Can softball avoid Gainesville in NCAA draw?

USF will learn where its softball team opens play in the NCAA Tournament tonight when the field is unveiled at 10 p.m. -- sorry, make that 7 p.m. PT -- and while the Bulls are certain to earn an at-large berth in the field, the curious question will be where they play.

The Bulls, at 44-18, aren't among the top 16 teams in the country, so they wouldn't have hosted a regional even if the facilities were up to their caliber of Big East softball. Instead, USF will be one of 48 teams opening the tournament on the road. After the top 16 teams are seeded, the rest of the field tends to be placed geographically, which isn't necessarily fair to the Bulls.

Florida, you see, is likely to be the top overall seed in the entire tournament, so if the Bulls harbor hopes of making it to super-regionals (top 16), their path would be easier if it didn't go through Gainesville. The Bulls and Gators played twice in Tampa last season, with Florida winning 2-1 and 4-1.

The state likely has four NCAA Tournament teams in Florida, USF, Central Florida and Florida State. Florida will likely have a small-conference team as a first-round opponent, leaving room for two of the other three state schools in Gainesville. Can USF be lucky enough to be placed elsewhere? The message boards at Ultimatecollegesoftball.com -- yes, I checked them out -- have lots of projected fields and potential regional hosts, and the models there have FSU avoiding Gainesville and getting placed in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama should also be a host. Tallahassee, obviously, is much closer to Tuscaloosa than Tampa is. The NCAA wants to keep travel costs down, which is understandable, but this is what happens as a by-product of that savings ...

Anyway, we'll probably have a baseball update here this afternoon, but check back tonight for updates on where softball's headed as the Bulls return to the NCAA Tournament ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:23pm]

    

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