Saturday, May 21, 2016

Setting up the final day of the regular season

The regular season  for S.C. college baseball teams began Jan. 29 with some junior college and NCAA Division II teams in action and concludes today with nine of the 11 NCAA Division teams getting a final tuneup for conference tournaments next week.

Coastal Carolina wrapped up the Big South Conference regular-season title last week. On the other end of the spectrum are Charleston Southern and USC Upstate, which failed to qualify for the Big South and Atlantic Sun tournaments, respectively. The state's other eight DI schools have had varying levels of success, but still have something to play for Saturday in addition to pride.

After going through the state teams, I'll check in on the six conferences involving S.C. schools. Both are in alphabetical order.

Charleston Southern - The Buccaneers entered the weekend with a chance to qualify for the Big South Conference Tournament if they could move past Radford and finish ahead of UNC Asheville. Instead, CSU has dropped the first two games at Presbyterian and Radford won three straight to nail down the eighth spot. The incentive for the Buccaneers today is to avoid finishing the season on a six-game losing streak.

Clemson - The Tigers entered the weekend series with no guarantees they'd make the ACC Tournament. They've won their first two games at Notre Dame to nail down their tournament berth and bolster their case for receiving an NCAA regional host nod. A win in South Bend today would assure Clemson of finishing no worse than sixth, avoiding the ACC Tournament's single-elimination play-in round.

Coastal Carolina - The Chanticleers have entered the discussion for a regional host site, too. They've won the first two games of the Campbell series, overcoming an early deficit to win Game 2.  A win today would mean nothing in the Big South Conference standings but would keep the the Chanticleers in the regional host conversation. A loss would give ammunition to those leery of giving a regional to a school outside of one of the so-called power conferences.

College of Charleston - The Cougars entered the weekend facing the prospect of not qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament they are hosting, sitting in a three-way tie for the final two spots. But they nailed down that spot by going 1-1 while rivals Delaware and Towson fell by the wayside. They're locked into sixth place regardless of how they fare against William & Mary today.

Furman - The Paladins have been one of the hottest teams in the Southern Conference over the past few weeks. They enter today's home doubleheader against Wofford with a chance to finish in a three-way tie for second place. Losing two to the Terriers could knock Furman as low as a three-way tie for fifth and assure the Paladins of being the visitors in their SoCon Tournament opener.
Presbyterian - The Blue Hose have already qualified for their first Big South Conference Tournament and have won their first two games with Charleston Southern. Another win today would given PC a .500 record for the regular season and assure a fifth seed for the tournament. A loss sets up the possibility of a three-way tie for fifth.

South Carolina - Winning the first two games of the SEC series at Alabama earned the Gamecocks a bye through the play-in round of the league tournament and gave them 41 wins for the season.  The Gamecocks must win today and get some help from LSU (against Florida), Arkansas (against Mississippi State ) and Mississippi (against Texas A&M) to win the SEC East Division and/or overall title(s).

The Citadel - The Bulldogs entered the weekend assured they'd meet VMI in the SoCon Tournament 8/9 play-in game. Nothing has changed as they close out the series at East Tennessee State today.

USC Upstate - The Spartans will  bespectators for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Their extra-inning win over Jacksonville on Thursday helped knock the Dolphins out of the regular-season title picture. The Spartans have the incentive of doubling their conference victories in one weekend with a sweep today.

Winthrop - The Eagles entered the weekend with a chance to finish as high as a tie for second in the Big South Conference. Two losses at Gardner-Webb later and they face the prospect of finishing seventh unless several things go their way today.

Wofford - The Terriers entered the weekend with a chance to finish as high as fourth in the Southern Conference. They need at least one win in today's doubleheader at Furman to avoid finishing seventh.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Miami can wrap up the overall top seed for the tournament by splitting today's home doubleheader with Florida State.  If the Hurricanes lose twice, Louisville can win the overall title with a win at Wake Forest.

There's still a logjam in the middle of the conference.

Clemson could finish in fifth, sixth or seventh overall.  The seventh-place team would have to play a single-elimination game against the 10th-place team to advance to pool play. I believe the only way the Tigers can finish seventh is if they lose to Notre Dame today while Duke beats Pittsburgh, N.C. State beats North Carolina and Georgia Tech sweeps Boston College.
 My calculations have Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech as missing the tournament. Boston College would join them as the final team on the outside looking in without a sweep at Georgia Tech today.

Atlantic Sun Conference
Kennesaw State has earned the regular-season title.  If Jacksonville wins two at USC Upstate today it can take second place over North Florida by virtue of the 2-1 series win in the regular season.

Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson are tied for the final two spots in the tournament entering today's games. If  they finish tied, Florida Gulf Coast would get the higher seed because it won the regular-season series.

Big South Conference
Gardner-Webb can finish alone in second place with a home win today vs. Winthrop. A loss drops the Bulldogs into a three-way tie for second with High Point and Longwood.

Presbyterian,Winthrop and Liberty could finish in a three-way tie for fifth.

Colonial Athletic Association
There's not much suspense here. UNC Wilmington, William & Mary and Elon will finish 1-2-3.  Northeastern will finish fourth or fifth depending on how it fares against Towson.

Southeastern Conference
 Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Texas A&M all have a chance to finish as the overall champion, although South Carolina has the toughest road. The other three teams would have to go winless today for the Gamecocks to win the overall title.

LSU could bump Florida out of a first-round bye with a doubleheader sweep today, but USC, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are assured of not having to participate in the play-in round of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday.

Missouri (9-20), Tennessee (8-21), Auburn (8-21) and Arkansas (7-22) are the four teams vying for the final two spots in the SEC Tournament. Mizzou is at Kentucky, Tennessee is at Georgia, Auburn is at Vanderbilt and Arkansas is at Mississippi State today.

Southern Conference
Mercer wrapped up the regular-season title by winning at UNC Greensboro on Friday. The teams had entered the weekend tied for first place at 14-7, but the Bears won two of three.

UNCG and Western Carolina are tied for second, and Furman could join them by winning two over Wofford today.

A four-way tie for fourth between Furman, Wofford, Samford and East Tennessee State is a possibility, as is a three-way tie for fifth between Furman, Wofford and ETSU.

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