SEC receives a record nine tourney berths

Updated: June 2, 2004, 5:13 PM ET
Associated Press

Texas was selected Monday as the top seed for the 64-team Division I college baseball tournament, and the Southeastern Conference received a record nine berths.

The Longhorns (50-13), making their 47th tournament appearance and sixth in a row, will host one of 16 four-team, double-elimination regionals that begin Friday.

"There are so many good teams out there that there wasn't any one that was a slam dunk," Division I baseball committee chairman Charlie Carr said. "Texas is a great team, had a great run, had an unbelievable record and deserved to be No. 1. That's not to say there weren't other teams that also could have been No. 1."

The other national seeds, in order, are: South Carolina (45-15), Miami (44-11), Georgia Tech (41-19), Stanford (44-12), Rice (43-12), Arizona State (40-16) and Arkansas (39-21). Those schools would face each other only if they made the College World Series.

"There is very little difference between No. 1 and No. 8," Carr said.

The nine SEC schools in the tournament are: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt -- with a record five serving as regional hosts. The SEC also had the previous record of eight schools in the regionals, set in 2001 and matched last year.

"The SEC this year was far and above stronger than any conference," said Carr, also the senior associate athletic director at Florida State. "When you have nine, sure it certainly grabs your attention, but we just wanted to be diligent and make sure the best teams got in."

The Atlantic Coast Conference -- with Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia -- and the Big 12 -- with Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech -- were next with six teams.

Miami is making its 32nd straight appearance to extend its NCAA record.

Eight teams will make their first NCAA tournament appearances: Birmingham Southern, College of Charleston, Jacksonville State, St. Bonaventure, Stony Brook, Texas Southern, UC Irvine and Youngstown State.

Western Kentucky and Vanderbilt received at-large bids to reach the regionals for the first time since 1980. George Mason will make its first tournament appearance since 1993.

"I think we look at each school and their record and are open to every team, not just the ones that are in a big conference," Carr said.

Mississippi State (34-22) was the only team to make the tournament despite not making its conference tournament. The committee set precedent for that last year, when it took Florida, which also didn't make the SEC tournament.

"That's a quality team playing in a quality conference," Carr said. "There are some great teams in the SEC. It was just a great year for those schools, and my hat's off to them."

The winners of each regional will advance to the super regionals, played June 11-13. The eight winners of the super regionals will play in the College World Series, which starts June 18 in Omaha, Neb.

Texas has been to the College World Series a record 30 times, and won five times (1949-50, '75, '83 and 2002). The Longhorns will take on Youngstown State (22-30) in its first game, and TCU and Oral Roberts will also play in the regional at Austin, Texas.

Rice is trying to join Texas (1949-50), Southern California (1970-74), Stanford (1987-88) and Louisiana State (1996-97) as repeat national champions. The Owls (43-12) play Texas Southern (18-33) in the first round of the Houston regional, which also includes Lamar and Texas A&M.

The 16 regional hosts, which were announced by the NCAA Division I baseball committee Sunday, are: Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton, East Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas and Virginia.

The only hosts not to receive the top seed in their regional were Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma, which were No. 2 in their regionals.

"It was an unbelievably difficult year," Carr said. "We say that every year and we all laugh about it, but it really was."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press