ACC big winner in bracketology

April, 20, 2011

As the season enters its third month and the new home of the College World Series opens before a sellout crowd watching Creighton battle Nebraska, things have settled down at the top of the college baseball landscape.

Only one host changes from last week's bracket. Stanford dropped its second straight weekend series, as the Cardinal were swept at home by a resurgent Oregon State squad. The road doesn't get any easier the next two weeks, as Stanford hosts UCLA before traveling to Arizona State.

The Cardinal's drop from hosting consideration opened up the door for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are coming off a win in the Bedlam Series against Oklahoma after taking a series from Texas in late March. Oklahoma State travels to College Station this week to take on national-seed contender Texas A&M with a chance to solidify its hosting chances and move into consideration for a top eight seed of its own.

Although only one host spot changed, two national seeds were adjusted this week. Oregon State swept its second straight Pac-10 series and has vaulted to the top of the conference standings. On the strength of sweeping Arizona State two weeks ago, the Beavers inch ahead of the Sun Devils when considering protected seeds. Arizona State is still in contention and can stake its claim with upcoming series at California and home against Stanford.

NC State's sweep of North Carolina shakes up the ACC pecking order for national seeds. The Tar Heels are in fifth in the conference (Florida State is second on the basis of leading the Atlantic Division, even with one less win), a result that would be unlikely to earn a national seed if the season ended today. Fortunately for UNC, there are still four conference series to play (three against the teams ahead of the Heels in the Coastal Division). For now, Georgia Tech's standing nets the ACC's second national seed with North Carolina and Florida State earning hosting opportunities.

Charlottesville Regional
No. 1 Virginia
   Stillwater Regional
   Oklahoma State
   Oral Roberts
College Station Regional
No. 8 Texas A&M
Texas State
   Houston Regional
Fullerton Regional
No. 5 Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Bakersfield
   Tempe Regional
   Arizona State
   UC Irvine
   Texas Tech
Corvallis Regional
No. 4 Oregon State
Fresno State
Long Beach State
   Austin Regional
Nashville Regional
No. 6 Vanderbilt
East Tennessee State
Wright State
   Hattiesburg Regional
   Southern Miss
   Ole Miss
   NC State
   Kent State
Gainesville Regional
No. 3 Florida
Florida Atlantic
   Tallahassee Regional
   Florida State
   Jacksonville State
Atlanta Regional
No. 7 Georgia Tech
Georgia Southern
   Fayetteville Regional
   Stony Brook
Columbia Regional
No. 2 South Carolina
Coastal Carolina
   Chapel Hill Regional
   North Carolina
   East Carolina
   Mississippi State
   UNC Wilmington

Last five in: LSU, UCF, Florida Atlantic, Long Beach State, Georgia Southern

First nine out: St. John's, Western Kentucky, Florida International, Jacksonville, Southeastern Louisiana, Memphis, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Louisville

Among the power conferences, the winner this week is the ACC. NC State took advantage of playing at home to sweep North Carolina and move off the bubble and into the field. The other regional contenders from the conference are all solidly in the field at this point, and any of the six could still host a regional.

The current SEC standings boost the conference's chances to earn 10 tournament bids. Mississippi State and LSU, the two schools with regional aspirations on the outside looking in, both have strong enough nonconference résumés to earn bids even if they don't advance to the SEC tournament at Hoover. Alabama is the one team that needs to finish in the top eight to secure selection in the NCAA tournament.

Just when you think you know what's going on in Conference USA, the standings shake up again. UAB goes from on the rise to off the bubble after a weekend sweep at the hands of Memphis that vaults the Tigers onto the bubble. Memphis, UAB and UCF all have favorable schedules down the stretch to make a run at the top of the conference, but Houston must run the gantlet to stay in the top half. That earns UCF the fourth bid from the conference while Houston stays at home.

St. John's moved onto the bubble and knocked Louisville out of the field with a sweep of its series this weekend, and Connecticut solidified its hold on the top of the Big East standings. The Big East and Big Ten both have several solid teams this season, but parity among the top contenders could cost the conferences in June. Neither has a lock to earn an at-large bid if it falls short in the conference tournament, so it likely will come down to one week in May to determine the winner between Connecticut, St. John's and Louisville in the Big East and Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten.

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

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