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    • 39 SEC Teams Earn NCAA Public Recognition

      Thirty-nine Southeastern Conference teams have garnered NCAA Public Recognition Awards for earning an NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top-10 percent of all squads nationally in their respective sports in 2011-12.
    • Hussey Promoted to Associate Commissioner

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      The game managers from each Southeastern Conference school gathered last week in Baton Rouge, La., for their annual meeting with SEC officials.
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      Tiffany Daniels, currently the Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs at Georgia State University, has been named Associate Commissioner with the Southeastern Conference, Commissioner Mike Slive announced Friday.
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      Will Lawler, Director of Compliance at the University of Tennessee, has been named Assistant Commissioner for Compliance with the Southeastern Conference, Commissioner Mike Slive announced Thursday.

    Last Call: SEC Bracketology

    By: Tommy Deas
    Twitter: @TommyDeas
    SEC Digital Network.

    Here are my final projections for SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament. I now have nine league teams making the field of 64 -- every team that qualified for the conference tournament, plus Arkansas by virtue of upsetting both Alabama and Georgia in the final weeks of the regular season.

    There are a lot of things to keep in mind. The NCAA’s selection committee has made a commitment to try to have all of the top 16 seeds host in the regional round (and the top eight in the super regionals) if those teams meet facilities requirements. That aside, the selection committee is tasked not with making the fairest bracket (as in men’s basketball, for instance, where the top seeds have easier roads to advance against the weakest lesser seeds) but to making a bracket with the least number of teams flying to regionals -- with a 400-mile radius of each regional being considered reasonable distance to bring teams by bus instead of plane. That means regionals will be more regional in flavor whenever possible.

    Another cautionary note: My experience tells me that the selection committee will not put great weight on the SEC Tournament, or other action this weekend (aside from teams earning automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments, of course). This bracket reflects the belief that no team is going to jump up dramatically for a good three-day run, nor vice versa. Most of the seeding will be in place by the time the league tourney plays itself out, although it’s not impossible some team could inch up or drop a tad depending on the weekend’s results.

    These projections are based largely on the latest NCAA official RPI (ratings percentage index) rankings, which are relied upon by the selection committee in putting together the bracket. The RPI is derived from a formula that considers winning percentage, strength of schedule and other factors. Note also that my super regional projections are based on the top seed in the regional advancing.

    Here’s how I see it going:

    Projected seed
    : No. 3 overall
    Projected NCAA regional: In Tuscaloosa, with Georgia Tech as the second seed in the regional. Look for UAB to land as the third seed, with Tennessee-Martin or the Southwestern Athletic Conference representative coming in as the fourth seed.
    Projected Super Regional: At home vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in a best-of-three series between two of the nation’s top offensive machines.

    Projected seed
    : No. 5 overall
    Projected NCAA regional: In Knoxville, with Virginia Tech as the second seed. Radford of the Big South Conference would be a perfect fit for the third seed, with Chattanooga of the SoCon as a possible fourth seed if the Lady Mocs win their league tournament.
    Projected Super Regional: Hosting Louisville, a team the Volunteers defeated handily late in the season.

    Projected seed
    : No. 7 overall
    Projected NCAA regional: In Gainesville, with South Florida as the second seed and Central Florida as the third seed. Bethune-Cookman of the Mideastern Athletic Conference, or Florida Gulf Coast of the Atlantic Sun could fill the fourth slot if either wins its conference tournament to garner an automatic bid.
    Projected Super Regional: At home vs. Arizona in a coveted SEC vs. Pac-12 matchup.

    Projected seed
    : No. 15 overall
    Projected regional: Home in Athens, with North Carolina occupying the second seed spot. South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference has closed strong, and could be on the right side of the bubble for a three seed. Possible fourth seeds include Georgia Southern of the SoCon and Kennesaw State of the A-Sun.
    Projected Super Regional: At Arizona State as the SEC vs. Pac 12 trend becomes a theme.

    Projected seed
    : Second seed at the Texas A&M regional. The LSU-Texas A&M-ULL triangle is difficult to figure, but Baylor could bus to Louisiana-Lafayette but couldn’t play in College Station, Texas, because both are in the Big 12 (for now), so this makes the most sense to me.

    Mississippi State
    Projected seed
    : Third seed at the Louisiana-Lafayette regional, as a live underdog.

    Projected seed
    : Pencil the Wildcats as the third seed in the Louisville regional, giving softball a Final Four rematch with great in-state interest.

    Projected seed
    : If the Razorbacks make it, and I now think they will, slot them as the three seed in the regional at Oklahoma as a possible spoiler.

    SEC Tournament Matchups
    Softball’s second season gets underway this week in Tuscaloosa at the league tournament. Past may not be prologue, but here’s a look at how the teams paired in Thursday’s first round fared against each other in regular-season play, with seeds in parenthesis:

    Alabama (1) vs. Mississippi State (8)
    The Crimson Tide swept MSU in Starkville on March 30-April 1, winning 5-4, 4-2 and 9-2.
    Notable: Erin Nesbit hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning of the series opener to put the Bulldogs ahead 4-2. Alabama tied it in the top of the fifth and scored the winning run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. The Crimson Tide never trailed again in the series.

    Tennessee (2) vs. Auburn (7)
    The Volunteers took all three games at Auburn on April 6-8, winning 9-1, 5-3 and 6-2.
    Notable: Tennessee drove in 13 of its 16 RBIs in the series with two outs, accounting for 13 of its 20 runs. Madison Shipman batted .417 overall with four home runs and 11 RBIs for Tennessee.

    Florida (3) vs. LSU (6)
    The Tigers and Gators split a doubleheader in Gainesville on April 24. Florida won the first game 2-1 in eight innings and LSU won the nightcap 1-0.
    Notable: LSU’s 1-0 victory over the Gators was the program’s first in Gainesville since the 2005 season. The Tigers were fueled by Brittany Mack’s four-hitter to go along with eight strikeouts.

    Georgia (4) vs. Kentucky (5)
    Kentucky took two out of three in Athens on April 13-15. The Wildcats won 4-1 and 4-0, with Georgia winning the finale 4-3.
    Notable: Georgia freshman Paige Wilson was a tough out for Kentucky. Wilson hit a pair of doubles and a home run, with her solo shot in the top of the seventh of game three proving to be the game-winner. Kentucky sophomore pitcher Lauren Cumbess threw the first no-hitter of her career the second game of the series, the first no-no against the Bulldogs since Tennessee’s Monica Abbott threw one in 2007. UK took the series from UGA for just the second time in program history, with the first coming in 2000.

    Stat of the Week
    Tennessee has faced 17 teams that made it to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, winning 21 of the 28 games.

    Other notable statistics: Dating back to her victory against Kentucky on April 21, Mississippi State junior lefty Stephanie Becker is 4-0 with a microscopic 0.57 ERA. ... In Rachele Fico’s 11 losses this season pitching for LSU, the Tigers were shut out seven times and scored just seven total runs in support of the junior right-hander. ... Ole Miss closed out the 2012 season with a strong run, winning a season-best five games in a row, capped by a three-game sweep of South Carolina, the first SEC sweep for the Rebels since 2008. ... Kentucky’s Brittany Cervantes hit home runs in consecutive at-bats against LSU (the final at-bat of the first game and first turn at the plate in the second conest), the second time she has done so in her career. The solo shot in the series opener tied the game to force extra innings. ... Georgia senior Ashley Pauly batted .500 against Arkansas, with a double and two RBIs. She stuck out just one time in eight at-bats and posted a .625 slugging percentage. ... Alabama drew a total attendance of 10,547 for its three-game home series with Florida last weekend, setting a school record for a series.

    Tommy Deas is executive sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News and has covered SEC softball since 1997