Projected Field Of 64: March 9

Gainesville, FL Lafayette, LA
1. (1) Florida^* 1. Louisiana-Lafayette^*
2. Tulane 2. Arkansas
3. Texas Tech 3. Southeastern Louisiana*
4. Penn* 4. Wright State*
College Station, TX Tallahassee, FL
1. (2) Texas A&M^ 1. Florida State^
2. Dallas Baptist* 2. Florida Atlantic*
3. Rice 3. Maryland
4. Alabama State* 4. Florida Gulf Coast*
Corvallis, OR Charlottesville, VA
1. (3) Oregon State^* 1. Virginia^
2. Michigan* 2. Mississippi State
3. Clemson 3. Michigan State
4. Southeast Missouri State* 4. Richmond*
Louisville, KY Los Angeles
1. (4) Louisville^* 1. UCLA^
2. Oklahoma State 2. Georgia Tech
3. Missouri State 3. UC Irvine
4. Quinnipiac* 4. San Diego*
Nashville Chapel Hill, NC
1. (5) Vanderbilt^ 1. North Carolina^
2. UNC Wilmington* 2. Alabama
3. Washington 3. Coastal Carolina*
4. Stony Brook* 4. Kent State*
Eugene, OR Oxford, MS
1. (6) Oregon^ 1. Mississippi^
2. Kentucky 2. North Carolina State
3. Fresno State* 3. Southern Mississippi
4. Creighton* 4. Bryant*
Coral Gables, FL Baton Rouge, LA
1. (7) Miami^ 1. Louisiana State^
2. College of Charleston 2. East Carolina
3. South Florida 3. Southern California
4. Florida A&M* 4. Navy*
Fort Worth, TX Berkeley, CA
1. (8) Texas Christian^* 1. California^
2. Houston* 2. Cal State Fullerton*
3. Oral Roberts* 3. South Carolina
4. Mercer* 4. Cal State Bakersfield*
*-Automatic qualifier; ^-Regional host

Bids By Conference
10: SEC
8: ACC
6: Pac-12
4: American
3: Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA
2: Big West, Colonial, Missouri Valley
1: A-Sun, A-10, America East, Big South, Big East, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, NEC, OVC, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summit, Sun Belt, WAC, WCC

New At-Large Bids: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan State

Dropping Out: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas

On The Radar: Long Beach State, Troy, Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara, Tennessee, Stanford, Gardner-Webb, South Alabama, Brigham Young

Field of 64 Thoughts

• The top end of the field largely stays static this week—no changes among our national seeds or hosts. It’s too early to pay close attention to the RPI, but we can at least peek at it now that we’re three weeks in. Certainly, there’s still a lot of noise—Central Connecticut State is No. 1 in the RPI on, for instance—but there are some interesting things we can pick out.

It’s a given that Northern and mid-major schools with lofty RPIs early will drop as we get into conference play, while power conference schools will climb. St. Bonaventure and Creighton are in the top 10, while Florida State is No. 98 as of Wednesday morning. None of that’s going to last. What does intrigue us are the power schools already with high-level RPIs—teams such as No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 North Carolina State, No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Clemson and No. 10 Vanderbilt. Those will have some staying power if the teams perform in conference play.

• Three teams enter the field this week, led by Alabama after its 10-2 start that includes a series win against Maryland and solid wins against Troy and Notre Dame. Clemson also moves in after its big series win against South Carolina. The interesting one is Michigan State. The Spartans have been a consistently competitive program in recent years under head coach Jake Boss and are out to a 9-1 start this spring, all of it away from home. They went 2-1 at a tournament in Pensacola, Fla., this past weekend, beating fellow NCAA hopefuls Auburn and Troy, to go with earlier respectable wins against Central Florida and Texas State. The Spartans still have two more big opportunities to boost themselves outside the conference, as they’ll play a weekend series at South Florida on March 18-20, and then the really big chance comes April 1-3, when Oregon pays a visit to East Lansing. Winning a game or two that weekend would be huge.

• What to make of the Big 12? TCU is the only team that’s really distinguished itself in non-conference play to this point. Texas Tech had a nice weekend at the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic, beating Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette, but couldn’t keep the momentum going with a home series loss to Cal State Fullerton, although we kept the Red Raiders in the field. We still like Oklahoma State’s ability despite its early stumbles as well.

On the other hand, we dropped both Texas and Oklahoma this week. The Longhorns set themselves up with a brutal non-conference schedule—consecutive weekend series with Stanford, California, UCLA and Tulane. They’re 2-6 in those games so far, having split four games with Stanford and then getting swept at home by Cal, and they head to UCLA this weekend. Texas is setting up as the kind of team that’ll be fine in the RPI, but can it win enough games? Meanwhile, for all its talent, Oklahoma has yet to have a winning weekend and sits 5-7-1 after its winless showing against UCLA, USC and Mississippi State at the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. They’ll get yet another chance to prove themselves against a solid non-conference opponent in Long Beach State—itself knocking on the door—this weekend.

• Gardner-Webb was the second-to-last undefeated team in the nation, finally taking its first loss at North Carolina on Tuesday to fall to 13-1. The bad news, if you’re looking down the road? The Bulldogs’ schedule has been tissue-paper soft. The four teams they beat to get to that 13-0 start have a combined record of 4-36. Gardner-Webb has played the No. 297 strength of schedule on WarrenNolan, even after the UNC game. Given Coastal Carolina’s early struggles, there might be an opening for Gardner-Webb to make a run to the top of the Big South, and that’s probably what it’s going to have to do.

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