Sunday, May 07, 2006

We're now exactly one week away from the May 14 NCAA selection announcement.

In the meantime, the Big 10, Big 12, and SEC will be holding conference tournaments. The Pac 10, which does not have a tournament, will have one more weekend of league play.

Because it's the only major conference whose standings are still in play, let's start with a summary of where things currently stand in the Pac 10. Today's UCLA at Oregon State game was rained out.

Arizona swept all three games this weekend against its visitors from northern California (beating Cal once and Stanford twice). Arizona State defeated Stanford, but lost two to Cal. Thus, the Golden Bears fared second best of the foursome and Stanford, the worst.

The Pac 10's softball page has fallen behind in updating the standings, so here are the most recent ones:

UCLA 14-3
Arizona 11-6
OSU 9-7
Cal 10-8
ASU 7-9
Stanford 7-11
Wash. 6-12
Oregon 4-12

With only next weekend's play remaining, UCLA appears to have the regular-season title firmly within its grasp, but there is at least a theoretical possibility that Arizona could slip past the Bruins. Arizona has four games remaining, all in Tucson, against the Oregon schools this upcoming Thursday-Saturday (two against UO, including a rain make-up, and two against OSU). UCLA is at Cal on Thursday, and at Stanford, Friday and Saturday. Thus, UA could finish 15-6 by winning all its remaining games. Further, if UCLA gets swept on its Bay Area trip, the Bruins would finish 14-6, in second place (unless the rained-out UCLA-OSU game gets made up, which seems unlikely).

Regarding the conferences that hold tournaments...

Northwestern, by virtue of its Big 10 regular-season title, will host the conference tourney this upcoming Thursday-Saturday, May 11-13. Only the top eight teams are included (click here for the schedule and match-ups).

In the Big 12, all 10 schools that field softball teams get to participate in the conference tournament, which starts Wednesday in Oklahoma City (schedule and match-ups). Regular-season champ Texas is the top seed.

Finally, Alabama, the SEC Western Division champion is the No. 1 seed in its conference tourney, whereas SEC Eastern Division champ Georgia (the host school) is No. 2. This tournament, which begins Thursday, is also limited to the top eight teams (schedule and match-ups).

The Big 10 and SEC each use a single-elimination format, which could make things more exciting by increasing the chances of underdog teams, whereas the Big 12 uses double-elimination. In NCAA tournament play, double-elimination is used throughout, either via a double-elimination bracket (in the regionals and in World Series pool play) or a two-out-of-three series (in the super-regionals and World Series championship round).

My reporting of conference tournament results this week will probably be fairly light, focusing on any upsets that occur. Of particular note will be any teams whose regular-season records did not appear to warrant NCAA bids, but who might be elevating their levels of play to threaten for automatic bids via winning their conference tourneys.