Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCAA Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Kentucky, FSU lead way in bracketology


With just over a month until the regional field is selected, it's time to start dissecting how the field might look in June.

With the conference races taking shape, the national seed picture is becoming clearer. Kentucky has the chance to earn the top overall seed in baseball to go along with its basketball championship. The rest of the top five in RPI -- Florida, Florida State, Baylor and UCLA -- are also well on their way to national seeds.

The SEC could become the first conference to earn four national seeds in one season. After tying the record with three national seeds last year, the SEC has four teams in the conversation this year. Baylor running away with the Big 12 and Florida State doing the same in the ACC increases the chances that each of those conferences will have only one national seed. After losing its series against Florida and Kentucky, South Carolina can help its cause with a series win against LSU to wrap up the regular season.

The wild card in the national seed discussion is Purdue. The Boilermakers are in the top 10 in RPI and No. 13 in the coaches' poll with a 31-6 record. However, Lambert Field in West Lafayette, Ind., doesn't have lights and though Purdue has a new stadium under construction it won't be completed by June. The NCAA would love to have a regional in the Midwest, so if Purdue can find an adequate facility it will likely earn at least one round at home.

The race for hosting spots out west is as contentious as always, even with Arizona State ineligible for the postseason this year. The most likely outcome is that Cal State Fullerton joins three Pac-12 teams as regional hosts. That means that one team out of Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Stanford will be sent on the road. Stanford has the most work to do, as the Cardinal were swept by Arizona and lost a series to Oregon and currently sit tied for fourth in the Pac-12.

Lexington Regional
No. 1 Kentucky
Louisville
Michigan State
Wright State
   Raleigh Regional
   NC State
   East Carolina
   Appalachian State
   Coastal Carolina
Gary Regional
No. 8 Purdue
Ole Miss
Indiana State
Kent State
   Tucson Regional
   Arizona
   New Mexico State
   Oklahoma
   North Dakota State
Baton Rouge Regional
No. 5 LSU
Oregon State
Southeastern Louisiana
Southern
   College Station Regional
   Texas A&M
   Sam Houston State
   Washington
   Stony Brook
Los Angeles Regional
No. 4 UCLA
San Diego
Wake Forest
Army
   Fullerton Regional
   Cal State Fullerton
   Stanford
   Pepperdine
   Rhode Island
Gainesville Regional
No. 6 Florida
Virginia
Florida Atlantic
Bethune-Cookman
   Orlando Regional
    UCF
   Miami
   USC
   South Florida
Waco Regional
No. 3 Baylor
Dallas Baptist
TCU
Monmouth
   Houston Regional
   Rice
   Texas
   Cal
   Cornell
Chapel Hill Regional
No. 7 North Carolina
College of Charleston
Georgia
UNC Wilmington
   Columbia Regional
   South Carolina
   Clemson
   Elon
   USC-Upstate
Tallahassee Regional
No. 2 Florida State
Missouri State
Mississippi State
Austin Peay
   Eugene Regional
   Oregon
   Arkansas
   Gonzaga
   Manhattan


Last five in: Gonzaga, Washington, USC, Indiana State, Michigan State

First nine out: Georgia Tech, Liberty, Auburn, Maryland, Texas State, Tennessee, St. John's, Southern Miss, Stetson

It's been a crazy year, especially in three of the traditional power conferences. The Big 12, Big West and Conference USA are all having down years. If the field were chosen based on accomplishments as of today, the Big 12 would likely earn only three bids. Oklahoma will need to continue its recent charge to make the field. Unless Long Beach State or UC Santa Barbara wins the conference, Cal State Fullerton is likely to be the only Big West team in the field. While Rice and UCF are both in position to host, East Carolina appears to be the only other regional team from Conference USA.

With those conferences earning fewer bids than normal, somebody stands to pick up the lost spots. At this point, the West Coast Conference is in the best position to benefit. San Diego, Pepperdine and Gonzaga are all in the top 30 in RPI. Gonzaga has the most work to do over the final month, as the Bulldogs are currently tied for sixth in the conference. Some traditional one-bid conferences, most notably the Missouri Valley and Big Ten, could pick up second bids as well.

The rest of the difference will be made up by the depth of the ACC, SEC and Pac-12. All three conferences should get at least seven teams into the field, and the ACC and SEC could get as many as 10 teams. The SEC tournament expands to 10 teams this season, and the chance for teams like Tennessee and Auburn to win a few games at Hoover could be the difference between playing in a regional and sitting at home in June. In the ACC, two teams in the top 40 in RPI are likely to miss the conference tournament and face longer odds to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Jeremy Mills is a researcher for ESPN and is a contributor to ESPN.com's college baseball coverage.