Host sites up for grabs in SEC, Texas

Vanderbilt is back in consideration for regional hosting rights after seven straight wins. John Russell/Vanderbilt University

Three weeks from Selection Monday the national seeds have started to take shape, but there's still plenty on the line for possible hosts, especially in the SEC and the state of Texas.

With two weeks left before the conference tournament, the SEC is a jumble. Six teams have between 12 and 14 conference wins, so how those teams finish will clear up the hosting picture.

Florida and Ole Miss lead the East and West divisions, respectively, and are both worthy of national seeds at this point. The Rebels' position is more tenuous -- they went 1-5 against LSU and Alabama, both of which could catch the Rebels in the conference standings and pass them in the hosting race.

Vanderbilt is in the top five in the Rating Percentage Index (RPI) and has worked its way back into the hosting discussion with seven straight wins. The Commodores finish with Florida and South Carolina, and if they win both of those series they'll definitely host a regional and will be under consideration for a national seed.

South Carolina continues to battle injuries, and after dropping the series at Georgia over the weekend the Gamecocks are starting to lose their grip on a home regional. The regular-season finale at Vanderbilt next weekend will be big for both teams.

Last year was the first time since 1995 that no regional was played in the state of Texas. But things look to be back to normal this season, with five Lone Star State teams in the RPI top 20. Combine those five schools -- Rice, Houston, TCU, Texas and Texas Tech -- with neighboring states Louisiana (Louisiana and LSU are both in the top 20) and Oklahoma (Big 12 co-leader Oklahoma State), and there's a logjam of hosting candidates in a compact geographic area.

In the interest of geographic diversity and minimizing travel costs, the NCAA is unlikely to have more than five regionals in that area. Louisiana, Rice and TCU all hold at least a share of first in their conferences and are in the top 15 in RPI, making them the safest bets to host at this point.

Oklahoma State jumped into the RPI top 30 with a sweep of Arizona State over the weekend. I detailed the Cowboys' case for a regional last week, and the jump in RPI solidifies their case.

Texas and Texas Tech both dropped weekend series and fell into a fourth-place tie at 11-10 in the Big 12. That eliminates them from the conversation for now.

That leaves Houston and LSU in contention for the final hosting spot in that region. The Cougars and Tigers have similar records against the RPI Top 50 and 100, but Houston is nine spots higher in RPI. That's enough of an advantage at this point, though LSU could easily move past Houston with a series win against Alabama this week.

Rice and Houston are less than five miles apart, but the NCAA has put multiple regionals in the same metro area before. Last season North Carolina and NC State both hosted regionals and super regionals.

The biggest changes since last week come out West, especially in the Big West.

Cal State Fullerton goes from last five in all the way to the bottom of the bubble after dropping another series. The Titans have lost the benefit of the doubt after entering the season as the top-ranked team in the country.

They are replaced in the field by Long Beach State. The Dirtbags would have been under consideration last week with a top-60 RPI but were under .500 overall. A winning record against such a difficult schedule should snap a five-year tournament drought for LBSU.

The same applies to Stanford, which moved over .500 with a series win against defending champion UCLA. Things get easier down the stretch for the Cardinal, which should help them move up from eighth in the conference.

Some big names are on the bubble and need to finish strong to wrap up a regional bid.

North Carolina is one of the last five teams in at this point and finishes with series against Florida State and Miami. If the Tar Heels survive that stretch with at least a 3-3 record, they should be safe.

The SEC bubble breaks down with Kentucky and Tennessee in right now and Arkansas and Auburn out. The Razorbacks are outside the top 50 in RPI, which doesn't bode well for an at-large bid from a power conference. They'll need to get to .500 in conference play to enter the discussion.

Last five in: San Diego State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Stanford, Long Beach State

First nine out: High Point, Arkansas, UC Santa Barbara, USC, Duke, Arkansas State, Illinois State, Southern Miss, Maryland