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A LOOK AHEAD TO NEXT MONTH'S SELECTION DAY
April 25, 2007

SCS.com Selection Monday is more than a month away, but teams are already scrambling to secure themselves a place in the field of 64. Here is SCS.comís take on what the field is looking like at this point. This isnít the official bracket projection, as that will be out later on this week, but this does reveal who the picks are at this point, at least in our opinion.

Highest likely (current) seeds are in parentheses. They may not show up in those numbers in the upcoming official projection, but most of them will. Take a look!

The Automatics

Weíll start with the power conferences, and work our way down. Some teams on this list arenít leading their respective leagues right now, but this list is taking into account who might be better positioned to win the conference tournament. On this list are also the conference champions who are likely to make the field, even if they donít win their conference tourneys.

SEC - Vanderbilt (1)
ACC - Florida State (1)
Pac-10 - Arizona State (no conference tournament) (1)
Big 12 - Texas (1)
Conference USA - Rice (1)
Big West - Cal State Fullerton (no conference tournament) (1)
Missouri Valley - Wichita State (1)
Sun Belt - Louisiana-Lafayette (2)
West Coast - Pepperdine (1)
Southern - College of Charleston (2)
Big South - Coastal Carolina (2)
Big Ten - Michigan (2)
Atlantic 10 - UNC-Charlotte (4)
Atlantic Sun - Stetson (2)
Mountain West - Texas Christian (3)
Big East - Rutgers (4)

Non-Automatic Automatics

These guys need to win their conference tournaments to be assured of a bid, or at least not exit early.

Mid-Continent - Oral Roberts (4)
WAC - Fresno State (4)
Mid-American - Central Michigan (4)
Southland - Lamar (4)
Colonial - Old Dominion (4)
Horizon - Wright State (4)
Ivy - Penn (4)
Patriot - Lafayette (4)
America East - Binghamton (4)
Northeast - Mount St. Maryís (4)
Metro Atlantic - Manhattan (4)
MEAC - Bethune-Cookman (4)
Ohio Valley - Jacksonville State (4)
SWAC - Jackson State (4)

At-Larges

The following is a mixture of teams who are only a few wins away from being in, or teams who should be in when itís all said and done.

SEC - South Carolina (1), Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Mississippi State (1), Mississippi (2)
ACC - Clemson (2), North Carolina State (2), North Carolina (1), Virginia (1), Georgia Tech (2), Miami (2)
Pac-10 - Arizona (1), Oregon State (2), UCLA (3)
Big 12 - Oklahoma State (2), Texas A&M (1), Missouri (2), Oklahoma (2)
Conference USA - East Carolina (2), Houston (3)
Big West - Long Beach State (2), UC Irvine (2)
Missouri Valley - Creighton (3)
West Coast - San Diego (1)
Southern - Western Carolina (3)
Big Ten - Minnesota (2)
Big East - Louisville (3)

On the Bubble - Right Side

There are a few teams on the above list who arenít quite in yet, but are on the right side of the bubble: Florida, Oklahoma, and Creighton.

The Gators (23-20, 10-8 SEC, 32 RPI) are just over .500, but own two wins each over Florida State and Miami, and an over .500 mark in the SEC.

Oklahoma (27-15, 7-8 Big 12, 19 RPI) won their first conference series against Texas A&M, then lost three series in a row before winning two of three last weekend against bubble boy Kansas State. For now, theyíre in because they own five wins over probable tournament teams, and a three-game sweep of a quality UC Riverside team. If they donít bomb their last four conference series (Kansas, Oklahoma State, at Missouri, Texas Tech), the Sooners are in.

Creighton (27-11, 12-3 Missouri Valley, 47 RPI) is right on Wichita Stateís heels, just one game behind the Shockers in the MVC. They already have WSU and Evansville out of their way, though Southern Illinois, Missouri State, and Illinois State will be challenges. However, the Bluejays should wrap up a spot in the field of 64 if they win the games theyíre supposed to, which means, well, just about all of them.

That leaves all of four spots, and more than a dozen teams who are in contention for them. More spots may open up if any of the above three donít cement their spots, or if someone from the list of Houston, Oklahoma, Western Carolina, Minnesota, or Louisville happens to slip up. That would, however, complicate things all the more.

There are several teams that may seem to warrant a berth, but then at the same time, have giant question marks.

The SEC has six teams who look like safe bets, but there are two teams fighting to get in. One may get in, or both may. Kentucky (27-12-1, 7-10-1, 58 RPI) started 19-0, but is 8-12-1 since, and has lost its last four SEC series. Their form, combined with a falling RPI, have them on the wrong side of the bubble. Remaining home series against strugglers Georgia and Auburn offer a good lifeline, but they also must make a good account of themselves on the road against South Carolina and Mississippi. They may be in when itís all said and done, but the Wildcats are out for now.

LSU looked done a few weeks ago, but have climbed back into the picture in a big way with series wins over Mississippi and Mississippi State in the last two weeks. Paul Mainieriís Tigers (23-18-1, 8-9-1, 36 RPI) are in a nice position right now, but donít have an easy four weeks left, with home series against Tennessee and Florida, and road series at SEC leaders Arkansas and Vandy.

Evansville (26-14, 9-6 Missouri Valley, 49 RPI) is only in third in the MVC right now behind Wichita State and Creighton, and teetering on the top 50 line in the RPI, so things are a little uncertain for them right now. The Purple Aces have series left at Wichita, vs. Missouri State, and at Bradley, along with non-conference games against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, and NCAA hopefuls Kentucky and Louisville. Even finishing well might keep them on the outside looking in, but it partly depends on what other bubble teams do.

Conference USA has arguably six teams who could make the field of 64, but only three of them could actually make it in. Memphis (25-16, 9-6, 48 RPI) is third in the league, but took a huge step back onto the bubble with an embarrassing series loss at home to Marshall, who came into the weekend 0-8 in conference play, but took the final two games by a combined score of 32-7.

Tulane (28-14, 8-7, 54 RPI) looked like a shoe-in a few weeks ago, but have lost their last two home conference series to fellow hopefuls Memphis and Houston to fall onto the bubble. The Green Wave are going to need to win their conference series against UCF and UAB, and make a good showing in their series at Rice in order to be in good stead with the committee.

Southern Miss (25-16, 6-9, 38 RPI) has the RPI, but doesnít have the record. The Golden Eagles also have series left at East Carolina and Houston, so ultimately, they may well be on the outside looking in if they donít end up on the right side of .500.

South Florida (27-15, 9-9 Big East, 44 RPI) has dropped onto the bubble after losing five of their last six conference games. The Bulls have two make or break weekends coming up, with a series at second-place Louisville and a non-conference series at home against Georgia Tech. As of now, with their recent slip, things donít appear to favor Lelo Pradoís club.

There are a bunch of guys jockeying for what will probably amount to a few of #3 seeds. In some cases, the RPI is being generous when the conference record isnít, and in some, the RPI isnít being generous when the conference record is pretty.

Kansas State (25-15, 6-9 Big 12, 31 RPI) has a nice RPI and some decent out of conference wins (sweep of Central Michigan, two wins over Ohio State, one over Lamar and St. JohnĎs), but has won only one of five conference series, and has four tough series (away to Nebraska and Baylor, vs./at Kansas, and vs. Texas A&M).

The Huskers (23-17, 8-10) have an RPI of 24, and series wins over Alabama, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, but are far from in yet. But, with series left against Kansas, Baylor, and Kansas State left, and a home series against high-flying Coastal Carolina, theyíve got a good chance to cement themselves a place.

The Sun Belt has been a multiple-bid league for nearly two decades, but hopes for the run to continue are currently in a precarious position. Troy (24-16, 11-7, 39 RPI) can work its way in with a strong finish. But, the Trojans are in a better position than second-place New Orleans (27-13, 12-6 Sun Belt), who has a nice record, but an unsightly 83 RPI. The Privateers, however, have the chance to move up with series against Troy and league leaders Louisiana-Lafayette, and single games against Tulane and Southern Mississippi.

UC Riverside (23-16, 4-2 Big West, 61 RPI) owns two wins over San Diego and a win over USC, but is on the outside looking in right now in a deep Big West. Sweeps against Oklahoma and Washington hurt, along with a series loss against Portland. But, the Highlanders have home series against Fullerton and Irvine, and still have Long Beach State left to play. Winning two of those series would get them in, while doing otherwise would keep them out, even though their RPI will likely be in the 40s when itís all said and done no matter what.

Texas State (29-13, 14-4, 72 RPI) and Texas-San Antonio (24-17, 14-4, 66 RPI) share the Southlandís best record with Lamar, but are in better at-large position than the Cardinals. That may not mean much right now though, as neither team isnít assured of anything either. The Bearkats still have non-conference tilts against Baylor and Rice (who they beat 4-2 in February), a trip to Lamar, and a home/away with UTSA, while the Roadrunners have to play Sam Houston State (27-15, 11-7) and a non-conference tilt against Houston, so both could position themselves to be in at-large contention.

Other mid-majors on the outside looking in right now are the Big South trio of Liberty (26-16, 8-4, 80 RPI), VMI (28-13, 5-7, 71 RPI), and High Point (23-20, 9-6, 65 RPI), Southern Illinois (24-15, 5-7 Missouri Valley, 56 RPI), Ohio State (23-10, 8-6 Big Ten, 73 RPI), and St. Johnís (25-12, 11-4 Big East, 77 RPI).

So, with all that said, for now, the final four spots go to - drum roll! - Nebraska (2), Tulane (3), LSU (3), and Troy (3).

You may notice that there are 18 teams with 2s beside their names, and only 16 actual spots. Itís likely that one or two of an ACC trio (North Carolina State, Miami, or Georgia Tech) will end up as #3 seeds, and two #2 seeds from the Big Ten might be difficult.

One thing is for sure. There are going to be some extremely dangerous #3 and #4 seeds. Outside of the power conference teams that end up on the #3 line, there are going to be some mid-majors that have the ability to make a run like Oral Roberts and College of Charleston did last season. Score one for a bracketologistís favorite Ďpí word, parity.

# 1 Seeds

Top 8:

1. Vanderbilt
2. Florida State
3. Rice
4. Texas
5. Arkansas
6. Arizona State
7. South Carolina
8. Virginia

The rest:

San Diego
Wichita State
North Carolina
Cal St. Fullerton
Pepperdine
Arizona
Mississippi State
Texas A&M

Not all of these guys may not host, however. The below teams have the best opportunity to move into #1 seeds in case any of the current #1s fall out of their lofty position.

Oregon State Mississippi Coastal Carolina UC-Irvine

Now that we know the guest list and where the parties are going to be, all thatís left is whoís going where.

A lot of things will happen before the end of the season, and a lot of things will happen before SCS.comís first projections come out within the week, so while the picture is still quite cloudy, itís going to start clearing up before long. Maybe...

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