COLUMBIA — Anybody who follows college baseball even a little bit knew before Sunday that South Carolina would play in the NCAA tournament, and probably also knew the Gamecocks would host one of the tournament’s 16 four-team regionals.
Both things became official Sunday when the NCAA announced the 16 regional hosts. The real news for USC comes today when the NCAA reveals its top eight national seeds — the teams guaranteed to host a two-team, best-of-three super regional, if they ?advance that far.
USC is in contention to receive a national seed, but is not a lock. As of Sunday, USC was 12th in the ?Ratings Percentage Index compiled by BoydsWorld.com, but Perfect Game USA still projected USC to receive a national seed.
The Gamecocks received a national seed and hosted a super regional last year on their way to their second straight national championship, but they neither received a national seed nor hosted a super regional in 2010.
The rest of the tournament’s field also will be released today, so the Gamecocks will know the three other teams playing this weekend at Carolina Stadium.
This is USC’s 28th NCAA ?tournament appearance and 14th under coach Ray Tanner, in his 16th season. Tanner hasn’t missed the ?tournament since 1999, his third ?season. USC has played in 10 College World Series, five under Tanner, and is trying to become the second team ever to win three consecutive national championships. (Southern California won five straight from 1970-74.)
The tournament expanded from 48 to 64 teams in 1999 and added the super regional stage. In the 13 years of that format, USC has advanced to a super regional nine times in its 12 tournament appearances. USC is one of just four schools to reach a super regional at least nine times in the past 12 years.
The Gamecocks have fared better when hosting a regional. They are 2-3 when traveling for a regional under the current tournament format, losing most recently in 2009. They are 7-0 when playing at home. This is the third straight year they have hosted a regional.
Seventh-ranked USC is 40-17 and went 18-11 in the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks were knocked out of the SEC tournament with Friday’s loss to Florida, giving them a 1-2 showing in the event, with a win over Auburn, which finished 13-17 in the league.
Though USC is the only SEC school with 40-plus wins in each season from 2000 to now, this is the fifth straight year it has failed to win more than one game in the conference tourney.
That didn’t hurt the Gamecocks the past two seasons, as they went 0-2 and 1-2 in the SEC tournament and still won the national championship. Perhaps most remarkable, Tanner is 22-29 in the SEC tournament in his USC career, and 19-7 in the College World Series.
The Gamecocks enters the playoffs with a 21-1 record in the NCAAs over the past two seasons, including 16 consecutive victories, dating to their opener of the 2010 World Series.