May 5, 2009

Field of dreamers

Maydness is here


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness has begun.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. The first official bid was awarded Sunday as Dartmouth won the Ivy League Championship Series and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.


We take our third look at the potential field. There was quite a bit of movement this week, as several teams moved up and several fell off the board. The team records are through games of Monday, May 4, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at If a team does not have its RPI listed, that means its RPI is above 100.


Without further ado, here’s our look the Field of 64 (happy teams in bold).


America East (1) – Albany (13-7, 21-24) swept a four-game set from Maine (9-7, 28-19) to move into second place behind preseason favorite Binghamton (10-2, 23-15), which won twice at UMBC (4-14, 9-30) to extend its win streak to seven. The Bearcats must go to Orono this weekend to face the Black Bears. BU remains our pick.

ACC (7) – We're sure we have a six-pack: North Carolina (16-7, 35-11, RPI 1), Georgia Tech (14-7-1, 31-11-1, RPI 3), Miami (Fla.) (15-12, 31-16, RPI 6), Clemson (16-11, 32-16, RPI 9), Virginia (13-8-1, 35-9-1, RPI 12) and Florida State (18-7, 33-12, RPI 15). Boston College (12-13, 29-19, RPI 35) won one of three against the Hurricanes and remains in good shape. Virginia Tech (10-16, 27-20, RPI 60) was swept at Florida State and fell out of at-large consideration for now. Duke (12-12, 29-17, RPI 76) needs a big finish with a series at the Cavaliers this weekend before hosting the Yellow Jackets next weekend.

Atlantic Sun (1)Jacksonville (16-8, 27-13, RPI 59) remains in third after dropping two of three at second-place Kennesaw State (17-6, 27-18, RPI 75). The Dolphins would be the top seed in the tournament as KSU and first-place Florida Gulf Coast (19-5, 29-16, RPI 61) and are still transitioning to Division I status and are not eligible for the A-Sun tourney. JU wraps up conference play this weekend at Mercer (8-13, 19-20). The Dolphins get the nod, but we think fourth-place Belmont (15-12, 26-23) will be a factor.

Atlantic 10 (1) Rhode Island (17-3, 32-15-1, RPI 55) took two of three from Fordham (10-11, 16-29) to stay one-half game ahead of Dayton (17-4, 32-14), which swept three at Duquesne (5-15, 10-37) to stretch its win streak to 12. The Rams fell 18 spots in the RPI and likely have to win the conference tournament to secure their bid. The Flyers are on fire right now and will have the advantage of the A-10 tourney being in their hometown. We’re staying with URI, but it will be challenged by UD, Xavier (13-8, 27-17, RPI 93) and Charlotte (12-9, 28-17).

Big East (1) – USF (17-4, 30-17, RPI 70) took two of three from Cincinnati (11-10, 24-21) to maintain its hold on first place. Louisville (12-6, 29-13, RPI 47) helped its RPI with a win at Kentucky before taking two at Villanova (4-16, 19-24). St. John’s (14-7, 27-16) won two of three at Seton Hall (10-11, 21-21) to hold third, while West Virginia (13-8, 31-14) took two of three from Rutgers (5-16, 18-28). The Bulls travel to Notre Dame (11-10, 27-19, RPI 86) this week, while the Cardinals visit the Red Storm. We like Louisville to represent the league, but wouldn't be surprised if USF, St. John's WVU or Notre Dame won the title and got a second bid. The Big East tourney will be one the rest of the nation should be watching.

Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (15-5, 36-13, RPI 24) moved into first with a three-game sweep of previous pole-setter Liberty (16-7, 29-17, RPI 94). Winthrop (16-8, 29-18, RPI 90) took three from UNC Asheville (4-19, 8-38) to pull within a game of first. The Eagles could climb into the at-large picture with a successful trip this weekend to Arizona State. Radford (14-8, 23-19) swept three from Gardner-Webb (10-11, 22-21) to rise within two games of first and continue its impressive turnaround. Coastal looks to be the lone Big South representative.

Big 10 (3) – Three bids for the Big Ten? That’s the way it looks now. Minnesota (13-4, 30-13, RPI 23) and Ohio State (13-5, 34-11, RPI 30) are solid for at-large bids. Illinois (14-4, 30-13, RPI 49) won three at Northwestern (3-13, 12-30) to move into first place. The Buckeyes visit the Illini this weekend with the top spot on the line, while the Golden Gophers travel to preseason favorite Michigan (7-11, 24-21), a team fighting for a Big Ten tourney spot.

Big 12 (7) – There are six current locks: Texas (15-8-1, 33-11-1, RPI 4), Texas A&M (13-8, 31-16, RPI 16), Oklahoma (12-9, 35-14, RPI 19), Kansas State (12-7-1, 36-11-1, RPI 20), Baylor (10-13, 26-20, RPI 21) and Missouri (14-10, 28-21, RPI 28). The Bears have dropped nine of 10 and need to get back on the winning track next week after exams We’ll also include Kansas (12-9, 33-16, RPI 58) for now, primarily based on its sweeps of Texas and Oklahoma State (6-13, 29-19, RPI 25) and its series win at OU this past weekend. We think the Cowboys need at least one win this weekend against the Sooners and a series victory at Texas Tech (9-12, 20-27) to even get a sniff and 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).

Big West (3)UC Irvine (14-1, 34-11, RPI 8) and Cal State Fullerton (12-6, 32-12, RPI 2) are playing for national seeds. Cal Poly (10-5, 32-12, RPI 45) lost two of five last week and saw its RPI fall. The Mustangs have a chance to improve their RPI with a three-game set this weekend with the Titans. Long Beach State (10-5, 23-20, RPI 99) swept a three-game series from UC Davis (1-14, 7-35) to move into a tie for third, but must have a huge month of May to get in the picture. UC Riverside (7-8, 27-14, RPI 56) and UC Santa Barbara (6-9, 23-19, RPI 97) also need big finishes to enter the discussions for at-large bids.

Colonial (1) – First-place George Mason (17-4, 38-9, RPI 50) swept a three-game set from Northeastern (8-10, 22-20) to keep a stranglehold on the top spot. Georgia State (11-7, 29-18) took three from VCU (7-11, 19-20) to climb into second. Tournament host UNC Wilmington (8-7, 24-17, RPI 69) had its three-game home series with Delaware (8-7, 23-15) canceled because of swine flu. The Seahawks have one conference series remaining at Old Dominion (10-8, 18-22) next weekend. UNCW is 2-11 away from home and needs a series win to secure one of six tourney spots. Mason could be in good shape for an at-large if it falters, but it may be very closs.

Conference USA (2) – First-place Rice (13-5, 31-11, RPI 5) is fighting for a national seed, and second-place East Carolina (12-6, 35-14, RPI 22) appears to be in good shape. Anyone else may have to win the C-USA tourney, including host Southern Miss (11-10, 28-19, RPI 68) and Tulane (9-9, 28-20, RPI 64).


Horizon (1) Illinois-Chicago (14-5, 21-20) owns a 2.5-game lead over Milwaukee (10-6, 21-21) and is looking for an NCAA trip for the third consecutive year and fifth time since 2003. The Flames dropped two of three to the Panthers earlier in April, but have a home doubleheader Friday. We’ll stay with UIC.


Ivy (1) – Congratulations to Dartmouth (16-4, 25-15) for winning the Ivy League crown and claiming the first spot in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The Big Green split a doubleheader with Cornell (10-10, 17-23) on Saturday before capturing a 10-0 win Sunday to earn the title.


Metro Atlantic (1)Manhattan (14-4, 30-14) stubbed its toe by dropping two of three at Niagara (12-6, 18-30). Canisius (11-7, 28-19) won three at Siena (6-15, 12-35) to move into a third-place tie with Marist (11-7, 24-22), which won two of three at Saint Peter’s (7-14, 13-32). Rider (10-8, 20-19) travels to Manhattan this week, while Niagara visits Marist. The Jaspers are our pick.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (14-6, 35-11, RPI 79) dropped two of three at Buffalo (6-14, 19-27) to damage its chances for an at-large bid. Bowling Green (13-7, 23-18) swept three from Ohio (13-8, 22-19) to move into second in the Eastern Division. Miami (Ohio) (13-8, 25-19) won two of three at Akron (9-12, 15-30) to sit in a tie for third in the East with the Bobcats. Miami will host OU this weekend. Toledo (13-8, 20-23) took two of three from Western Michigan (7-14, 12-28) to stay on top in the Western Division. The Golden Flashes should rebound and win the MAC tourney.

Mid-Eastern (1) – Could it be 12 NCAA trips in 14 years? Bethune-Cookman (16-2, 26-24) took two of three from second-place Delaware State (10-8, 19-21) to win the regular-season crown by six games. The Wildcats are the heavy favorite to win the MEAC Tournament on their home field.


Missouri Valley (1)Creighton (14-3, 28-18, RPI 98) swept a three-game series at Illinois State (9-10, 19-19) to pull ahead of Indiana State (12-4, 30-14, RPI 71) and Missouri State (11-5, 25-19). The Bluejays, owners of a seven-game win streak, host the Bears in a key MVC series this weekend before going to Wichita State (8-7, 24-22) for their final series. Creighton should benefit from a tough end-of-season schedule and is now our pick to win the MVC tourney.


Mountain West (2)TCU (10-4, 29-13, RPI 11) took two from BYU (11-8, 24-20, RPI 53) to remain in first. The Horned Frogs also kept pace for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico (12-8, 32-16, RPI 77) had a disastrous 1-4 week, including losing two of three at home to UNLV (9-9, 25-23) to fall out of the at-large picture. San Diego State (10-8, 31-18, RPI 38) is still in good shape for a bid.


Northeast (1) – Five teams are within 1.5 games of first, and only four will make the conference tournament. Central Connecticut State (12-7, 22-15) split four games at home with Fairleigh Dickinson (7-13, 12-29) to fall into a three-way tie for first with Wagner (12-7, 23-17), which won three at Long Island (5-14, 9-33), and Sacred Heart (12-7, 22-22), which won three of four at Quinnipiac (7-13, 14-29). Monmouth (11-7, 24-19) won two at Mount St. Mary’s (10-8, 18-22) to sit in fourth. This weekend, MSM goes to CCSU, Wagner visits Sacred Heart, and Monmouth goes to Quinnipiac. We’ll stick with the Blue Devils as the survivor.


Ohio Valley (1) Eastern Illinois (12-3, 34-10, RPI 37) continues to keep itself in the at-large picture after winning a pair at second-place Southeast Missouri State (11-6, 25-18). Murray State (9-6-1, 28-16-1) went 2-0-1 against Tennessee Tech (7-11-1, 22-20-1) to rise to third. Jacksonville State (10-7, 27-16, RPI 67) split two games with Morehead State (9-10, 16-26) to sit in fourth. The Panthers remain our pick in the OVC.

Pac-10 (3)Arizona State (16-5, 33-11, RPI 10) dropped two of three at Oregon State (11-7, 27-12, RPI 41), but has a three-game lead in the league standings. UCLA (13-8, 22-22, RPI 78) took two of three at Oregon (4-14, 14-31) to move into second, but its RPI needs a boost to get in the at-large picture. Washington State (11-7, 22-20, RPI 57) lost two of three to Stanford (10-11, 22-19, RPI 87) to fall into a tie for third with the Beavers. The Cougars host the Ducks this weekend and need a strong finish to stay in the at-large hunt. USC (10-11, 22-23, RPI 65) damaged its chances for a bid after being swept at Washington (10-8, 21-23).


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 this weekend against Lafayette (9-11, 22-25). Army (13-7, 28-17) entertains Holy Cross (11-7, 21-25) in the other semifinal series. We think the Bison will take advantage of the home field to win the Patriot League title and advance to regional play for the second consecutive season.

Southeastern (9)Florida (16-8, 34-14, RPI 7), Arkansas (14-9, 31-14, RPI 13), LSU (16-8, 36-13, RPI 14), Ole Miss (16-8, 36-13, RPI 17) and Georgia (14-10, 33-15, RPI 18) are battling for national seed. Alabama (14-9, 32-15, RPI 32) and South Carolina (12-12, 30-18, RPI 27) remain in good shape. Auburn (8-16, 27-22, RPI 34) and Vanderbilt (10-13, 27-20, RPI 46) are in for now, but the Tigers need to improve their conference record. Kentucky (9-15, 24-23, RPI 54) just falls short. The Wildcats host Auburn this week and could switch places with the Tigers.

Southern (4) – This could be a conference to watch in terms of how it is treated by the NCAA Committee. If the committee looks at the conference, it would probably not give four bids. But if it looks individually at the teams, it should award four bids. Elon (20-4, 33-13, RPI 26) and Georgia Southern (14-8, 32-14, RPI 29) are in great shape. Western Carolina (16-7, 30-17, RPI 40) and College of Charleston (14-10, 30-16, RPI 36) both had great weeks to put themselves in the at-large pool. The Cougars beat Coastal Carolina early in the week to help raise its RPI 20 spots. Elon plays at WCU this weekend in the key conference series.


Southland (2) Texas State (20-6, 33-12, RPI 33) won two of three against UTSA (15-12, 26-21, RPI 83) to stay ahead of Southeastern Louisiana (18-9, 31-17, RPI 42), which swept Nicholls State (8-19, 18-28) to extend its win streak to eight. Texas-Arlington (17-10, 26-21) sits in third, followed by Lamar (16-11, 32-18), and Sam Houston State (15-12, 29-19, RPI 66). UTA plays at Lamar this weekend. This is a league that deserves two bids this season.


Southwestern (1) – Mississippi Valley State (15-5, 20-25) continues to lead Jackson State (14-9, 34-19) in the Eastern Division, while Southern (17-6, 25-14) holds a healthy margin over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-11, 20-23) in the Western Division. The Jaguars should take the tourney title on their home field.


Summit (1)Oral Roberts (12-1, 22-11, RPI 48) continues to dominate, even though its series with Southern Utah (11-4, 22-19) was wiped out by the weather this past weekend. The Golden Eagles should again capture the conference tournament on their home field, giving them 11 straight tourney titles.


Sun Belt (2) Western Kentucky (19-5, 35-12, RPI 39) swept UALR (5-17, 14-30) to secure first place. Middle Tennessee (19-8, 33-14, RPI 51) dropped two of three at third-place Troy (14-8, 27-19, RPI 63). WKU plays at MTSU next week to determine the regular-season champ. Both squads are in for now.


West Coast (2) – Loyola Marymount (12-6, 30-14, RPI 72) took three from San Diego (10-8, 27-21, RPI 44) to jump into a first-place tie with Gonzaga (10-5, 28-13, RPI 52). USD hosts San Francisco (8-7, 23-25, RPI 95) this week in its final conference series and now needs help to reach the championship series. LMU plays at Gonzaga next week to determine the host for that title series. We think the Zags will capture the WCC crown and the Toreros will get an at-large berth.


Western Athletic (1)Hawaii (9-10, 26-20, RPI 31) had the unthinkable happen as it got swept in a four-game home series by Louisiana Tech (11-9, 26-18). Nevada (9-6, 24-22) split four with Fresno State (6-10, 22-25) to assume the top spot. New Mexico State (9-7, 38-10) and San Jose State (8-6, 32-15, RPI 92) join Tech one-half game behind the Wolf Pack. We think the Rainbows will bounce back and capture the WAC tourney in Honolulu.


Independents (0) – Dallas Baptist (32-13, RPI 43) has had another outstanding season, but not enough strong wins yet. The Patriots have a victory over Texas A&M and one over Baylor, but those two are the best. DBU had a series with Oral Roberts wiped out by weather in March. The Patriots have a game with TCU and one with ORU which could help their chances.


Last five in: Middle Tennessee, Kansas, Washington State, Vanderbilt, Illinois


First five out: BYU, Dallas Baptist, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, UC Riverside