Field of dreamers
Maydness is almost here
Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan
Maydness is right around the corner.
May Madness - or what we call Maydness - is on
the horizon. It’s arrived quicker than before, with the Feb. 22
start date. There are several teams securely in the NCAA
Tournament, but lots of bubble teams fighting for those precious
The team records are through games of Monday,
April 21, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at
Without further ado, here’s our early look at the
field of 64 (happy teams in bold).
America East (1) –
Hartford (6-2, 14-18) has won six of its first eight conference
games, but still has four series remaining. Stony Brook (8-4,
20-15) won three of four this past weekend at Vermont (4-4,
16-14), but dropped three of four to Hartford earlier. The
Seawolves have the bottom three teams remaining on their
conference slate, so they get our nod. Binghamton (7-5, 14-21)
swept Albany (4-8, 9-28-1) to stay in the picture.
ACC (6) – Miami
(17-2, 33-4), Florida State (18-3, 34-5) and North
Carolina (16-4, 34-7) are locks and are in the mix to be
national seeds. NC State (12-8, 27-12, RPI 13) is also
in, fighting to be a regional host. Georgia Tech (10-11,
28-12, RPI 17) and Virginia (13-8, 31-11, RPI 33) are
in good shape for now, but need to have solid finishes. Clemson
(7-13-1, 19-20-1, RPI 37) is in the neighborhood, but has to get
its overall record above.500 for consideration. The Tigers still
have series with Florida State and at Georgia Tech, so much work
left to do.
Atlantic Sun (1) –
This is a strange situation, as four of the top five team in the
standings are not eligible for post-season play during their
NCAA reclassifying period. They include Florida Gulf Coast
(19-5, 29-12), Kennesaw State (12-9, 21-20), North Florida
(13-11, 23-18) and USC Upstate (13-11, 20-21). Lipscomb
(15-9, 21-18) sits in second place and right now should be
the favorite to win the conference tournament. Mercer (12-12,
18-24) took two of three this past weekend at Kennesaw State and
could make a late push. Jacksonville (11-13, 22-18) got swept at
home by Florida Gulf Coast and has two of its final three
conference series on the road.
Atlantic 10 (1) –
Charlotte (11-4, 29-9) is tied with surprising Temple (11-4,
20-17) for first, with Duquesne (10-5, 15-20) and Xavier (10-5,
16-21) a game behind. The 49ers have an RPI of 50 and could get
an at-large bid, but they should be the heavy favorite to win
the conference tournament. Charlotte hosts Duquesne in the
marquee matchup of the weekend, and has three of its final four
conference series at home.
Big East (1) – Notre
Dame (12-3, 25-10-1, RPI 78) didn’t get a lot of love in the
preseason, but has played very well in conference play. The
Fighting Irish have a critical series this weekend with
second-place St. John’s (11-4, 28-9, RPI 63). Cincinnati
(11-4, 23-14) is also tied for second and visits Louisville
(8-7, 23-15) this weekend. St. John’s could get an at-large if
it wins the regular season title and falters in the tournament,
but the Big East looks like one bid right now.
Big South (1) –
Coastal Carolina (10-2, 33-7, RPI 11) is fighting again to
be a No. 1 seed. VMI (10-5, 20-19) and Liberty (8-4, 20-19) have
been solid in conference play. The Keydets entertain the
Chanticleers this weekend in the league’s top series.
Big Ten (1) – After
a sluggish start, Michigan (15-1, 28-8, RPI 38) is
rolling. After their four-game sweep of Michigan State (4-11,
13-21), the Wolverines have won 11 straight. Purdue (12-4,
20-17) won three of four at Ohio State (8-7, 19-15) to securely
sit in second place. The Boilermakers do not face Michigan
during the regular season. Illinois (9-7, 21-14) went 3-1 at
Minnesota (6-10, 16-21) to take third. The Illini host Penn
State (8-8, 15-21) this weekend. The conference gets two bids if
someone upsets Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
Big 12 (6) –
Oklahoma State (11-7, 27-11, RPI 6) is in the hunt for a
national seed, but needs to improve its third-place standing in
the league. Second-place Nebraska (13-4-1, 28-7-1, RPI 15)
and league-leader Texas A&M (15-3, 33-7, RPI 23) are in
the mix for a No. 1 seed. Texas (8-10, 23-16, RPI 35),
Missouri (9-6, 28-10, RPI 41) and Baylor (8-10, 23-17,
RPI 47) are in for now, but can’t afford to stumble down the
stretch. Oklahoma (4-10-1, 25-15-1, RPI 48) must improve its
ninth-place standing for consideration for an at-large bid. The
Sooners still have series with the two team immediately above
them, Kansas (5-10, 25-18) and Kansas State (5-10, 18-20).
Big West (5) – This
strong league continues to get stronger. How do you explain that
a team which has been in the Top 10 nationally for most of the
year sits in sixth place in the conference standings? That’s
where UC Irvine (6-6, 24-9, RPI 18) sits after losing two
of three at home to UC Riverside (5-4, 11-23). The Anteaters
must climb in the standings to have a shot at a No. 1 seed.
Cal State Fullerton (9-3, 23-13, RPI 20) has risen to first
place, followed by UC Santa Barbara (6-3, 27-11, RPI 42),
UC Davis (6-3, 25-13, RPI 44) and Long Beach State
(5-4, 23-14, RPI 27).
CAA (1) – The
regular-season title had become a two-horse race between UNC
Wilmington (18-2-1, 29-8-1, RPI 25) and James Madison (16-4,
26-10, RPI 60). The teams meet in Wilmington in two weeks. The
Seahawks should get an at-large bid if they don’t win the
conference tournament on their home field. Keep an eye on the
bats of William & Mary (13-7, 29-12).
Conference USA (5) –
Rice (13-2, 31-10, RPI 7) just swept East Carolina
(8-7, 27-13, RPI 12) at home, but both are positioning for
No. 1 seeds. Houston (8-4, 25-14, RPI 40) sits in second,
but still has road trips to Rice and to Southern Miss (6-6,
26-13, RPI 19). Tulane (6-5, 27-12, RPI 53) needs to
stay near the top to secure an at-large bid. The Green Wave
finishes the year at East Carolina and at home with Rice.
Horizon (1) – Two
familiar teams are battling for the top spot with
Illinois-Chicago (11-5, 22-15) and Wright State (9-4, 18-16).
The Raiders have won three of five against the Flames, so WSU
gets the slight nod.
Ivy (1) –
Dartmouth (12-4, 20-13) has a comfortable 2 ½-game lead over
Yale (9-6-1, 19-20-1) in the Rolfe Division, while Columbia
(11-5, 16-22) sits three games ahead of Princeton (8-8, 16-20)
in the Gehrig Division with one weekend left in the regular
season. Look for the Big Green to prevail over the Lions for the
Metro Atlantic (1) –
Canisius (9-3, 29-6) has already set a school record for
victories, but dropped two of three at home to Siena (7-8,
14-23) to fall into a first-place tie with Manhattan (9-3,
18-15-1). The Golden Griffins and Jaspers meet this weekend in
Buffalo. Look for Canisius to win the series and roll through
the MAAC Tournament.
Mid-American (1) –
Eastern Michigan (10-2, 13-24) has been impressive in rising to
the top of the West Division, but has three of its final four
conference series away from home. Northern Illinois (9-6,
16-19), Ball State (7-5, 21-14) and Central Michigan (8-6,
19-18) all host the Eagles and will pressure for the West title.
Kent State (7-5, 21-15) has a slight lead over Ohio (8-7,
18-19) and Bowling Green (6-6, 17-16) in the East. You could
pick a name out of a hat for who will win the MAC Tournament.
We’ll give the slight advantage to the Golden Flashes, who host
the Bobcats this weekend and have a favorable schedule down the
MEAC (1) –
Bethune-Cookman (12-0, 25-15) is again dominating the MEAC
and should roll past the competition in the conference
tournament. Delaware State (9-2, 14-22) has done well against
the bottom of the league, but travels to North Carolina A&T
(6-5, 18-22) this weekend and hosts the first-place Wildcats
Missouri Valley (1)
– There is a surprise at the top of the MVC standings, as
Northern Iowa (10-2, 23-11) sits one game ahead of Wichita
State (9-3, 30-7, RPI 21). The teams play in Wichita next
weekend. The Shockers must continue to pile up wins to stay in
consideration for a No. 1 seed. Missouri State (10-5, 25-13)
holds down third and plays at UNI the final weekend of the
Mountain West (2) –
TCU (11-4, 27-13, RPI 29) is in a tie with New Mexico
(11-4, 27-14, RPI 51) for first place, with San Diego State
(10-5, 23-17, RPI 56) one game behind. The Horned Frogs are
in for now, while the Lobos and the Aztecs will battle for the
league’s other spot. Both have chances to improve their RPI, as
New Mexico hosts UC Irvine this weekend and plays at TCU the
final weekend. SDSU entertains TCU this weekend and plays at Cal
State Fullerton the final weekend. We give the slight nod to the
Northeast (1) –
Monmouth (11-1, 23-9) has had a monster season so far and
holds a two-game lead over Central Connecticut State (9-3,
14-15). No reason to think the Hawks will slow down now.
Ohio Valley (1) –
It’s tight at the top, as Jacksonville State (11-4, 20-17)
has a half-game lead over Samford (10-4, 23-14). The Gamecocks
have a slight edge in the remaining schedule, so they’re our
pick for now.
Pac-10 (5) –
The Pac-10 has five teams in the Top 16 in RPI: Arizona State
(7-5, 31-6, RPI 4), Arizona (6-6, 25-11, RPI 8),
first-place Stanford (8-4, 22-12-2, RPI 10),
California (7-5, 26-10-2, RPI 14) and Oregon State (5-6,
18-13, RPI 16). Washington State (3-9, 19-18, RPI 26) has a
chance at an at-large bid, but must get out of the basement to
get on the board. USC (6-6, 20-18, RPI 43) and UCLA (4-5, 18-16,
RPI 52) could get in as well with a strong finish.
Patriot League (1) –
The top five teams are separated by three games with just one
series remaining for each squad. Army (10-6, 18-20) hosts
Lafayette (7-9, 19-17) this weekend. Holy Cross (10-6, 18-21) is
tied for first and heads to Navy (8-8, 23-20). Third-place
Bucknell (9-7, 20-18-2) entertains Lehigh (4-12, 19-25) to end
the season. The top four teams make the Patriot League
tournament, with best-of-three semifinals before a best-of-three
SEC (8) – It could
be that the field for the SEC Tournament will all advance to the
NCAA Tournament. South Carolina (11-7, 29-11) and
Georgia (14-3-1, 27-12-1) are working toward national seeds.
Florida (10-8, 25-15, RPI 22), Vanderbilt (10-7,
28-11, RPI 30), Arkansas (7-10, 22-17, RPI 31),
Kentucky (9-9, 30-9, RPI 34) and Ole Miss (10-8, 25-15,
RPI 46) are solid for now, although the Razorbacks need more
wins to secure an SEC Tournament spot. Tennessee (10-8,
23-16, RPI 59) gets the final spot for now, but has tough
series remaining with Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and South
Carolina. Auburn (7-11, 23-18, RPI 45) could replace Tennessee,
but must get more conference wins. If the Tigers miss the SEC
Tournament, they’re likely to miss the NCAA Tournament as well.
Southern (2) –
Elon (13-5, 29-13, RPI 39) has worked its way to the top of
the standings, with College of Charleston (10-5, 27-13, RPI
54) and UNC Greensboro (10-5, 24-14, RPI 70) right behind.
The Cougars should get an at-large bid, as long as one of the
lower seeds doesn’t win the conference tournament, like
ninth-seed Wofford did a year ago.
Southland (1) –
Texas-San Antonio (14-4, 28-12) has been impressive in
claiming the top spot in the West Division, but Texas State
(13-5, 23-14) and Sam Houston State (12-6, 25-14) are right
behind. Northwestern State (12-5, 21-17) is a whisker in front
of Lamar (12-6, 23-16) in the East.
SWAC (1) –
Jackson State (15-3, 31-14) has dominated the Eastern
Division to this point. Alcorn State (10-6, 21-8) still hosts
the division leader next weekend. Southern (11-4, 19-11) sits
atop the Western Division, followed by Grambling State (14-7,
17-17) and Prairie View A&M (11-7, 17-19).
Summit (1) – The
league has a new name, but should have the same NCAA
representative in Oral Roberts (11-1, 29-8, RPI 24).
Southern Utah (8-3, 21-15) sits in second.
Sun Belt (2) – It’s
been another strong season for the Sun Belt, as eight of the 11
teams have already reached 20 victories. First-place ULM
(17-4, 27-12, RPI 62) has two of its final three conference
series on the road, including at second-place Troy (12-6, 24-17,
RPI 75). Florida Atlantic (10-6, 23-15, RPI 58) should be
in position for an at-large bid as long as its stays near the
top of the league standings. If New Orleans (9-8, 25-13, RPI 61)
gets hot, it could get in the bid picture as well.
West Coast (2) –
First-place San Diego (10-2, 31-11, RPI 36) and
second-place Pepperdine (8-3, 25-13, RPI 32) should meet
in the league’s best-of-three championship series. Santa Clara
(7-5, 21-16, RPI 55) could work its way into the at-large
picture with a strong finish.
WAC (1) – Fresno
State (13-3, 24-16) sets the pace again in the WAC, followed
by Sacramento State (10-5, 19-18) and Nevada (9-7, 22-17).
Independent (1) –
This spot was reserved for Miami before it joined the ACC. Now,
Dallas Baptist (26-11, RPI 28) should earn an at-large
bid. The Patriots have two wins over Rice and a pair over ULM,
the first-place team in the Sun Belt. They still have a series
with Texas A&M which will help their RPI.
Last five in:
Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, San Diego State, College of
Last five out: USC,
Washington State, Auburn, Oklahoma, New Mexico.