Conference tournaments begin in a few days for most and the NCAA postseason is nearing. With that, many fans around the country are increasingly curious about the postseason picture, particularly the national seed and NCAA regional host contenders in addition to those fighting for at-large berths to the postseason.
With that in mind, we're deviating from the usual daily roundup format to give fans a comprehensive look at how Friday's action might've affected the postseason picture.
Let's start with the national seeds in our latest NCAA postseason projections:
1. Virginia -- STATUS: No change -- The Cavaliers dropped their first game of the day in a 6-5 decision to Wake Forest, but responded in the nightcap with a 7-2 win over the Demon Deacons with starting pitcher Artie Lewicki leading the way. Lewicki allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings.
2. Oregon State -- STATUS: No change -- Yes, the Beavers dropped a tough 4-2 decision to Washington on Friday, but their status as a national seed remains unchanged. OSU starting pitcher Andrew Moore allowed three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, while the Beavers were unable to do much against Washington starting pitcher Jared Fisher, who allowed two runs on five hits in six innings.
3. Florida -- STATUS: No change -- The Gators locked up their national seed Friday night with a series-clinching 4-2 win over Tennessee. Gators lefthanded freshman AJ Puk was outstanding on the mound, striking out five and allowing a run on three hits in five innings. With the win, UF captures the outright SEC regular season title.
4. Florida State -- STATUS: No change -- The Seminoles likely put themselves close to a lock situation Friday night by clinching a series win over Duke with a 9-8 triumph at home. FSU hard-hitting outfielder DJ Stewart went a perfect 4-for-4 with a double, three runs scored and three RBIs to lead the way.
5. Indiana -- STATUS: No change -- With the race for the top eight national seeds hot and heavy, IU might be in a must-win situation going into the series finale against Minnesota. IU dropped the first game of the series, but responded tonight with a 7-3 victory over the Golden Gophers. IU starting pitcher Christian Morris allowed just a run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings.
6. Louisiana-Lafayette -- STATUS: No change -- The Ragin' Cajuns suffered a scare in the series opener on Friday, but responded in a big way Friday night with a 9-1 triumph over Louisiana-Monroe. Third baseman Greg Davis led the way for the Cajuns, going 2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI.
7 Miami (Fla.) -- STATUS: No change -- The Hurricanes won the series opener against North Carolina, 6-5 in 16 innings, but struggled in the nightcap of a doubleheader, losing 11-2. That sets the stage for what is a very important series finale for the 'Canes, who have their sights on a national seed with plenty of competition. UNC roughed up usually great Miami starting pitcher Andrew Suarez, who struck out just two and allowed seven runs on nine hits in two innings.
8. Mississippi -- STATUS: No change -- The Rebels can't control what Vanderbilt or South Carolina does in the series finale on Saturday, but they took care of their business, clinching the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament and winning the SEC West Division with a 4-2 win over Texas A&M. Ole Miss lefthanded pitcher Christian Trent allowed two runs on eight hits in five innings, while reliever Scott Weathersby was terrific, allowing just one hit in four shutout frames.
Other national seed notes: Vanderbilt, TCU and South Carolina were my first three teams outside of a national seed this week, and one of the Gamecocks or Commodores will finish the weekend happy. Vanderbilt's Zander Wiel hit a home run and knocked in three runs in a 9-3 win over South Carolina, while for TCU, righthanded pitcher Preston Morrison continued his outstanding campaign by striking out six, walking one and allowing three hits in eight shutout innings on the road against Baylor … Washington, Cal Poly, Rice and Houston also are teams to watch, especially the Huskies, who moved up to 22 in the RPI following a Game One victory over Oregon State.
KUDOS GO TO … Bucknell | The Bison became the second team to punch their ticket to the NCAA postseason Friday afternoon by sweeping a doubleheader from Lehigh in the Patriot League championship, 5-4 and 7-2. Bucknell lefthanded pitcher Dan Weigel was very solid in the second game against Lehigh, striking out four, walking just one and allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings of work. The postseason berth will be Bucknell's sixth in school history, first since 2010.
LOOKING AT THE HOSTS
Beyond the national seeds, there's not much change to talk about when it comes to the host sites, either. Hosts this week included Houston, Cal Poly, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Washington, TCU, Vanderbilt and Rice. We've already talked about South Carolina, TCU and Vandy's situations. Elsewhere, another win by UW this weekend likely locks up a host site, and potentially even more, while Rice and UH remain safe bets despite Louisville, LSU and Liberty hot on their heels.
Houston had the day off at Temple because of inclement weather, Rice lefthanded pitcher Blake Fox struck out seven in eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win over Louisiana Tech, and Washington, of course, took care of Oregon State. As for the other teams in the mix, Louisville defeated Cincinnati 5-1 with Josh Rogers striking out 10 and allowing a run in eight innings, Liberty split a doubleheader on the road against Radford, and LSU is coming on strong after clinching a series win over Auburn on the road with a commanding 11-3 victory. LSU righthanded pitcher Aaron Nola struck out nine, walked one and allowed just five hits in seven innings.
There are no changes to the host sites as it stands right now, but that could change by the end of the weekend. Another team to potentially watch for is Texas. The Longhorns no-hit Kansas State on Friday with Dillon Peters and Morgan Cooper leading the way. UT has the RPI of a host, but its conference standing has been a major hindrance the past couple of weeks. The Longhorns could finish as high as fourth in the Big 12 with a strong weekend. That's still in the "unlikely to happen" category, but it must be mentioned as a possibility.
WATCHING THOSE AT-LARGES
Illinois: There's still plenty of baseball left to be played over the next week, but the Fighting Illini could be a win away from giving the Big Ten three bids to the NCAA postseason. The Illini evened up their road series against Nebraska with a 5-1 triumph, as lefthanded pitcher Kevin Duchene allowed just a run on four hits in six innings.
N.C. State: I said earlier this week to keep a close eye on North Carolina State this weekend. Well, the Wolfpack clinched a road series win over Virginia Tech with a pair of wins, 9-4 and 6-5. With the wins, the Pack is now 13-16 in the ACC and will be in next week's conference tournament. Carlos Rodon started the series opener and struck out six, walked two and allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings.
Kentucky: There was at least some doubt about the Wildcats entering the weekend, but they've answered the call, capturing a road series win over Georgia with a 10-0 victory on Friday. Max Kuhn and AJ Reed (his 22nd) each had homers to lift the Wildcats, while on the mound, Kyle Cody tossed 4 1/3 shutout innings and Andrew Nelson tossed 4 2/3 shutout frames.
UAB: The Blazers' postseason chances likely came to an end Friday night in a 3-1 loss to Florida Atlantic to drop the series. UAB starting pitcher Chase Mallard allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings.
West Virginia: After setting themselves up well with a series win over Texas a couple of weeks ago, the Mountaineers have dropped five-straight Big 12 games, falling to 9-13 in the league with a 3-2 loss to Texas Tech. WVU is 27-23 overall and has an RPI of 27. It's likely OK for now, but a win over Tech in the series finale is a must.
Tennessee: It's obvious the Vols will have some work to do in the SEC tournament to make the NCAA postseason. UT had a chance to eliminate a lot of doubt this weekend at home against Florida, but lost the series Friday with a 4-2 setback. Vols starting pitcher Nick Williams allowed four runs on nine hits in eight innings.