West Coast Crunch

I got to thinking today about the NCAA bid situation out on the West Coast, and it occurred to me that the Pepperdine-Gonzaga series this weekend is going to be huge. The Waves and Bulldogs are tied in the loss column in the West Coast Conference race, and should Gonzaga take two out of three this weekend in Malibu, it is likely to secure second place in the conference and earn a trip to San Diego for the best-of-three WCC championship series against the Toreros. That would put the Zags in pretty good shape for an at-large bid despite an RPI of 85. Under that scenario, Pepperdine would still get in from the WCC, but that might bump a Big West team out of a regional. The Pacific-10 Conference is likely to get just four bids this year, barring a serious run by Washington, which would seem to open the door for four Big West teams to get in (Long Beach State, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton). The fact that the Titans are unlikely to win the conference probably helps, because Fullerton will probably get an at-large berth even if it finishes fourth in the league, based on RPI and reputation. But if Gonzaga can secure second place in the WCC, you might see the Titans or Highlanders get squeezed out.

Wednesday saw a couple of upsets that could have marginal impacts on the postseason picture. Three middle-of-the-pack Atlantic Coast Conference teams were knocked off, as Clemson fell to Furman, North Carolina State lost to UNC Wilmington, and Georgia Tech lost a game and the season series to Georgia. Speaking of the Southeastern Conference, the tidal wave of angry e-mails flooding my inbox from Starkville has slowed to a trickle, as Mississippi State dropped its second straight midweek game to Austin Peay State. The Bulldogs might very well be a top-25 caliber team despite its current position outside the rankings, but those two losses won’t help MSU in its quest to host a regional.

Two 10-game winning streaks were on the line yesterday, and both remain intact. Delaware extended its winning streak to 11 with a 5-2 win over LaSalle. All of a sudden the red-hot Blue Hens are just a game behind Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association standings, and that potent Delaware offense might make it the favorite. And Rice, which took over the No. 1 spot in the latest RPI rankings released Wednesday, extended its winning streak to 11 with a 6-4 win against Texas State.