine bids




NCAA TOURNAMENT FIELD OF 64
Miami Queens, N.Y. College Station, Texas Palo Alto, Calif.
1. (1) Miami^* 1. Coastal Carolina^ 1. (5) Texas A&M^* 1. Stanford^
2. Florida 2. St. John's^* 2. Vanderbilt 2. Pepperdine
3. Houston 3. Virginia 3. Texas Christian* 3. UC Davis
4. Lipscomb* 4. Stony Brook* 4. Monmouth* 4. Wright State*
 
Tempe, Ariz. Irvine, Calif. Tallahassee, Fla. Baton Rouge, La.
1. (2) Arizona State^* 1. UC Irvine^ 1. (6) Florida State^ 1. Louisiana State^
2. Long Beach State 2. Arizona 2. South Carolina 2. Tulane
3. Alabama 3. Kentucky 3. Dallas Baptist 3. Oregon State
4. Columbia* 4. Fresno State* 4. Bethune-Cookman* 4. Kent State*
 
Cary, N.C. Ann Arbor, Mich. Athens, Ga. Hattiesburg, Miss.
1. (3) North Carolina^ 1. San Diego* 1. (7) Georgia^* 1. Southern Mississippi^
2. UNC Wilmington* 2. Michigan^* 2. Georgia Tech 2. New Orleans*
3. Elon* 3. Missouri 3. Charlotte* 3. Mississippi
4. Navy* 4. Notre Dame 4. Jacksonville State* 4. Jackson State*
 
Houston Stillwater, Okla. Lincoln, Neb. Fullerton, Calif.
1. (4) Rice^* 1. Oklahoma State^ 1. (8) Nebraska^ 1. Cal State Fullerton^*
2. North Carolina State 2. Wichita State* 2. East Carolina 2. California
3. Texas 3. Arkansas 3. Oral Roberts* 3. Santa Clara
4. Texas-San Antonio* 4. College of Charleston 4. Canisius* 4. Baylor
* Conference Champion
^ Regional host

REGIONAL ANALYSIS

• Georgia and Louisiana State have emerged as near-locks to host regionals out of the Southeastern Conference, but the rest of the league is a muddle. The league is as deep as ever, which is reflected by its nine NCAA tournament bids, but it lacks teams that have played well enough consistently to earn No. 1 seeds. With a strong finish, Vanderbilt has the best chance to move up into hosting range thanks to the best combination of a solid Ratings Percentage Index (24 according to boydsworld.com) and a solid conference record (15-11). Of the nine SEC teams in the field, Alabama has the worst RPI (53) but has helped its cause with four straight series wins. Taking two out of three against Vandy, Mississippi, Arkansas and Florida will speak loudly even if the Crimson Tide gets swept at Georgia this weekend and misses out on the SEC tournament. Most conferences (especially the Sun Belt, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast) have fewer regional-worthy teams this year than they did in 2007, and the SEC will capitalize by sending nine teams to regionals for the second time in four years.

• Barring a miracle run through the ACC tournament, Clemson will miss out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1986. The Tigers still have an RPI in at-large range (37), but losing their last two series against Florida State and Georgia Tech dropped them to 26-25 overall and 11-18 in conference play. That's just not going to get it done. But even though the ACC gets just six bids for the first time since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005, it still nets three of the eight national seeds (Miami, North Carolina and Florida State). North Carolina State and Georgia Tech are both vying for a fourth host site out of the ACC, and a strong finish could push either team over the top. But both are on the road this weekend, as the Wolfpack visits Florida State and the Yellow Jackets visit Virginia. It's a must-win series for the Cavaliers, who have yet to win a series against a likely regional team—they've lost to N.C. State, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina while padding their record against the league's soft underbelly. We're projecting they take care of business at home this weekend, thus propelling themselves to a regional and spoiling Tech's hosting ambitions.

• Baylor is the last team into the field of 64 and the sixth from the Big 12, and the Bears will need to win a road series against Texas Tech this weekend to have a shot. The Bears have just one series win all year against a regional team (they took two of three at home against Oklahoma State in March) and have lost three consecutive weekend series. But there's just no one with a better resume out there, and at least Baylor has a decent RPI (43). Missouri, like Kentucky, could move up to a No. 2 seed with a strong finish, but the Tigers will have to deal with Nebraska this weekend in Columbia, Mo. The Tigers, who are ranked No. 15 in the nation, stick out as a No. 3 seed, but bad losses to Minnesota, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois, Texas Tech and Kansas hurt their RPI (46), as do nine games against Indiana State, Toledo and South Dakota State. Still, beating Nebraska could render all of that moot.

• Being swept at home by Tulane this past weekend ruined East Carolina's hosting chances, and Southern Mississippi is a deserving replacement out of Conference USA, which has hosted just one regional each of the last three years. But it's been a good year for CUSA, which seems likely to send five teams to regionals. Houston remains on the bubble, but series wins against ECU, Tulane, San Fransisco and UC Santa Barbara should be enough to get the Cougars in.

• The Pac-10 is as deep and competitive as it has ever been, but pencil it in for five bids unless UCLA, Washington or Washington State can make some serious noise in the next two weeks. The Cougars have a strong enough RPI (29) to get in if they can get close to .500 in the league—right now they're just 6-12 with series remaining at UCLA and home against Southern California. At 25-23 overall and 8-10 in conference, UCLA just needs wins, starting with a must-win series this weekend against Washington State and continuing with trips to Cal State Fullerton for a midweek game and California for a three-game series next week. With a 54 RPI, the Bruins are still alive if they can finish strong, but right now they're hanging their hats on a series win at Arizona in March—a flimsy foundation. Washington's case looks good at first glance—the Huskies are in third place in the league with a 10-8 record. But further inspection reveals a weak RPI (89) and series remaining against league leaders Arizona State and Stanford. Of course, winning those series would do wonders for UW's RPI, but there's a reason for that: those series will be difficult to win. For now, all three of those teams get left out in the cold.

• Other multiple-bid league include the Big West (four), West Coast Conference (three), Southern Conference (two) and Big East (two). UC Davis, Santa Clara, College of Charleston and Notre Dame get in off the bubble, but none of them can afford any hiccups in the next two weeks.