Field of dreamers
Maydness is upon us
Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan
Maydness begins this week.
May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here.
The first official bid will be awarded this weekend as Dartmouth
hosts the Ivy League Championship Series.
We take our second look at the potential field.
There are teams that are locks; others have much work to do. The
team records are through games of Sunday, April 26, as are the
RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at
Without further ado, here’s our look the Field of
64 (happy teams in bold).
America East (1) –
Maine (9-3, 26-15) split four games with Vermont (5-7, 12-25)
and fell percentage points behind preseason favorite
Binghamton (8-2, 20-15), which has an easier remaining
league schedule. The Bearcats must go to Orono in May, but are
still our pick.
ACC (8) – There are six locks as of now: North
Carolina (16-7, 35-11, RPI 1), Georgia Tech (14-7-1,
28-11-1, RPI 2), Miami (Fla.) (13-11, 29-14, RPI 5),
Clemson (14-10, 30-15, RPI 7), Virginia (13-8-1,
34-9-1, RPI 14) and Florida State (15-7, 30-12, RPI 20).
Boston College (11-11, 26-17, RPI 40) and Virginia
Tech (10-13, 25-17, RPI 54) are still in this week. Duke
(12-12, 29-17, RPI 72) needs a big finish to make the field.
Atlantic Sun (1) – Jacksonville (16-8, 27-13, RPI 60)
is in third, but would be the top seed in the tournament as
first-place Florida Gulf Coast (16-5, 25-16, RPI 80) and
second-place Kennesaw State (15-5, 23-16, RPI 91) are still
transitioning to Division I status and are not eligible for the
A-Sun tourney. The Dolphins, who play at KSU this weekend, get
our nod for now, but we think Belmont (14-10, 25-19, RPI 95)
Atlantic 10 (1) –
Rhode Island (15-2, 29-13-1, RPI 37) swept a three-game set
at Saint Joseph’s (7-10, 14-22) to stay on top of the conference
standings. With an RPI of 37, the rest of the nation will be
watching the Rams, hoping they take the automatic and don’t fall
into the at-large pool. Second-place Dayton (14-4, 29-14, RPI
122) won three at Fordham (9-9, 14-27) to extend its win streak
to nine and stay within striking distance of the Rams. The
Flyers have the advantage of playing the conference tournament
in their hometown. Preseason favorite Charlotte (10-8, 23-15,
RPI 151) swept three at Saint Louis (6-11, 21-23) to climb to
fourth place. The 49ers have won nine of their past 10 league
contests and are making a late-season push. URI is the pick.
Big East (2) – USF (15-3, 27-15, RPI 67) swept
three from West Virginia (11-7, 28-12, RPI 119) to open a
three-game lead, but still must travel to Notre Dame (10-8,
25-16, RPI 84) and Louisville (12-6, 29-13, RPI 55).
We’re calling for the Bulls to win the tournament in their back
yard and for the Cardinals to receive an at-large bid.
Big South (1) – Second-place Coastal Carolina (12-5,
32-12, RPI 28) went 2-3 this past week to damage its chances
for a No. 1 seed. First-place Liberty (16-4, 29-13, RPI 89) won
two of three at Gardner-Webb (10-8, 21-18) and
must head to Conway, S.C., to face the Chanticleers this
weekend. Winthrop (13-8, 26-18, RPI 81) could move into the
at-large picture with a successful weekend at Arizona State in
May. While we think this could switch to two teams, Coastal is
the lone representative this week.
Big 10 (2) – First-place Ohio State (11-4, 31-10, RPI
29) and Minnesota (10-4, 27-12, RPI 21) are in great
shape for bids. Illinois (11-4, 26-12, RPI 47) won three at Penn
State (5-10, 21-19, RPI 100) to move into a tie for first with
the Buckeyes and is in the at-large picture – we have them
square on the bubble. The Illini hosts OSU next weekend. Indiana
(10-4, 20-21, RPI 120) took two of three at Michigan (6-9,
23-19, RPI 184) to pull into a tie for third. It should be a fun
Big 12 (7) – There are five current locks: Texas
(12-8-1, 29-11-1, RPI 9), Oklahoma (11-7, 33-11, RPI 15),
Baylor (10-10, 25-17, RPI 19), Texas A&M (13-8, 28-15,
RPI 22) and Kansas State (10-7-1, 31-11-1, RPI 24).
We’ll put Kansas (10-8, 29-15, RPI 61) in for now,
primarily based on its sweeps of Texas and Oklahoma State.
Missouri (11-10, 24-21, RPI 38) swept Texas Tech (9-12,
20-27) over the weekend and needs conference wins over Nebraska
and Kansas to keep its bid. We think the Cowboys (6-11, 28-17,
RPI 23) must at least make the Big 12 Tournament to have a shot
at an NCAA bid (although that hasn’t ruined SEC teams’ chances
in the past). OSU has series remaining with Kansas State,
Oklahoma and Texas Tech, a very tall order, but an opportunity
to make a postseason push.
Big West (3) – UC Irvine (11-1, 30-11, RPI 6) and
Cal State Fullerton (9-6, 29-11, RPI 4) are playing for
national seeds, and Cal Poly (10-5, 29-10, RPI 36) has
been steady all season is pretty safe. UC Riverside (5-7, 24-13,
RPI 58) is in the at-large picture with a RPI of 58, but we
think they have some work to do in conference. UC Santa Barbara
(6-6, 23-14, RPI 78) plays at Fullerton this weekend and
entertains UCI the final series of the regular season, so a
strong finish no only could make things interesting in the
league, but also for the NCAA committee.
Colonial (1) –
First-place George Mason (14-4, 34-8, RPI 64) swept a
three-game set from Hofstra (2-16, 6-27) over the weekend to
keep the top winning percentage in the country. James Madison
(8-7, 24-18, RPI 85) took three from Georgia State (8-4, 26-15,
RPI 129) to secure second place. UNC Wilmington (8-7, 22-17, RPI
69) could win the tournament on its home field, but must make
the six-team field first. For now, we’ll make the call that the
Patriots will be the lone league representative. Should they
falter in the league tourney, Mason would be debatable.
Conference USA (2) – First-place Rice (11-4, 28-10,
RPI 3) is playing for a national seed, and second-place
East Carolina (12-6, 32-13, RPI 26) appears to be just fine.
Those are the only two sure bids for C-USA. Southern Miss (10-8,
26-17, RPI 75) and Tulane (7-8, 26-18, RPI 77) need a strong
month of May to have a shot at an at-large bid.
Horizon (1) –
Illinois-Chicago (11-4, 17-19) owns a 1.5-game lead over
Milwaukee (8-4, 16-19) and are making a case for its third
straight trip and fifth since 2003. The Flames dropped two of
three to the Panthers earlier this month, but have a
doubleheader in early May. We’ll stick with UIC.
Ivy (1) –
Dartmouth (16-4, 22-13) won the Red Rolfe Division and will
host the best-of-three Championship Series this weekend.
Princeton (10-10, 18-18) tied Cornell (10-10, 15-21) for first
in the Lou Gehrig Division. The Tigers will play at the Big Red
Wednesday with the winner advancing to the title series. The Big
Green should prevail on its home field.
Metro Atlantic (1) –
Manhattan (13-2, 28-11) took two of three from Canisius
(8-7, 23-19) over the weekend to maintain its hold on first
place. The Jaspers have series with Niagara (10-5, 16-27) and
Rider (10-8, 19-17) over the next two weekends. We shift our
pick and give Manhattan some much-deserved love.
Mid-American (1) –
Kent State (13-4, 32-9, RPI 57) took two of three from
Ohio (13-5, 20-16) to move into first in the Eastern Division.
Miami (Ohio) (11-7, 21-18) sits in third in the East. Toledo
(11-7, 18-20) is on top in the Western Division. The Golden
Flashes should erase the disappointment of a loss in last year’s
MAC title game by winning it this season.
Mid-Eastern (1) – Can it make it 12 trips in 14 years?
Bethune-Cookman (14-1, 24-21) swept a three-game set at UMES
(9-9, 11-35) by a combined score of 37-5 to open a five-game
lead over Delaware State (9-6, 18-17) and should win the MEAC
Tournament on its home field.
Missouri Valley (1)
– Missouri State (11-3, 25-16, RPI 88) won two of three
at Evansville (7-11, 20-22) to move into a tie for first with
Creighton (11-3, 23-18, RPI 128), which won two against Bradley.
The Bears and Bluejays meet next weekend, but neither have the
RPI to make a case for an at-large at this point. Indiana State
(10-3, 27-13, RPI 82) is just a half-game back. Illinois State
(9-7, 19-16, RPI 153) and Wichita State (7-5, 22-20, RPI 107)
are in the hunt. Of note, the Shockers will be dangerous on
their home field in the MVC Tournament, but we’ll stand by the
Bears for another week.
Mountain West (4) –
TCU (8-4, 27-12, RPI 10) took two of three at San
Diego State (10-8, 28-17, RPI 27) to move into first and is
followed closely by New Mexico (11-6, 31-12, RPI 51) and
BYU (11-6, 24-16, RPI 42). The Cougars have three at TCU
this week and two at Kansas State next week with a chance to
help its RPI even more. The Horned Frogs are fighting for a
top-seed in the NCAA Tournament and are our pick to win the MWC
Tournament on their home field.
Northeast (1) –
Central Connecticut State (10-5, 20-12) won four at Long
Island this past weekend to climb into first. Mount St. Mary’s
(10-6, 18-20) lost three of four at Wagner (9-7, 20-16) to fall
to second. With five teams within 1.5 games of first and the top
teams meeting over the final three weekends of the regular
season, it’s still up in the air. But we think the Blue Devils
will prevail in the NEC Tournament.
Ohio Valley (1) –
Eastern Illinois (10-3, 32-9, RPI 46) has had a super season
to date and is making a strong case for an at-large if it
doesn’t win the OVC tourney. Southeast Missouri State (11-4,
25-16, RPI 123) and Jacksonville State (9-6, 25-15, RPI 76) are
nipping at its heels.
Pac-10 (3) – Arizona State (15-3, 31-9, RPI 8) is
fighting for a national seed, and upstart Washington State
(10-5, 21-18, RPI 43) and Oregon State (9-6, 24-11, RPI
48) are in for now. USC (10-8, 21-19, RPI 63) is playing
another game of “stay about .500” and has a colleague in
neighbor UCLA (11-7, 19-21, RPI 68).
Patriot (1) –
Bucknell (13-7, 21-23) is the top seed in the Patriot League
Tournament and will host the championship series if it wins in
the semis against Lafayette (9-11, 20-23). Army (13-7, 24-17)
entertains Holy Cross (11-7, 21-23) in the other semifinal
series. We think the Bison will take advantage of home series to
win the Patriot League title and reach the NCAA tourney for the
second straight year.
Southeastern (9) – Arkansas (13-7, 29-12, RPI 11),
Georgia (14-7, 33-11, RPI 12) and Florida (13-8,
31-14, RPI 13) have hopes of a national seed. Ole Miss
(13-8, 32-12, RPI 16), LSU (14-7, 33-12, RPI 17),
Alabama (12-9, 29-15, RPI 32) and South Carolina (9-12,
27-18, RPI 33) are good to go this week, with the Rebels and
Tigers pushing to host Regionals and possibly slide into the
national seed picture. Auburn (8-13, 25-19, RPI 39) and
Vanderbilt (10-10, 27-17, RPI 41) are in for now, but the
Tigers need to watch that conference record. Kentucky (7-14,
22-21, RPI 50) falls short by a little.
Southern (2) –
Elon (17-4, 28-13, RPI 30) and Georgia Southern (13-6,
30-11, RPI 25) appear to be safe with solid RPI. Western
Carolina (13-7, 25-17, RPI 45) is a tough call. We have the
Catamounts out as of now bases on other predictions around the
country but can see switching that pick in the coming weeks
based on a strong RPI. The Citadel (12-9, 25-17, RPI 74) and
College of Charleston (11-10, 26-16, RPI 56) will make it a
great tourney and could get in the at-large picture,
particularly the Cougars.
Southland (2) – This
has been one of the most competitive leagues this season.
Texas State (18-5, 31-10, RPI 34) currently sits on top,
with Southeastern Louisiana (12-9, 23-17, RPI 49) in
second after its sweep of Sam Houston State (14-10, 28-16, RPI
59). UTSA (14-10, 25-18, RPI 98), Texas-Arlington (14-10,
23-20, RPI 118) and Lamar (14-10, 28-17, RPI 132) are tied with
SHSU for third. We’ll make the call for two bids out of the
Southland this season.
Southwestern (1) –
Mississippi Valley State (15-4, 20-22) leads Jackson State
(14-9, 32-17) in the Eastern Division, while Southern (16-5,
24-13) is ahead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-11, 20-22) in the
Western Division. The Jaguars should take the tourney title on
their home field.
Summit (1) – Oral
Roberts (12-1, 22-11, RPI 52) dropped its first league game
over the weekend but is still in control. It looks like the
Golden Eagles should again capture the conference tournament,
which feels like the ORU Invitational after 10 straight tourney
Sun Belt (2) –
Western Kentucky (16-5, 30-12, RPI 35) and Middle
Tennessee (18-6, 30-12, RPI 44) get at-large nods for now.
Third-place Troy (12-7, 25-16, RPI 70) is lurking and will have
a chance for a bid when it hosts the conference tourney.
West Coast (1) –
San Diego (10-5, 27-17, RPI 31) should win the championship
series and probably would be safe even without the title.
Gonzaga (10-5, 28-13, RPI 62) and Loyola Marymount (9-6, 25-21,
RPI 83) will fight for a spot in the championship series.
Western Athletic (1)
– Hawaii (9-6, 26-16, RPI 18) should win the WAC tourney
on its home field. Nevada (7-4, 21-20, RPI 126), New Mexico
State (9-7, 34-10, RPI 124) and San Jose State (7-5, 29-14, RPI
93) will try to give the league two bids.
Last five in:
Louisville, Virginia Tech, New Mexico, Southeastern Louisiana,
First five out:
Western Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky, College of Charleston, UC