April 29, 2008

Field of dreamers

Maydness is upon us


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan




Maydness is here.


We turn the calendar this week. May Madness - or what we call Maydness - has arrived.


We actually got a taste of it this past weekend with North Carolina taking two of three from Florida State, Arizona State sweeping Cal, Texas A&M winning three over Missouri and South Carolina dropping three at LSU.


There wasn’t a lot of movement in this week’s projections. The ACC gained one team with the addition of Clemson, while we took one from the Sun Belt. And we juggled some of the teams from the SEC.


Several teams made nice jumps in RPI this week, so teams that get hot this month have a chance to greatly help their at-large chances.


The team records are through games of Sunday, April 27, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at www.boydsworld.com).


Here is our second look at the field of 64 (happy teams in bold).


America East (1) – Hartford (6-6, 14-24) dropped from first to fourth after getting swept at home by UMBC (8-8, 16-23). Stony Brook (11-5, 24-16) won three of four at Maine (4-8, 16-21-1) to climb into the top spot. The Seawolves have a non-conference set this weekend with Lafayette. Binghamton (7-5, 19-21) sits in second and heads north this weekend to Vermont (6-6, 19-17). Hartford will venture up to Maine.


ACC (7)Clemson (10-13-1, 24-20-1, RPI 35) was one of the week’s biggest winners, posting a 5-0 record to move above .500 and into bid-ness. Miami (20-2, 36-5), North Carolina (18-5, 38-8) and Florida State (19-5, 35-7) are locks and in good shape to be national seeds. NC State (15-8, 30-13, RPI 8) is also in and should be a regional host. Georgia Tech (12-12, 31-13, RPI 22) and Virginia (13-11, 32-15, RPI 32) are in good shape for now. Clemson hosts Florida State in the league’s top weekend matchup. Georgia Tech has a tough non-conference home series with Coastal Carolina.


Atlantic Sun (1) – This remains 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 (15-9, 24-22), North Florida (13-11, 24-19) and USC Upstate (14-13, 21-25). Lipscomb (17-10, 23-20) sits in second place after taking two of three from East Tennessee State (9-18, 13-31) and right now should be the favorite to win the conference tournament. Mercer (13-14, 19-28) lost two of three to Gardner-Webb (12-15, 21-23). Belmont (13-14, 17-27) won two of three against USC Upstate. Preseason favorite Stetson (9-15, 19-26) is fighting to earn a spot in the six-team A-Sun Tournament. The Hatters won two of three from Jacksonville (12-15, 23-20) and host Florida Gulf Coast this weekend.


Atlantic 10 (1) – Musical chairs continues in the A-10. Xavier (13-5, 19-23) jumped into first place after sweeping St. Bonaventure (9-9, 20-18). Duquesne (12-6, 18-22) won two of three at Charlotte (12-6, 31-12) as both are tied for second. Temple (11-7, 20-21) fell from first to fourth after getting swept at home by Fordham (9-9, 25-18-1). The 49ers have an RPI of 59 and could get an at-large bid. A week ago, we thought they were the heavy favorite to win the conference tournament. They are still the favorite, but could have their hands full. Xavier plays at Duquesne this weekend, while Charlotte heads to Fordham and Temple visits George Washington (8-10, 20-23).


Big East (1) – Notre Dame (13-5, 28-12-1, RPI 75) lost two of three at home to St. John’s (13-5, 31-10) as those two teams are now tied for first. Cincinnati (12-6, 25-17) dropped two of three at Louisville (10-8, 26-16) to remain a game behind the leaders. St. John’s saw its RPI jump 13 spots to 50, so the Red Storm could get an at-large if it wins the regular season title and falters in the tournament. St. John’s entertains West Virginia (11-7, 32-11) this weekend, while Notre Dame plays at Connecticut (7-14, 21-25) and Cincinnati hosts Rutgers (8-10, 18-22-1).


Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (12-3, 36-9, RPI 18) is fighting again to be a No. 1 seed. The Chanticleers won two of three this past weekend at second-place VMI (11-7, 22-22). Liberty (9-6, 22-22) lost two of three at Winthrop (8-7, 18-25). The Flames play at Charleston Southern (4-8, 15-24) in the only conference series this weekend.


Big Ten (1)Michigan (17-3, 30-10, RPI 43) stubbed its toe this past weekend, splitting four games at Indiana (6-14, 18-24). Purdue (16-4, 25-17) is smoking after sweeping a four-game set from Minnesota (6-14, 16-26). The Boilermakers do not face the Wolverines during the regular season. Illinois (11-9, 25-16) split four games with visiting Penn State (10-10, 19-23). Michigan welcomes Ohio State (10-9, 22-18) this weekend, while Purdue entertains Indiana in its final home conference series. The regular-season champ hosts the Big Ten Tournament.


Big 12 (6) – Third-place Oklahoma State (14-7, 32-11, RPI 5) and second-place Nebraska (15-5-1, 32-8-1, RPI 7) are fighting to be national seeds. League-leader Texas A&M (18-3, 37-7, RPI 16) is in the mix for a No. 1 seed. Texas (10-11, 26-18, RPI 36), Baylor (9-12, 25-20, RPI 40) and Missouri (9-9, 29-14, RPI 41) are in for now, but can’t afford to stumble down the stretch. The Longhorns and the Bears will battle in the top Big 12 series this weekend. Oklahoma (6-11-1, 28-17-1, RPI 44) must improve its conference record for consideration for an at-large bid.


Big West (5) – In this deep league, the team with the highest RPI sits in sixth place. UC Irvine (6-6, 28-10, RPI 9) must climb in the standings to have a shot at a national seed.  Cal State Fullerton (11-4, 26-15, RPI 19) remains in first after taking two of three at home from UC Davis (7-5, 26-15, RPI 46). Long Beach State (8-4, 26-15, RPI 31) swept Pacific (2-13, 8-31) to move into a tie for second with UC Santa Barbara (8-4, 29-13, RPI 55). In the top series this weekend, Cal State Fullerton plays at UC Santa Barbara, while Long Beach State visits UC Davis.


CAA (1) – The regular-season title has become a two-horse race between UNC Wilmington (18-2-1, 33-9-1, RPI 24) and James Madison (18-5, 30-11, RPI 62). The teams meet in Wilmington in next weekend. 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 (15-8, 32-13) and George Mason (14-8, 22-21). Old Dominion (12-10, 21-21) swept Northeastern with a pair of shutouts to remind the league where two of the top arms are.


Conference USA (5) – The conference could have three No. 1 seeds in Rice (15-3, 34-11, RPI 6), East Carolina (8-7, 32-13, RPI 10) and Southern Miss (9-6, 31-13, RPI 15). Tulane (8-5, 29-13, RPI 53) won two at Memphis to climb into second place. Houston (8-7, 26-17, RPI 48) fell to fourth after getting swept at Southern Miss. None of the top five face each other this weekend.


Horizon (1) – Two familiar teams tied for the top spot: Illinois-Chicago (11-5, 23-18) and Wright State (11-5, 21-17). The Raiders have won three of five against the Flames, so WSU gets the slight nod.


Ivy (1) – The first NCAA bid will be officially awarded this weekend as Dartmouth (15--5, 24-14), winner of the Rolfe Division, plays host to Columbia (15-5, 20-24), champion of the Gehrig Division, for the Ivy League title. In this best-of-three championship, the teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game, if necessary, on Sunday. We think the home field will give the slight edge to the Big Green.


Metro Atlantic (1)Canisius (11-4, 31-9) has already set a school record for victories and took two of three this past weekend from Manhattan (10-5, 21-17-1) to reclaim sole possession of first place. The Golden Griffins play their final three conference series on the road, beginning at Saint Peter’s this weekend. Second-place Rider (12-6, 24-16) hosts Siena (7-8, 19-24), while the Jaspers visit Marist (7-8, 17-20).


Mid-American (1) – Eastern Michigan (11-4, 15-26) remains in first place in the West Division after dropping two of three at second-place Northern Illinois (11-7, 19-21). Ball State (9-6, 24-16) won two of three at Western Michigan (6-9, 21-15-1) to stay in third place. Eastern Michigan visits Ball State this weekend. Kent State (9-6, 24-17) won two of three at home against second-place Ohio (9-9, 20-22) for some breathing room in the East Division. You could make an argument for several teams to win the MAC Tournament. We lean toward the Golden Flashes, with a favorable schedule down the stretch.


MEAC (1)Bethune-Cookman (15-0, 28-17) continues to dominate the MEAC and should roll past the competition in the conference tournament. Delaware State (10-4, 15-25) remains in second after losing two of three at North Carolina A&T (8-6, 21-25). The Hornets host the first-place Wildcats this weekend in their final conference series.


Missouri Valley (1) – There is now a tie at the top of the MVC standings, as Northern Iowa (11-4, 25-14) dropped two of three at home to Southern Illinois (6-9, 23-18) and Wichita State (11-4, 33-9, RPI 28) took two of three at Indiana State (6-9, 13-26). The Panthers face the Shockers this weekend in Wichita. Missouri State (13-5, 30-13) holds down third and plays at UNI the final weekend of the regular season.


Mountain West (2) – New Mexico (11-4, 27-19, RPI 67) holds down first place, followed closely behind by TCU (13-5, 29-15, RPI 33) and San Diego State (11-7, 25-19, RPI 54). The Horned Frogs took two of three from the Aztecs this past weekend. TCU is in for now, while the Lobos and Aztecs will battle for the league’s other spot. New Mexico plays its final three league series on the road, including at TCU the final weekend. SDSU goes to Air Force (2-12, 15-25) and BYU (6-9, 16-26) before visiting Cal State Fullerton the final weekend. We give the slight nod to the Aztecs.


Northeast (1)Monmouth (14-2, 28-10) continued its sensational season by winning three of four at second-place Central Connecticut State (10-6, 16-18). No reason to think the Hawks will slow down now.


Ohio Valley (1) – It’s tight at the top, as Jacksonville State (14-4, 23-18) maintains its half-game lead over Samford (13-4, 27-15). The Gamecocks swept Eastern Kentucky (8-10, 20-21-1), while the Bulldogs took three from Eastern Illinois (9-9, 18-23). JSU has a slight edge in the remaining schedule, so it’s our pick for now.


Pac-10 (5) The Pac-10 has four teams in the Top 14 in RPI: Arizona State (10-5, 35-7, RPI 4), Arizona (7-8, 28-13, RPI 11), Stanford (10-5, 25-13-2, RPI 12), and Oregon State (8-7, 20-14, RPI 14). California (7-8, 27-13-2, RPI 21) was swept at Arizona State this past weekend. Washington State (3-9, 22-19, RPI 23) has a chance at an at-large bid, but must get out of the basement to get on the board. UCLA (6-6, 22-17, RPI 52) and USC (7-8, 20-22, RPI 45) could get in as well with a strong finish.


Patriot League (1) – The pairings are set for the Patriot League Tournament. No. 1 Army (13-7, 21-21) will host No. 4 Bucknell (10-10, 22-21-2) next weekend in one best-of-three semifinal series, while No. 2 Navy (11-9, 28-21) entertains No. 3 Holy Cross (11-9, 20-25) in the second semifinals. The championship series will be at the home field of the higher seed.


SEC (8) – It could be that the field for the SEC Tournament will all advance to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia (15-5-1, 29-14-1, RPI 13) and South Carolina (11-10, 31-14, RPI 17) are fighting for No. 1 seeds. Florida (12-9, 27-16, RPI 20), Arkansas (9-11, 26-18, RPI 25), Vanderbilt (11-9, 31-13, RPI 27), Kentucky (11-10, 33-11 RPI 28), LSU (9-11-1, 28-16-1, RPI 37) and Ole Miss (11-10, 28-17, RPI 47) are solid for now, although Arkansas and LSU need more wins to secure SEC Tournament spots. LSU made a huge leap in RPI with its three-game sweep of South Carolina. The Tigers are at Kentucky this weekend, while the Razorbacks host Alabama (10-11, 25-21, RPI 66). Auburn (8-13, 24-21, RPI 56) and Tennessee (11-10, 25-19, RPI 76) could get into the picture with a strong finish.


Southern (2)College of Charleston (13-5, 30-14, RPI 42) swept The Citadel (11-10, 23-20) to climb into first place, percentage points ahead of Elon (15-6, 33-14, RPI 29), which took two of three at UNC Greensboro (11-7, 26-17, RPI 69). 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 (17-4, 32-12, RPI 49) continues to impress after sweeping Sam Houston State (12-9, 26-18) to stretch its win streak to nine and build a three-game lead in the West Division over Texas State (14-7, 24-18). Northwestern State (14-6, 23-19) stays a whisker in front of Lamar (14-7, 26-17) in the East.


SWAC (1)Jackson State (17-3, 33-15) continues to dominate the Eastern Division after taking two from Alabama State (8-14, 13-18). Second-place Alcorn State (11-7, 22-11) hosts the division leader this weekend. Southern (15-6, 23-14) sits atop the Western Division, followed by Prairie View A&M (14-7, 21-21) and Grambling State (15-9, 18-20).


Summit (1) – The league has a new name, but should have the same NCAA representative in Oral Roberts (13-3, 31-11, RPI 38), even though the Golden Eagles split a four-game set at second-place Southern Utah (10-5, 23-18) this past weekend.


Sun Belt (1) – It’s been another strong season for the Sun Belt, as eight of the 11 teams have already reached 20 victories. First-place ULM (18-6, 29-14, RPI 77) lost two of three this past weekend at Florida International (8-13, 16-30). Second-place Florida Atlantic (12-7, 25-17, RPI 63) took two of three at home against Western Kentucky (11-10, 24-19). Third-place Troy (13-8, 26-19, RPI 74) dropped two of three at Louisiana-Lafayette (12-12). Fourth-place New Orleans (12-8, 29-13, RPI 57) swept a three-game series at Arkansas State (5-16, 16-29). There is a strong possibility of a second bid out of the Sun Belt, but one team must get hot. They can’t afford to all beat up on each other.


West Coast (2) – First-place San Diego (13-2, 35-11, RPI 30) is one of the hottest teams in the nation with a 16-game win streak. Second-place Pepperdine (8-3, 25-13, RPI 34) hosts the Toreros this weekend in what should be a preview of the league’s championship series. Santa Clara (7-5, 25-16, RPI 61) could work its way into the at-large picture with a strong finish.


WAC (1)Fresno State (14-6, 26-20) continues to set the pace in the WAC, followed by Nevada (12-8, 25-18) and Hawaii (13-11, 21-24). Fresno State lost three of four at Nevada this past weekend, but maintains a two-game lead in the standings.


Independent (1) – This spot was reserved for Miami before it joined the ACC. Now, Dallas Baptist (29-12, RPI 39) 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 have a series at Texas A&M this weekend which will help their RPI.


Last five in: UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State, Tulane, Houston, Dallas Baptist.


Last five out: Oklahoma, UCLA, Florida Atlantic, New Mexico, New Orleans.