It's there for the taking.
The Southern Miss baseball team is in good position to earn the right to host an NCAA regional if it continues on its recent roll. The Golden Eagles have won seven consecutive games to sit at 37-12 overall with an RPI ranking of No. 19.
With a 19-5 mark in Conference USA, USM sits three games ahead of second-place Old Dominion (32-14, 16-8) in the standings.
If USM wins the regular season title and makes a strong showing in the C-USA tournament at MGM Park in Biloxi on May 24-28, it has a strong case for the selection committee.
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If USM wins both the regular season title and the conference tournament, it's almost a lock to host a regional in Hattiesburg.
There are 16 regional sites, making it ideal to be in the RPI top 16 when selection day comes, but being in the top 25 usually puts you under consideration. The selection committee likes to reward conference champions and USM has only spent two days in March outside of first place in C-USA.
Aside from a series loss at home to Old Dominion, which seems destined for the postseason, USM has dominated the conference.
There are teams like Baylor and West Virginia that are ranked ahead of USM in RPI, but seem very unlikely to host regionals. Baylor and West Virginia are both around .500 in Big 12 play.
USM is also bolstered by the fact that C-USA ranks sixth among the conferences in RPI, ahead of the Big Ten and Sun Belt. Only the Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and American rank ahead of C-USA.
When you're the decisive champion of the nation's sixth-best conference, it's difficult to deny you the chance to host a regional.
No room for mistakes
If regional sites were announced today, USM would likely be the 15th or 16th regional site handed out. That leaves little room for error down the stretch with a relatively weak conference slate the rest of the way.
USM hosts UAB (22-26, 8-16) for a three-game series starting at 6 p.m. Friday. The Blazers have played the role of spoiler for USM in the past, but Scott Berry's team will be a heavy favorite at Pete Taylor Park.
USM, which will play Southeastern Louisiana in Biloxi on May 16, will close out the regular season with a potentially tricky trip to Texas-San Antonio, which is 25-21 overall and 13-11 in conference play. UTSA will have plenty to play for in the final week with potentially a spot in the conference tournament on the line.
For the USM players to understand how easy it is to ruin your chance at hosting a regional, all they have to do is look back to the 2016 campaign. The Eagles played their way out of a regional site by losing all three games at FIU to close out the regular season. Winning the C-USA tournament the next week was not enough to impress the selection committee.
The Biloxi 8
The eight-team field for the C-USA tournament is setting up to be a tough one with both Louisiana Tech and Rice surging late in the season.
Rice was in last place with a 4-11 mark after the first five weeks of the conference slate. With 10 wins in their last 12 games, the Owls are 22-26 overall and 12-12 in league play.
With Middle Tennessee (20-27, 7-17) and UAB serving as the two conference opponents over the final two weekends, Rice appears likely to move up from its seventh-place tie with Marshall (24-23, 12-12).
It seems probable that Marshall, UTSA and FIU (27-23, 11-13) will be battling for the final two spots in the field. UAB, MTSU and WKU (14-35, 4-20) are all irrelevant.
Louisiana Tech, ODU and Rice have been the biggest movers in recent weeks.
Tech (32-15, 13-11) is 12-3 over its last 15 games with plenty to play for thanks to an RPI ranking of No. 38. If the Bulldogs win their next two series against Marshall and MTSU, they'll be in the postseason discussion headed into the C-USA tournament.
If the tournament was held today, the seeding would be: No. 1 USM, No. 2 ODU, No. 3 FAU, No. 4 Charlotte, No. 5 UTSA, No. 6 La. Tech, No. 7 Marshall and No. 8 Rice.
Who: Southern Miss vs. UAB
When: 6 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday; 1 p.m., Sunday
Where: Pete Taylor Park, Hattiesburg
Radio: WPMO 1580-AM