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May 3, 2007

SCS.comThis week’s bracket analysis is a little shorter than last week’s, but for good reason. It’s finally time to reveal the first bracket projections of the season.

There are some changes in the field from last week to this week. Kansas State, LSU, and Tulane all dropped out of the field, for now. The Wildcats did beat Wichita State in the midweek, but won only one of three against Nebraska on the weekend. They’ve got the right RPI, but winning only one of your six conference series doesn’t do much for your cause. LSU’s close series loss to Tennessee stopped their recent momentum, and puts the Tigers in a precarious position with three tough conference series left. Tulane has gone from in, to barely in, to out by getting swept in their last two conference series and going 3-9 in C-USA play after starting 5-1.

With those three dropping out, Southern Mississippi, Kentucky, and Wake Forest make their way into the field. USM picked up a huge series win at East Carolina to get into the picture. Kentucky had lost their last four conference series before taking two of three from Georgia, and also helped their cause with a win over Big East contender Louisville. Wake Forest moves into the field after a sweep of Duke.

Rutgers (25-16, 13-5 Big East, 60 RPI) also dropped out of the field for now, after surrendering their lead atop the Big East with a series loss at home to Notre Dame. The Scarlet Knights likely need to win the regular season title to be in at-large contention. St. John’s takes their place in the field this week, after moving to the top of the league standings with a sweep at West Virginia. The Red Storm are one of the nation’s hottest teams, winning eleven in a row and 22 of 24. Considering how both teams fare down the stretch, it’s possible that the Big East could deservedly end up with three bids, but for now, the league is at two.

Among the smaller conferences, Texas San-Antonio replaces Lamar as the Southland’s representative, Austin Peay replaces Jacksonville State as the Ohio Valley’s automatic, Brown replaces Penn as the Ivy League’s representative, and Illinois-Chicago replaces Wright State in the Horizon.

Moving Up, Moving Down

With a number of crazy things going on in the college baseball world last weekend, there are also a number of teams who move in terms of seeding.

Cal State-Fullerton drops off the #1 line after being swept by UC Riverside, and Arizona drops off after their second straight series loss. Pepperdine also drops off after being swept by San Diego. As a result, Long Beach State moves to a #1/host slot, with the other remaining #1 slots going to College of Charleston and Minnesota. UCLA moves up to a #2 seed after their series win over Arizona, and Oklahoma State moves down to a #3 after getting swept by Texas.

South Carolina drops from a national seed with their second straight series loss, and North Carolina moves into their slot at #7. On the other hand, Mississippi State remains a #1, despite a second straight series loss. With their remaining conference series against three of the bottom teams in the league, and an RPI that is still pushing the top five, the Bulldogs can solidify themselves as a hosting #1 before the SEC tourney.

This weekend, and the remaining few, will offer up plenty of chance for changes up and down the board. Coastal Carolina goes to Lincoln to face Nebraska this weekend. The Chanticleers have an RPI around the top 10, and have wins over Virginia, TCU, and College of Charleston, who just edged them out this week for that final #1 seed. If Coastal makes a good account for themselves this weekend, and survives a brutal finishing stretch that has them on the road for ten of their final eleven games and features games against College of Charleston, Virginia, and a likely Big South title decider at Winthrop, then they could end up with a #1. For now, the Cougars have that #1, because their road is just a little easier.

In the Big East, St. John’s hosts Louisville. Winning the series would be a benefit to both, as a series win could lift the Red Storm off the #4 line and solidify their at-large case, while a series win for Louisville could push them closer to a potential #2 seed. Also in the Big East, South Florida hosts Georgia Tech. The Bulls have struggled recently to fall off of the at-large map, but could get back on it with a win over the visiting Yellow Jackets. GT, however, can’t afford to drop too many down the stretch, with a subpar non-conference record offsetting a top-four ACC campaign.

In the SEC, Mississippi goes to Tennessee, and Alabama goes to Florida. UM is trying to make a case for both a host and a #1 slot, and the Vols are just trying to get their name near the hat. Florida was swept by Vandy last weekend, so their hold on a spot isn’t too tight right now. Facing bubble hopefuls Alabama will be big for both teams.

Bubble Watch

Alabama and Tennessee are currently longshots to make it into the field of 64, but greatly helped themselves last weekend with series wins over South Carolina and LSU, respectively.

Southern Illinois could move into at-large contention with a strong finish. Four bids from the MVC could be a reach, but depending on how some of the other fringe at-larges and bubble teams do down the stretch, it could happen.

Wake Forest barely missed out last season, and is hanging on by a thread this season. The Demon Deacons host Miami and go to Virginia Tech to finish out the regular season. A series win over the Hurricanes would give them a great boost. They have a 34 RPI right now, and had a similar RPI last season, but lacked the quality wins they needed to get in. Finishing at .500 or better will help, and so will securing a spot in the ACC tourney. Right now, they’re tied with Boston College for the #8 spot, but were swept in Chestnut Hill. However, the Deacs are also only a game behind N.C. State and Miami for sixth in the ACC standings.

Evansville is out of the picture right now, and just dropped two of three at Wichita State, but still has a chance to make the field, with two winnable conference series remaining, and non-conference games against Kentucky and Louisville. It’s an uphill climb at this point, but the Purple Aces can still get in.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, or scrolled down to see - the projections.

Nashville Regional

1. Vanderbilt (1)

4. Austin Peay (Ohio Valley auto)

2. TCU (Mountain West auto)

3. East Carolina

Oxford Regional

1. College of Charleston (SoCon auto)

4. Central Michigan (Mid-American auto)

2. Mississippi

3. Wake Forest

Tempe Regional

1. Arizona State (8) (Pac-10 auto)

4. Lafayette (Patriot auto)

2. Fullerton

3. Florida

San Diego Regional

1. San Diego (West Coast auto)

4. Manhattan (WAC auto)

2. UC Irvine

3. Creighton

Tallahassee Regional

1. Florida State (4) (ACC auto)

4. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC auto)

2. Stetson (Atlantic Sun auto)

3. Troy

Wichita Regional

1. Wichita State (Missouri Valley auto)

4. UNC-Charlotte (Atlantic 10 auto)

2. Missouri

3. Louisville

Fayetteville Regional

1. Arkansas (5) (SEC auto)

4. Binghamton (America East auto)

2. Oklahoma

3. Houston

Long Beach Regional

1. Long Beach State (Big West auto)

4. Fresno State (WAC auto)

2. Pepperdine

3. Georgia Tech

Austin Regional

1. Texas (2) (Big 12 auto)

4. Brown (Ivy auto)


3. Miami

Starkville Regional

1. Mississippi State

4. St. John’s (Big East auto)

2. Clemson

3. Memphis

Chapel Hill Regional

1. North Carolina (7)

4. Mount State Mary’s (Northeast auto)

2. Michigan (Big Ten auto)

3. Western Carolina

Columbia Regional

1. South Carolina

4. Old Dominion (CAA auto)

2. Coastal Carolina (Big South auto)

3. N.C. State

Houston Regional

1. Rice (3) (C-USA auto)

4. Prairie View (SWAC auto)

2. Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt auto)

3. Oklahoma State

Corvallis Regional

1. Minnesota

4. Oral Roberts (Mid-Continent auto)

2. Oregon State (host)

3. UC Riverside

Charlottesville Regional

1. Virginia (6)

4. Illinois-Chicago (Horizon auto)

2. Nebraska

3. Kentucky

College Station Regional

1. Texas A&M

4. Texas San-Antonio (Southland auto)

2. Arizona

3. Southern Miss

Things will change plenty from now until the field is announced on May 28th, but one thing is for sure. Regardless of how the brackets turn out, the regionals are guaranteed to be full of excitement and intriguing, top-quality matchups.

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