May 12, 2009

Field of dreamers

Maydness is mounting


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness continues.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. The first official bid was awarded to Dartmouth when it won the Ivy League Championship Series and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Two more bids will be secured this week. The Patriot League Championship Series has No. 4 Lafayette playing at No. 2 Army. The MEAC Tournament will be played in Daytona Beach, Fla., on the campus of top-seed Bethune-Cookman.


We take our fourth look at the potential field. Again this week, there was significant movement. Several teams joined the at-large field, while several others fell off the board. The team records are through games of Monday, May 11, 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)Binghamton (12-4, 25-17) split a four-game set at Maine (11-9, 30-21) to remain in first, one game ahead of Albany (13-7, 22-27). The Bearcats host Vermont (11-9, 19-28), as the Catamounts fight for the fourth and final tourney spot. The Great Danes travel to Hartford (5-13, 13-30), while Maine (11-9, 30-21) ends the regular season at Stony Brook (12-8, 27-19). We expect BU to be the survivor of the America East tournament.

ACC (7) – There are six teams with RPIs in the Top 14: Georgia Tech (16-8-1, 33-12-1, RPI 2), North Carolina (17-9, 38-13, RPI 4), Clemson (16-11, 35-17, RPI 8), Miami (Fla.) (15-12, 32-18, RPI 11), Virginia (15-9-1, 37-10-1, RPI 12) and Florida State (19-9, 36-14, RPI 14). The Yellow Jackets and Tar Heels are in great shape for a national seed. The other four are fighting to host a regional. Boston College (12-13, 30-20, RPI 35) is in good shape for an at-large bid. The Eagles welcome UNC this week for a three-game set. Virginia Tech (10-16, 30-20, RPI 64) entertains the Cavaliers and needs a great showing to return to the at-large picture. Duke (13-14, 32-20, RPI 80) dropped two of three at Virginia and hosts Georgia Tech to conclude the regular season.

Atlantic Sun (1) – Florida Gulf Coast (21-6, 33-17, RPI 43) had a great week, defeating FAU and winning at Florida before taking two of three at second-place Kennesaw State (18-8, 28-20, RPI 70). The Eagles would be in the at-large picture, but along with the Owls are transitioning into Division I. Jacksonville (19-11, 33-17, RPI 51) has secured the top seed in the A-Sun tourney by taking two of three from Mercer (9-15, 20-22). The Dolphins are our pick, but will be challenged in the tournament by Belmont (15-12, 26-25), Lipscomb (15-12, 21-29) and host Stetson (15-12, 26-26).


Atlantic 10 (1) – Rhode Island (18-5, 33-17-1, RPI 65) dropped two of three at Massachusetts (13-11, 21-24) to fall out of first. Dayton (20-4, 35-15) swept three from La Salle (7-16, 18-27) to climb into the top spot. The Flyers play at Xavier (16-8, 30-17, RPI 96) to close the regular season, while the Rams head to Saint Louis (11-12, 27-24). Dayton should take advantage of having the A-10 tourney being in its hometown, but will face strong challenges from URI, XU and Charlotte (14-10, 30-18).

Big East (2)USF (18-6, 31-19, RPI 67) dropped two of three at Notre Dame (13-11, 30-20, RPI 73) and has a 1.5-game lead over Louisville (16-7, 36-14, RPI 34), which won two of three at St. John’s (15-9, 28-18). The Cards entertain the Bulls this week to decide the regular-season title. Third-place West Virginia (16-8, 35-14) swept a three-game set from Cincinnati (11-13, 26-26) and plays at Pittsburgh (11-12, 26-18) this week. We think the top two teams get in, as long as one wins the conference tournament.

Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (18-5, 39-13, RPI 26) maintained its hold on first with a three-game sweep of VMI (9-14, 16-32) to stretch its win streak to seven. The Chanticleers host Charleston Southern (10-12, 15-32) to conclude the regular season. Second-place Liberty (16-7, 29-17) plays at in-state rival Radford (14-8, 23-21). Winthrop (16-8, 30-21) lost three at Arizona State and hosts Gardner-Webb (12-12, 24-22) this week. Coastal should emerge as the Big South champ.

Big 10 (3)Minnesota (15-5, 33-14, RPI 22) took two of three at Michigan (8-13, 27-23) to move into first after Ohio State (15-6, 36-14, RPI 30) won its series at previous pole-setter Illinois (15-6, 32-16, RPI 52). The Golden Gophers play at Penn State (7-14, 24-23) this week, while the Buckeyes host Iowa (4-16, 16-32) and the Illini visit Purdue (9-11, 22-23).

Big 12 (7) – There’s a Big 12 six-pack on ice: Texas (17-9-1, 36-12-1, RPI 3), Texas A&M (14-10, 33-18, RPI 15), Oklahoma (14-10, 37-16, RPI 19), Baylor (10-13, 26-20, RPI 21), Kansas State (13-9-1, 38-13-1, RPI 25) and Missouri (16-11, 30-23, RPI 27). The Bears have dropped nine of 10 and need to get back on the winning track this week after exams at Nebraska (5-19, 22-28). Kansas (13-11, 35-18, RPI 58) stays in the field based on its sweeps of Texas and Oklahoma State (7-15, 30-21, RPI 24). The Jayhawks have the Wildcats this week, which will provide another shot to solidify a spot. The Cowboys need a sweep at Texas Tech (11-13, 23-28, RPI 81) and a Cornhuskers sweep to make the Big 12 tourney. We think OSU is out if it misses the conference tourney.

Big West (3)UC Irvine (17-1, 37-11, RPI 10) and Cal State Fullerton (14-7, 36-13, RPI 1) continue to play for national seeds. Cal Poly (11-7, 33-15, RPI 40) got one against the Titans to stay in the at-large picture. The Mustangs play at Long Beach State (10-8, 24-23) this week, while the Anteaters entertain UC Davis (3-15, 9-37). Fullerton has a non-conference series with UCLA.


Colonial (1) – First-place George Mason (17-4, 38-9, RPI 44) has clinched the regular-season title and plays at James Madison (11-9, 29-21, RPI 94) this weekend. Georgia State (12-9, 32-20) lost two of three to Towson (11-10, 27-23) and fell into a second-place tie with Old Dominion (12-9, 20-23), which won two of three at VCU (8-13. 20-22). The Panthers have concluded their league schedule, while the Monarchs entertain UNC Wilmington (8-7, 26-19, RPI 54). We think the Patriots will get the lone bid, but it will be an entertaining CAA Tournament.

Conference USA (2) – First-place Rice (15-6, 33-13, RPI 9) continues to fight for a national seed, and second-place East Carolina (14-7, 37-15, RPI 23) seems to be in good shape. A third bid would only come if another team would win the C-USA tourney, such as host Southern Miss (12-12, 29-21, RPI 79), Houston (12-9, 24-27, RPI 92) or Tulane (11-10, 30-22, RPI 66).


Horizon (1) Illinois-Chicago (16-6, 25-21) owns a 3.5-game lead over Wright State (13-10, 28-25) and four games over Milwaukee (11-9, 22-25) and Valparaiso (12-10, 27-21). The Flames should be the strong favorite in the Horizon Tournament.


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 the first day of the championship series before capturing a 10-0 win the second day to earn the title.


Metro Atlantic (1)Manhattan (16-5, 32-15) won two of three against Rider (11-10, 22-21) to stay in first. Second-place Niagara (14-7, 20-31) took two of three at Marist (12-9, 25-25), while Canisius (13-8, 30-20) won two of three against Fairfield (10-11, 20-24) to move into third. The Jaspers play at Iona (4-17, 5-38), while the Golden Griffins entertain the Purple Eagles. We think Manhattan emerges as the MAAC champ.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (15-8, 35-14, RPI 99) dropped its second straight conference series by losing two of three at home to Akron (11-13, 18-31). Bowling Green (16-7, 26-18) swept three at Buffalo (6-17, 20-31) to move into first in the Eastern Division. Ohio (15-9, 25-21) won two of three at Miami (Ohio) (14-10, 26-21) to sit in third in the East. The Falcons entertain the Zips this week, while the Golden Flashes host the Redhawks and the Bobcats welcome the Bulls. Toledo (14-10, 21-26) dropped two of three at home to Eastern Michigan (11-13, 20-32), but remains on top in the Western Division. Ball State (12-10, 24-21) swept three at Northern Illinois (8-15, 17-32) to pull within a game of first. The Cardinals host the Rockets this week to decide the division title. We still think Kent State will regroup and win the MAC tourney, but it’s getting more and more interesting each week.

Mid-Eastern (1) – The MEAC Tournament will be played this week. Host and top-seed Bethune-Cookman (16-2, 29-26) is riding high after its series win at No. 18 Miami and is the clear favorite. Second-place Delaware State (10-8, 19-23) hopes to spoil the party for the Wildcats.


Missouri Valley (1)Missouri State (11-5, 25-19, RPI 86) surprised former first-place Creighton (14-6, 28-21) by sweeping a three-game set in Omaha. Indiana State (15-4, 33-14, RPI 62) beat Evansville (7-14, 25-26) three times to jump into first. The Bears host the Sycamores this week, while the Bluejays travel to Wichita State (8-7, 24-24). Missouri State may be getting hot at the right time.


Mountain West (3)TCU (12-5, 32-14, RPI 6) took two of three from Utah (7-14, 20-26) to stay in first and keep itself in the battle for a national seed. BYU (14-8, 27-21, RPI 61) swept three from UNLV (9-12, 25-27) to pull within a half-game of the Horned Frogs. San Diego State (13-8, 35-18, RPI 42) took three from Air Force (3-15, 14-34) to sit in third, just ahead of New Mexico (12-8, 34-18, RPI 76). TCU goes to Vegas this week, while the Aztecs visit the Utes and the Lobos travel to face the Falcons.


Northeast (1) – Central Connecticut State (13-10, 23-19) dropped three of four at home to Mount St. Mary’s (13-9, 21-23) to fall from first to fifth. Monmouth (14-8, 27-20) won three of four at Quinnipiac (8-16, 15-32), while Sacred Heart (14-8, 24-23) won two of three against Wagner (13-9, 25-19) to create a tie for first. The Hawks host the Blue Devils, the Mountaineers entertain the Pioneers and the Seahawks welcome Fairleigh Dickinson (11-13, 16-30) as teams battle for the four tourney spots. We think Monmouth will be the last team standing.


Ohio Valley (1) Eastern Illinois (12-3, 34-10, RPI 37) had its series at Austin Peay (6-10, 20-28) washed out, but the Panthers retain first place. Murray State (11-7-1, 30-17-1) took two of three at Tennessee-Martin (6-15, 17-29) to move into second by percentage points over Southeast Missouri State (12-8, 26-20), which dropped two of three at Eastern Kentucky (9-11, 26-21). EIU entertains the Colonels this week, while the Thoroughbreds host the Governors and the Redhawks welcome Morehead State (9-10, 16-29). The Panthers remain our pick in the OVC.

Pac-10 (3)Arizona State (16-5, 38-11, RPI 5) enjoyed a 5-0 week and helped its chances for a national seed. Washington State (14-7, 25-20, RPI 59) swept a three-game series from Oregon to move into second ahead of UCLA (14-10, 24-24), which lost two of three to California (8-16, 22-27). Washington (12-9, 23-24) won two of three from Oregon State (12-9, 29-14, RPI 49) to create a tie for fourth. The Sun Devils host the Ducks this week, while the Cougars visit the Beavers.


Patriot (1) – Second-seed Army (13-7, 31-18) won its semifinal series with No. 3 Holy Cross (11-7, 22-27) and will get to host the championship series as No. 4 Lafayette (9-11, 24-27) knocked off top-seeded Bucknell (13-7, 22-25). The Black Knights should take advantage of the home field and take the title.

Southeastern (8)Florida (17-10, 35-17, RPI 7), LSU (18-9, 38-14, RPI 13), Arkansas (14-12, 31-17, RPI 16), Ole Miss (17-10, 37-15, RPI 17) and Georgia (15-12, 34-17, RPI 18) are battling for national seeds and Regional hosts. Alabama (17-9, 35-15, RPI 29), South Carolina (14-13, 32-19, RPI 31) and Vanderbilt (12-14, 31-21, RPI 33) look to be solid. The Commodores won two of three at Georgia to improve its RPI. Auburn (9-18, 28-24, RPI 39) dropped two of three at Kentucky (11-16, 26-24, RPI 48) and we think both come up short in the eyes of the committee. The Tigers entertain the Crimson Tide, while the Wildcats tangle with the Gators in Gainesville in attempts to bolster their resumes.

Southern (3) – The brooms were out for the top teams on the road in the conference. First-place Elon (23-4, 36-14, RPI 20) was most impressive with its sweep at Western Carolina (16-10, 30-20, RPI 50). The Catamounts hurt their chances for an at-large bid and fall out of our field. Second-place Georgia Southern (17-8, 35-14, RPI 32) took three at Samford (9-21, 17-35). College of Charleston (17-10, 33-16, RPI 41) won three at Wofford (7-19, 17-29) to extend its win streak to 10. The Citadel (17-10, 31-19, RPI 90) swept a set at Furman (9-18, 21-27) to move into a tie for third. The Bulldogs will entertain the Cougars this week to break the deadlock. WCU plays at Davidson (11-13, 18-26). The SoCon should have a great conference tournament.


Southland (2) Texas State (23-6, 37-12, RPI 28) swept three from Nicholls State (8-22, 18-31) to wrap up the regular-season crown. Southeastern Louisiana (20-10, 34-18, RPI 46) won two of three against Stephen F. Austin (13-16, 22-27) to remain in second. The Lions play at Northwestern State (16-12, 24-23) this week and need to stay in second for an at-large bid. Lamar (18-12, 34-19), UTSA (18-12, 29-21, RPI 78) and Texas-Arlington (18-12, 28-23, RPI 100) are tied for third, two games behind Southeastern Louisiana.


Southwestern (1) – Mississippi Valley State (15-5, 20-28) won the Eastern Division crown over Jackson State (14-9, 34-19). Southern (17-6, 25-14) finished well ahead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (13-11, 20-23) in the Western Division. The Jaguars should take the tourney title next week on their home field.


Summit (1)Oral Roberts (15-2, 26-12, RPI 55) won three of four at Oakland (8-16, 19-32) to stay 1.5 games ahead of Southern Utah (14-4, 25-19), which went 3-0 at Centenary (14-8, 31-14). The Golden Eagles play at Western Illinois (8-15, 13-32) this week, while the Thunderbirds travel to South Dakota State (14-9, 21-27). ORU should again capture the conference tournament on its home field, making it 11 straight tourney titles. The RPI also might be high enough should it falter.


Sun Belt (2) Western Kentucky (21-6, 37-13, RPI 38) won two of three at Louisiana-Lafayette (11-15, 22-27) to remain in first before its trip this week to second-place Middle Tennessee (19-8, 36-14, RPI 45). Third-place Troy (17-8, 30-19, RPI 53) swept a three-game set from ULM (12-17, 26-25) and plays this week at South Alabama (11-15, 23-26). FIU (17-10, 33-19, RPI 63) swept the Jaguars to rise to third. The Golden Panthers play this week at Florida Atlantic (10-16, 27-22, RPI 85). We think two bids will come from the Sun Belt, but Troy is making us think again.


West Coast (1) Gonzaga (12-6, 30-14, RPI 56) and Loyola Marymount (12-6, 29-24, RPI 88) are tied for first and play each other this week to determine which team will host the WCC Championship Series. San Francisco (10-8, 26-27, RPI 91) took two of three at San Diego (11-10, 28-25, RPI 57) to damage the chances of the Toreros for getting an at-large bid.


Western Athletic (1) – San Jose State (11-7, 35-17, RPI 75) won three of four at New Mexico State (10-10, 39-13) to climb into first. Louisiana Tech (11-9, 26-18) sits one game back in second. Nevada (10-9, 25-25) lost three of four at home to Sacramento State (8-10, 27-22) to fall from first to third. Hawaii (11-12, 29-22, RPI 36) split a four-game set at Fresno State (8-12, 24-27) to sit 2.5 games out of first. The Spartans entertain the Wolf Pack this week, while Tech hosts the Aggies. Fresno State must win its series at Sacramento State, or the defending national champ won’t make its conference tournament, let alone the NCAA tourney. We still think the Rainbows will bounce back and capture the WAC tourney in Honolulu.


Independents (1)Dallas Baptist (35-15, RPI 47) benefited from the losses of other teams to now enter the field. But the Patriots need minimal upsets in conference tournaments to remain in the at-large pool. DBU has a three-game set this week at Jacksonville and hosts Oral Roberts next week to help its resume.


Last five in: USF, BYU, Illinois, Dallas Baptist, Kansas


First five out: Auburn, Kentucky, Western Carolina, Troy, San Diego


(photo courtesy of Georgia Media Relations Office)