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May 16, 2007

SCS.comThese brackets look just a little different than the ones from two weeks ago. A lot of changes have taken place since (some detailed in last week’s projection-less Bracketology column).

This past weekend meant a few more shakeups in the field.

With this being the last week of the regular season for many conferences, more shakeups are to come, but the field (at least in its participants) is beginning to solidify. The conference tournaments, of course, will bring some surprises, but for a lot of teams, it’s not about playing for seeding.

Moving Up

I’ll address the changes in the field first.

Gonzaga moves into the field after taking two of three from Pepperdine to clinch second place in the West Coast, and thereby a berth in the championship series vs. San Diego. The Bulldogs have taken series from both the Toreros and Waves this season, so that’s a definite boost for their at-large hopes. The Bulldogs are helped by a schedule that features tournament teams Arizona State, Missouri, Arizona, Oregon State (won 6-5), and UC Riverside, along with their successes in one of the top-rated conferences in RPI.

The Big East has three teams who could make the field of 64. Rutgers and St. John’s are tied atop the standings, but Louisville has the best RPI among the three and is only a game back in the standings.

Wake Forest enters the field, despite a series loss to Miami. A series win would have put them in solidly, but if they can take at least two of three in Blacksburg this weekend, fend off Boston College for the #8 seed in the ACC tournament, and win a game or two in Jacksonville, it may be good enough, if someone like Kansas State, Kentucky, or one of the Big East teams don’t get in ahead of them, or if one of the current #3 seeds slips.

Quinnipiac and LeMoyne both enter the field after taking over the leads in their respective conferences. Quinnipiac took three of four on the road from previous Northeast leader Mount St. Mary’s, while LeMoyne went on the road and surprisingly swept Manhattan, who’d entered the week 19-1 in Metro Atlantic play.

Delaware also enters the field. I’ll explain a little more below. The top of the CAA is close right now, and the Blue Hens are looking like the best of the bunch after taking two of three at Virginia Commonwealth, and narrowly missing a sweep of the Rams.

There were also a lot of changes in terms of seeding.

There’s been some shifting in the order of the national seeds. San Diego has moved into the top 8, and so has Long Beach State. Those two teams replace Arkansas and Virginia. The Razorbacks have lost their last two SEC series, and the Cavaliers dropped a series this past weekend at home to NC State.

Coastal Carolina and Missouri move onto the #1 line this week. The Tigers have been on a roll recently, and with a series win at Oklahoma State this weekend (no easy task), they could clinch second in the Big 12.

New #2s: Oklahoma State, NC State, Miami, Georgia Tech, East Carolina.

A couple of teams have the potential to make moves in the next couple of weeks. Clemson, after taking a series at Florida State, is now in contention for one of the last #1 seeds, in that group with Missouri, Mississippi State, Mississippi, and Wichita State.

Western Carolina is on a roll, and could move into a #2, if they handle High Point and Georgia Southern this week, and play well in the SoCon tourney. A lot hinges on if they can sneak past College of Charleston into the regular season title, much like Elon did last season.

Moving Down

Kansas State - in one week, out the next. They did take one at home against Texas A&M, but at this point, their record of two series wins in conference play is a red flag. If they can take the series at Baylor this weekend, they may well be back in, depending on what happens elsewhere.

Oklahoma and Houston are two teams that were present in the last projections that aren’t this week. I detailed why they were out last week. Oklahoma moves farther off the bubble after losing two of three to Missouri. Houston, however, takes a step back towards the bubble after taking two of three at Memphis. Still, the Cougars are out for now. Evansville is also out, after their series loss to Bradley dropped them to fourth in the MVC. They could still finish in third, but could also finish fifth, if Southern Illinois sweeps Indiana State this weekend.

Oregon State is moving precariously close to the bubble. After dropping their second straight series, this time at home to Washington State, the champs are only 8-10 in the Pac-10, which puts them in a three-way tie for fifth. The Beavers finish with Arizona State and UCLA, and must win at least one of those series to avoid being on the bubble. They still have a pretty gaudy record, due to a 23-3 start, but the luster has certainly rubbed off in recent weeks. It’d be unfortunate to keep the defending national champs out, especially if they’re around 40 wins, but with a questionable RPI and a finish near the bottom of their league, it’d be hard to justify putting them in the field.

Bubble Watch

I’ll be doing a more detailed article on who’s on the bubble (in and out) right now, but for now, this is the short version.

Winthrop’s at-large chances took a severe hit when the Eagles were swept at Liberty over the weekend. Winning their series this weekend against Coastal Carolina would give them the Big South’s #1 seed, but they might need to win the conference tourney to get in the field now.

Alabama is now in the discussion after taking two of three at home against Arkansas. The Tide has picked up series wins against South Carolina and Arkansas in the past three weeks, and now stand near .500 in the SEC. A lack of quality wins outside of conference play hurts, but if they can pick up at least one win at Mississippi State this week, and then win a couple of games in the Alabama Invitational (also known as the SEC Tournament), then Jim Wells will have a reason to have his team around the TV on Selection Monday.

Tennessee missed their chance by losing two of three at home to South Carolina. After picking up series wins over LSU and Mississippi in the last couple of weeks, the Vols were picking up some momentum. Their RPI did move up this weekend, despite the two losses. However, as of now, the Vols stand 10th in the SEC standings, a half game out of the last spot in the SEC tourney. They’re going to need to sweep their series over Florida in Gainesville this week, and hope Kentucky, LSU, or Alabama go backwards in order to qualify for Hoover. In each of the last four seasons, an SEC team has gotten into the field of 64 without making the SEC tournament, but for that to potentially be the case for Tennessee, or LSU, if they don’t get to Hoover, some wins are needed this week.

Memphis is still in, but hanging on by a couple of threads after losing two of three at home to Houston. They’re going to need to impress at Rice this week and in the C-USA tourney to have relaxed nerves on Selection Monday.

Is it too little, too late for Baylor and Southern Cal? Both teams have impressive RPIs, but are hanging above .500 overall, and below that mark in conference play. If the Trojans can win both of their series at Cal and at home to Stanford, they’re likely in. As for Baylor, not picking up a series win against Missouri, Texas A&M, or Nebraska in the last three weeks hurts. Still, with a top 40 RPI and potentially the Big 12 tourney, there’s hope. The Bears are currently a half game ahead of Kansas for the last spot in the tourney, and host Kansas State this weekend. Win the series, do well in Oklahoma City, and there’s hope. Anything otherwise, and they’ll be sitting at home in June.

Note: In the case of Delaware, they aren’t leading the CAA right now (one game behind Old Dominion), but the Blue Hens are the hottest team in the league right now, and thusly, I feel they’re most equipped to take the automatic bid in the conference tournament.

Lucky Five (last five in): Wake, Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga, Rutgers

Unlucky Five (last five out): Kansas State, Southern Cal, Alabama, LSU, Houston

Close, But No Cigar (next five out): Baylor, Evansville, Oklahoma, Washington State, Southern Illinois

Now, on to the projections:

Houston Regional

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

4. Prairie View (SWAC auto)

2. Georgia Tech

3. Nebraska

Wichita Regional

1. Wichita State (Missouri Valley auto)

4. Gonzaga

2. Oklahoma State

3. Riverside

Long Beach Regional

1. Long Beach State (8) (Big West auto)

4. Fresno State (WAC auto)

2. Pepperdine

3. Oregon State

College Station Regional

1. Texas A&M

4. Texas San-Antonio (Southland auto)

2. Arizona

3. Southern Miss

Chapel Hill Regional

1. North Carolina (4)

4. Quinnipiac (Northeast auto)

2. College of Charleston (SoCon auto)

3. Kentucky

Myrtle Beach Regional

1. Coastal Carolina (Big South auto)

4. Lemoyne (Metro Atlantic auto)

2. Mississippi

3. Wake Forest

Tallahassee Regional

1. Florida State (5) (ACC auto)

4. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC auto)

2. Stetson (Atlantic Sun auto)

3. St. John’s (Big East auto)

Columbia, SC Regional

1. South Carolina

4. Central Michigan (Mid-American auto)

2. Miami

3. Western Carolina

Nashville Regional

1. Vanderbilt (2) (SEC auto)

4. Austin Peay (Ohio Valley auto)

2. NC State

3. Louisville

Charlottesville Regional

1. Virginia

4. UNC-Charlotte (Atlantic 10 auto)

2. East Carolina

3. Minnesota

Tempe Regional

1. Arizona State (7) (Pac-10 auto)

4. Delaware (CAA auto)

2. UC Irvine

3. Michigan (Big Ten auto)

Fayetteville Regional

1. Arkansas

4. Lafayette (Patriot auto)

2. Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt auto)

3. Memphis

Austin Regional

1. Texas (3) (Big 12 auto)

4. Brown (Ivy auto)


3. Florida

Starkville Regional

1. Mississippi State

4. Oral Roberts (Mid-Continent auto)

2. Clemson

3. Troy

San Diego Regional (likely at SDSU‘s field)

1. San Diego (6) (West Coast auto)

4. Binghamton (America East auto)

2. Fullerton

3. Rutgers

Columbia, MO Regional

1. Missouri

4. Illinois-Chicago (Horizon auto)

2. TCU (Mountain West auto)

3. Creighton

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