Less than a week away from selection Monday and we enter the last week with some great storylines. The race for the top eight national seeds seems to be a race for the final two spots. Texas, Arizona St., Virginia, Florida, Coastal Carolina and Louisville have locked up spots in my opinion. The top three have been set for a few weeks, and each has strengthened their hold recently as well. Florida locked it up with a series win in Columbia, and the Coastal sweep at Liberty and undefeated run through the Big South has solidified their hold. For Louisville, the consistency all year has been impressive. I still think the trip to Oxford was a key. Although Ole Miss has stumbled down the stretch, Louisville won that series with Clark and Richmond on the bench. They are back now and the top seven in the Cardinal lineup will match up with any in the country.
The last two spots should be between six others. In the end, you can make pretty good arguments for and against the next six teams. This is truly a case where the last week of the season makes a huge difference in the race for the final two seeds.
I had South Carolina solidly in before this weekend, and I still think that they will end up as one of the eight. At least one win in Hoover will go a ways though, and two wins should make them a lock. They have really pitched this year and the lineup has some youth and experience with a very solid balance top to bottom. Sam Dyson could be a difference makes in the postseason. If he is on, his stuff is pretty filthy.
After a midseason lull, UCLA has finished with a flourish and now finds themselves squarely back in the mix for a national seed. After getting swept in Tempe, the Bruins have gone 11-1 down the stretch and have won nine games in a row in a solid Pac-10 conference. The catch might just the mid week game at Fullerton, which the Titans won 5-2. It’s not an RPI killer, but the squad that beat them is in the national seed mix too.
Fullerton is officially back, and the Titans’ past six weeks has them clicking at the right time. With the staff that Fullerton returned, and a solid mix of Gary Brown, Christian Colon and others back in the lineup, Fullerton looked to be a one of the top teams in the country heading into the season. They sputtered out of the gate though, and sat just 12-11 as they entered April. Since then, Fullerton is 25-4 and they have clinched the Big West prior to the last week in the conference. The Titans’ record against the Top 50 RPI teams is not stellar, but they are as hot as anyone in the country. Also, Fullerton won both mid-week games against the Bruins this year, that could figure into the discussion too.
TCU seems to be overlooked in every national seed projection right now, but I still think that they belong in the discussion. They ran away with the Mountain West crown, but have dropped a few games in conference that have buried their RPI. I have been more impressed with their non-conference slate though, as they played ten games against the Big 12 and took 2/3 in Fullerton at the beginning of the year. They were hurt by the overall struggles within the conference and in the end I think that will drag the RPI down too far to finish with a national seed on Monday.
Auburn is the newest addition to the discussion but five straight winning weekends in the SEC will do just that. The season ending run by the Tigers has forced them into the national spotlight. They won the SEC West with a convincing sweep of Ole Miss in Oxford last week, and a SEC tournament championship could vault them over South Carolina into a national seed. Even though it was a few months back, one win in Tempe would have really helped.
The last team in the discussion is Georgia Tech. The Wreck could win 46-48 games while playing in the ACC, which is a great feat. The non-conference slate as not great and that could cost them in the end. Catching Georgia on a down year did not help the non-conference strength either, but that is something they could not control. They can really score, and if they run through the ACC tourney and win it they have a very good argument.
The bubble argument heats up this week two and in the end it is an absolute coin flip. If you are a bubble team, go grab your Florida Gulf Coast, Rice and Coastal Carolina. gear. Each is a lock for the tourney, and each of their respective conferences is potentially a one bid league if the above win the tourney. The past few years have shown that just getting in the dance gives you a chance. Fresno St. won it all as a four seed and Oregon St. was reportedly the last team in the tourney when they won their second national title in a row.
Enjoy the week, it is the most entertaining of the season prior to Memorial Day. I head to Hoover this weekend for the SEC Championship game on Sunday then on to Bristol for the selection show on Memorial Day. I am planning on posting a play by play of the lead-up to the selection show sometime early next week. Memorial Day in the studio is one of my favorite days of the year. I’ll take you through everything that goes into the show, and the limited time that we have to put it all together. Until then, enjoy the tourneys and the last week of the regular season. It should be a great ride from here on in…