Clemson, USC need deep runs

FILE- In this March 2, 2013, file photo, South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook signals an outfield shift during an NCAA college baseball game against Clemson at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. Things have gone about the way the first-year South Carolina baseball coach expected this season: the Gamecock have improved since the start, they are in the hunt to host an NCAA tournament regional. Yet some fans still question Holbrook when South Carolina loses. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer, File) GREENVILLE NEWS OUT, SENECA NEWS OUT

Mark Crammer

June Madness starts early again this year; South Carolina and Clemson look solid as NCAA tournament regional hosts. They have one more week of baseball number crunching to make cases for national seed status, the coveted top eight spots that assure super regional host privileges for teams that advance.

The Gamecocks, a consensus No. 11 on Ratings Percentage Index lists, open SEC tournament play Wednesday night in Hoover, Ala., against the loser of Tuesday’s Mississippi State-Missouri game.

The Tigers are No. 12 in the RPI. They open ACC tournament pool play Wednesday night against N.C. State in Durham, N.C.

“I wouldn’t quite say they both have regionals locked up, but they’re both in very good shape,” Baseball America’s college baseball writer Aaron Fitt said Sunday. “The thing to watch is Arkansas. Can the Hogs make a deep run in Hoover? If so, how much will their RPI go up? They did finish third in the SEC, which carries a lot of weight, but unless they can get that No. 48 RPI way up, they won’t host.

“But if they can get it up around 30, and if South Carolina or Clemson falls flat in the conference tournaments, I suppose one of those teams could get squeezed out. But I think that’s an unlikely scenario.”

Both Clemson (39-17) and South Carolina (39-16) finished last week losing road series to teams also vying for national seeds.

The Tigers went 1-2 at Florida State, the Gamecocks 1-2 at Mississippi State.

The national seed picture is clearing up. RPI consensus says Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State, Oregon State and LSU — in order — are in good shape, with Cal State Fullerton and Oregon also likely.

Fitt thinks South Carolina, Louisville and Indiana are on the bubble.

“I wouldn’t put Clemson in there because the Tigers are fourth or fifth in the ACC’s pecking order, and I can’t see the ACC getting more than three national seeds,” Fitt said. “Right now, I like Louisville’s case more than South Carolina’s. But a deep run in Hoover by the Gamecocks could alter that, especially if Louisville fails to win the Big East tournament.”

South Carolina leads the SEC with 46 home runs. The Gamecocks were College World Series champions in 2010 and 2011 and the runner-up in 2012.

Clemson has won 23 of its last 29 games. The Tigers have won 13 of their last 19 games in the ACC, the top-rated RPI conference.

College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern will advance to the NCAA tournament only as conference tournament champs.

The Cougars are the No. 2 seed in the Southern Conference tournament and open Wednesday night against No. 7 Georgia Southern in Greenville.

The Bulldogs are the No. 4 seed in Greenville and face No. 5 Appalachian State on Wednesday.

Charleston Southern is the No. 8 seed in the Big South Conference tournament and face No. 1 Campbell on Tuesday at Liberty’s new on-campus ballpark in Lynchburg, Va.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.