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Monday, May 01, 2006

If you're a fan of men's college basketball, there's a good chance you're familiar with ESPN's Bracketology, where during the season, "bracketologist" Joe Lunardi periodically projects what the NCAA tournament field will look like. No detail is spared -- you get to see expected head-to-head match-ups, seedings, and game locations. Lunardi even has his initial projection of the 2007 hoops brackets up and available for viewing, which for now at least provides some food for thought.

The best analogue I can find for softball comes from a discussion thread at Ultimate College Softball. It's mostly listings of whom people think will make the NCAA field from each conference, but you can also find projections of which teams will be placed together in regional tournaments. Not all the comments offer full-fledged projections; many simply offer concurrences and/or dissents from what others have posted.

For those of you who are new this year to following college softball, the NCAA implemented a play-off structure last year that duplicates what baseball has been doing for several years. The 64 teams in the softball field will be divided into 16 regional groupings, where the four teams at a given site (generally, the home of the highest-seeded team in that region) will play a double-elimination tournament. The only thing that probably would prevent a high seed from hosting is the lack of a suitable facility.

The 16 teams to emerge victorious from the regionals will then be paired off into eight super-regionals. The two teams at each super-regional (again, generally hosted by the higher seed) will then play a two-out-of-three series, to advance to the Women's College World Series. The WCWS has a permanent site in Oklahoma City.

Dates of the various rounds are listed here (the selection of teams will be announced Sunday, May 14).