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May 20, 2005

Thursday's Thoughts & Ramblings


Even with a loss Thursday to North Carolina, Georgia Tech needs just one win or one Miami loss to secure the ACC regular season title. UNC is one of four teams, along with Miami, Florida State, and Clemson, who are in a fierce battle for the second through fifth seeds in next week's ACC Tournament. The Tigers helped their own cause yesterday with a ten-run win over the Hurricanes, giving UM starting pitcher Cesar Carillo his first-ever loss. Florida State was also impressive with a 10-2 win over NC State, putting a damper on the NCAA hosting hopes of the Wolfpack. Virginia took care of Duke with ease Thursday but must continue that trend if the Cavs wish to stay in the NCAA picture.


Regular season champ Troy rolled over Jacksonville with ease Thursday, while the two clubs fighting it out for the second seed both found victories as well. UCF slipped past Mercer, while Florida Atlantic destroyed Georgia State yesterday. A Golden Knight win or Owl loss on Friday would earn UCF a second place finish in the A-Sun. Gardner-Webb picked up a key double header sweep over last place Lipscomb and became the last team to assure themselves of a league tournament berth, earning the sixth seed in next week's event. Assuming UCF is able to earn the second slot, FAU, Georgia State, and Stetson will fight it out over the next two days for seeds three through five.


St. John's wrapped up the Big East regular season title with a five-run win over Villanova on Thursday. Boston College can claim the two seed by winning one of their two scheduled games at Connecticut on Friday. That would leave a host of five teams (Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Connecticut, and West Virginia) trying to grab one of the final two slots in next week's tournament.


The top two teams in the Big South will meet over this final weekend to determine the league's regular season champion. Current leader Coastal Carolina is 19-2 in conference play and will travel to Winthrop. The Eagles are currently a game back in the standings at 18-3 in league action. The winner of this series will earn the top seed in next week's conference tournament in Conway, SC at the home of the Chanticleers. Birmingham-Southern has already clinched the third slot and will begin a three game road series at last place UNC-Asheville. Liberty is the only other Big South squad assured of a tournament berth. The Flames play host to Charleston Southern this weekend. The Buccaneers (8-13) are one of three teams, along with Virginia Military (9-12) and Radford (7-14), who are fighting for the final two tournament spots. One VMI win over Radford this weekend will clinch a Keydet appearance in next week's event. Charleston Southern currently holds a one-game lead over Radford in the standings but lost the series to the Highlanders earlier this year.


Six teams, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan, and Ohio State, have clinched all six available slots in next week's Big Ten Tournament. The Illini can clinch the overall regular season title, as well as the opportunity to host next week's conference tournament, with two wins over Iowa plus one Minnesota loss at Ohio State. Illinois is currently 19-9 in league play, while both Minnesota and Iowa sit at 16-12. Both Purdue and Michigan will be on the road, the Boilermakers at Indiana and the Wolverines at Penn State. It is likely the Big Ten teams are fighting for just one spot in this year's field of sixty-four.


It's a two-way race for the regular season title in the Big XII. Baylor, 18-6 in league play, currently holds a two-game lead over Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are 16-8 in conference games. Two Baylor wins at home against Missouri, who has also secured a tournament berth, would clinch the top spot for the Bears. Any Husker loss at home against Kansas State would decrease BU's number of required wins by one. Texas and Oklahoma have also clinched a Big XII Tournament spot. The 'Horns visit rival Texas A&M this weekend, while the Sooners will host Texas Tech. Oklahoma State needs just one win on the road at Kansas to clinch a spot in next week's event. The Jayhawks, as well as Texas Tech, have both lost games to rain this season, but each could secure their spot with two wins this weekend. Any losses by Kansas State or Texas A&M would decrease this number by a game. Looking towards the NCAA implications of this weekend, Baylor appears to be the only squad to have locked down a hosting position. Nebraska and Texas are not far behind and could secure their home field advantage with a good showing over the next few days. Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are each on the bubble as we head down the stretch. And don't count out Texas Tech and Kansas just yet, though both squads need to make some noise both this week and next to raise their NCAA hopes.


The eighth and final slot in next week's CUSA Tournament was secured by South Florida Thursday night. Game one of the highly-anticipated series between TCU and Tulane in New Orleans was rained out, so those two squads will play twice on Friday. One Green Wave win will make that squad the top seed in next week's event. If the Frogs falter at Tulane, Southern Miss could make a move and earn the second slot with a good performance at Houston. Those three squads are certain NCAA teams, while East Carolina, easily the fourth-best team in CUSA, appears ready to secure their bid as well. More than four bids for this league appears unlikely at this point.


Five teams still have a legitimate shot at the SEC regular season title, but it is likely that the race will come down to Florida, Tennessee, and LSU. The Gators currently hold a half-game lead over UT and will visit Vanderbilt this weekend. The Vols find themselves a half-game in front of the Tigers and will host Georgia this weekend. LSU is on the road at Mississippi State, one of eight teams still fighting for the remaining five slots in next week's SEC Tournament. Alabama, who hosts in-state rival Auburn, as well as Mississippi, who will visit Arkansas, are each 15-12 in league play, and both need just one win to assure themselves of a spot in next week's event. The Razorbacks are 13-14 in SEC games and could guarantee themselves of a spot with a sweep of the Rebels. South Carolina is also 13-14. The Gamecocks are at home to face last-place Kentucky, and like UA, USC could assure themselves of a conference tournament slot with a sweep this weekend. MSU, 12-14, Auburn, 12-15, and Georgia, 11-15, are all still alive, but each is on the outside looking in at this point. Two wins for either MSU or AU should send those teams to Hoover, while UGA will likely need a road sweep of Tennessee to advance. LSU, Tennessee, and Florida appear to be near-locks for hosting regionals in a couple of weeks. Mississippi is not far behind but could rest easy with a good performance in Fayetteville this weekend. Alabama has a case but two losing weekends in a row may have them scheduled for a road trip at this point. The only SEC squad without a chance of advancing to regional play is Kentucky. The eight teams who make the league tournament will receive NCAA bids, and expect at least one additional team to be selected as well. Some experts are even calling for eleven SEC bids this spring.


Louisiana-Lafayette can secure the top seed in next week's league tournament with just one win, but the Cajuns could earn the outright conference title with two victories over Western Kentucky this weekend. With second place South Alabama playing out of conference this weekend, New Mexico State must sweep Middle Tennessee in order to earn the second seed in next week's event. Florida International, MTSU, and Arkansas State are all hovering around the .500 mark in conference play and are within one game of each other. Those three squads are likely fighting for the fourth, fifth, and sixth slots in the conference tournament. New Orleans, who visits ASU this weekend, is currently a game behind the Indians but could work themselves upward in the standings with a good performance in Jonesboro. Arkansas-Little Rock, 6-14, and Western Kentucky, 6-15, are fighting for the eighth and final spot. The Trojans need any combination of three wins of their own or WKU losses to earn that eighth seed. Louisiana-Lafayette has a chance to host one of the sixteen NCAA regionals but must have a good showing against WKU this weekend to earn that chance. South Alabama is 15-9 in conference action but just 31-24 overall. The Jags have one remaining game on the road at Stetson but will likely be left on the outside without an impressive conference tournament run.

Coming tomorrow... Further looks into these nine league tournaments including who has clinched what and who can secure their spot in next week's conference tournaments on Saturday and Sunday.

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