May 19, 2009

Field of dreamers

Maydness is in the air


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. Four bids were earned this past weekend (UC Irvine, Arizona State, Bethune-Cookman, Army).


The past few weeks, more teams have fallen off the board than teams have jumped their way on the board. It should be a great final week as teams try to earn bids in their conference tournaments.


We take our fifth look at the potential field. Again this week, there was significant movement. The team records are through games of Monday, May 18, 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 (13-7, 26-20) dropped three of four to Vermont (14-10, 22-31), but edged Albany (15-9, 24-29) to be the top seed in the America East Tournament. The Bearcats must face the Catamounts in the first round of the tourney. The Great Danes tangle with Stony Brook (14-10, 29-21) in the other first-round match-up. We think Vermont rides the momentum to win the America East Tournament.

ACC (7) – There are six teams with RPIs in the Top 16: North Carolina (19-10, 41-14, RPI 2), Georgia Tech (17-10-1, 34-15-1, RPI 4), Clemson (19-11, 39-17, RPI 7), Miami (18-12, 35-18, RPI 9), Virginia (16-11-1, 39-12-1, RPI 12) and Florida State (19-9, 40-14, RPI 16). 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 (13-15, 31-23, RPI 34) got a win over UNC and is in good shape for an at-large bid. Virginia Tech (12-17, 32-21, RPI 48) got two wins over the Cavaliers but missed the ACC tourney and will have a tough time getting an NCAA bid. Duke (15-15, 34-22, RPI 75) took two of three from the Yellow Jackets, but doesn’t have a strong enough RPI to make a regional yet. The Blue Devils could make a case by playing well in pool play in the ACC tourney.

Atlantic Sun (1) – Florida Gulf Coast (23-7, 36-18, RPI 40) won the regular-season title, but must join second-place Kennesaw State (20-9, 30-22, RPI 89) on the sidelines as both are transitioning into Division I. Jacksonville (19-11, 34-20, RPI 54) will be the top seed in the tournament and is our pick, but will be challenged by Lipscomb (17-13, 23-31),  Belmont (15-15, 28-28) and host Stetson (16-14, 27-29). Should the Dolphins lose, they will have a hard time getting an at-large.


Atlantic 10 (1) – Dayton (21-6, 37-17) dropped two of three at Xavier (18-9, 33-18, RPI 77), but still won the regular-season crown. Rhode Island (19-6, 35-18-1, RPI 58) won two of three at Saint Louis (12-13, 30-25), but finished one game behind the Flyers. Dayton has had a strong month of May and is playing the tourney in its backyard. The Rams are our pick, but will face strong challenges from UD, XU and Charlotte (16-11, 32-20).

Big East (2)Louisville (19-7, 40-14, RPI 21) swept a three-game set from USF (18-9, 32-23, RPI 73) to win its first Big East regular-season title. Third-place West Virginia (17-10, 36-16, RPI 100) dropped two of three at Pittsburgh (13-13, 28-19), and Notre Dame (15-12, 33-21, RPI 66) won two of three at St. John’s (16-11, 29-20). We’ll take USF to win the tourney and the automatic bid, with Louisville claiming an at-large.

Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (21-5, 42-13, RPI 26) swept a three-game set from Charleston Southern (10-15, 16-36) to clinch the regular-season crown and extend its win streak to 10. Winthrop (18-9, 32-23) took two of three from Gardner-Webb (13-14, 25-24) to climb into second. Liberty (17-9, 31-19) dropped two of three at in-state rival Radford (16-9, 25-22) to fall to third. Coastal is the class of the conference and should claim the tourney crown.

Big 10 (2)Ohio State (18-6, 39-15, RPI 32) swept three from Iowa (4-19, 16-35) to win the regular-season title. Minnesota (17-6, 35-15, RPI 22) dropped the finale of its series at Penn State (8-16, 25-26) to fall to second. Illinois (16-8, 33-18, RPI 61) lost two of three at Purdue (11-12, 24-24) to hurt its chances for an at-large bid. The Buckeyes have an advantage of the tourney being in Columbus, but may not have a deep-enough pitching staff to win it. Keep an eye on Indiana (16-7, 28-25).

Big 12 (7) – The Big 12 has five in good shape: Texas (17-9-1, 38-12-1, RPI 3), Oklahoma (17-10, 40-16, RPI 15), Texas A&M (14-13, 34-21, RPI 17), Kansas State (14-11-1, 39-15-1, RPI 27) and Missouri (16-11, 32-23, RPI 28). The Longhorns have a chance to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Baylor (10-16, 27-23, RPI 33) has dropped 12 of 14 after getting swept at Nebraska (8-19, 25-28). We’ll put the Bears in for now, but they are a shaky pick. Kansas (15-12, 37-19, RPI 43) stays in the field based on its sweeps of Texas and Oklahoma State (9-16, 32-22, RPI 25) and a series win over KSU. The Cowboys took two of three at Texas Tech (12-15, 24-30, RPI 85) but missed the Big 12 tourney and we think will miss the NCAA Tournament. It could come down to OSU and Baylor for the seventh pick – the teams split two games in Stillwater with the third being canceled.

Big West (3)UC Irvine (20-1, 40-12, RPI 18) swept a three-game set from UC Davis (3-18, 10-40) to clinch its first Big West title. Cal State Fullerton (14-7, 38-14, RPI 1) remains in great shape for a national seed. Cal Poly (13-8, 36-17, RPI 49) won two of three at Long Beach State (11-10, 25-26) to stay in the at-large picture.


Colonial (1) – First-place George Mason (19-5, 40-10, RPI 39) took two of three at James Madison (12-11, 30-24, RPI 92) and should get an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the CAA tourney. Georgia State (12-9, 35-20) is second with a veteran squad. Third-place UNC Wilmington (10-8, 28-21, RPI 63) gets to play the CAA Tournament on its home field and will be a factor. We still think the Patriots will prevail.

Conference USA (2)East Carolina (17-7, 41-15, RPI 20) swept a three-game series from Memphis (7-16, 21-32) to win the regular-season title after Rice (16-8, 35-15, RPI 11) dropped two of three at UAB (11-12, 30-24). The Owls hurt their chances for a national seed. Tulane (13-11, 32-23, RPI 69) won two of three at Marshall (9-15, 22-30) to move into a third-place tie with Houston (13-11, 25-29). Southern Miss (12-12, 32-22, RPI 70) hopes hosting the tourney helps its chances.


Horizon (1) Illinois-Chicago (17-6, 26-21) won the regular-season title by three games over Milwaukee (14-9, 26-25). The Flames are 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 (18-6, 34-16) won two of three at Iona (5-19, 6-40) to secure the regular-season title. Canisius (16-8, 33-20) swept three from Niagara (14-10, 20-35) to finish in second. We think the Golden Griffins stay hot and get past the Jaspers to win the MAAC crown.


Mid-American (1) – Bowling Green (18-8, 28-20) took two of three from Akron (12-15, 19-33) to win the Eastern Division and claim the top seed in the MAC tourney. Ohio (18-9, 28-22) swept three from Buffalo to finish second in the East, while Kent State (17-9, 38-15, RPI 93) beat Miami (15-12, 28-23) twice to finish third. Ball State (14-10, 26-23) took two from Toledo (14-12, 21-29) to take the West. We still think Kent State is the most talented team and survives the MAC tourney.

Mid-Eastern (1) – The MEAC Tournament turned out to be a formality as host and top-seed Bethune-Cookman (16-2, 32-26) beat No. 6 Norfolk State and defeated No. 5 North Carolina A&T twice to take the title. The Wildcats outscored the opposition 43-13 in three tourney contests.


Missouri Valley (1)Missouri State (17-5, 32-19, RPI 68) swept a three-game set from former pole-setter Indiana State (15-7, 33-18, RPI 74) to extend its win streak to seven and win the regular-season crown. Wichita State (11-7, 27-24, RPI 94) swept a three-game series from Creighton (14-9, 28-24) to finish fourth. We think the Bears take the title, but don’t be shocked if the Shockers make it interesting on their home field.


Mountain West (2)TCU (15-5, 35-14, RPI 8) swept three at UNLV (9-15, 26-30) to win the regular-season title. New Mexico (15-8, 37-18, RPI 79) took three at Air Force (3-18, 14-37) to rise to second. BYU (14-8, 28-22, RPI 62) finished percentage points ahead of San Diego State (15-9, 37-19, RPI 44) for third. We think two bids come out of the Mountain West.


Northeast (1) – Wagner (17-9, 30-19) swept a four-game set from Fairleigh Dickinson (11-17, 16-34) to grab the regular-season crown. Sacred Heart (16-10, 27-25) split a pair at Mount St. Mary’s (15-11, 23-25) to finish second. Central Connecticut State (16-11, 26-20) won three of four at Monmouth (15-11, 29-23) to take third. We think the Blue Devils had the most impressive final weekend and they take that momentum to a tourney title.


Ohio Valley (1) Eastern Illinois (14-4, 36-12, RPI 53) took two of three from Eastern Kentucky (10-13, 27-24) to secure the regular-season title. Murray State (13-8-1, 32-19-1) won two of three against Austin Peay (7-12, 22-30) to finish second. The Panthers remain our pick in the OVC.

Pac-10 (3)Arizona State (19-5, 41-11, RPI 5) swept three from Oregon (4-20, 14-37) to win its third straight Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils remain a strong pick for a national seed. Washington State (16-8, 28-22, RPI 52) took two of three at Oregon State (13-11, 31-16, RPI 41) to hold second place. Stanford (12-12, 29-22, RPI 65) won two of three at USC (11-13, 25-27, RPI 71) and has a chance to join the field with a home series this weekend with the Beavers.


Patriot (1) – Second-seed Army (13-7, 33-18) took care of business in the championship series by sweeping a doubleheader against No. 4 Lafayette (9-11, 24-29) to capture the Patriot League title.

Southeastern (8)Florida (19-11, 38-18, RPI 6) and LSU (20-10, 41-15, RPI 10) are battling for national seeds. Arkansas (14-15, 32-20, RPI 13), Ole Miss (20-10, 40-15, RPI 14) and Georgia (15-15, 35-20, RPI 19) are fighting to be regional hosts. South Carolina (17-13, 37-19, RPI 24), Alabama (18-11, 37-17, RPI 29) and Vanderbilt (12-17, 31-24, RPI 37) look to be solid. Auburn (11-19, 31-25, RPI 30) and Kentucky (12-18, 28-26, RPI 42) have strong RPIs, but we think will be left out of the NCAA Tournament for not making the SEC tourney.


Southern (4) – First-place Elon (23-4, 37-14, RPI 23) looks to be in good shape for an at-large bid, as does second-place Georgia Southern (20-8, 38-15, RPI 35) after its three-game sweep of Wofford (7-22, 17-32). The Citadel (20-10, 34-20, RPI 82) swept three from College of Charleston (17-13, 35-20, RPI 51) to push the Cougars to fifth. We keep the Cougars in for now, but that sweep could hurt big time. Western Carolina (19-10, 34-20, RPI 45) won three at Davidson (11-16, 18-29) to finish fourth. This should be a very entertaining conference tournament.


Southland (2) Texas State (24-7, 38-14, RPI 31) split a pair with Texas-Arlington (19-13, 29-24, RPI 95) to remain in good shape for an at-large bid. Southeastern Louisiana (21-12, 35-20, RPI 55) lost two of three at Northwestern State (18-13, 26-24), but held onto second. UTSA (20-12, 31-22, RPI 83) won two against Central Arkansas (10-21, 19-29) to finish third. This should be another very competitive tournament.


Southwestern (1) – Mississippi Valley State (15-5, 20-28) won the Eastern Division crown over Jackson State (15-9, 35-19). Southern (17-6, 26-14) finished well ahead of 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 (16-2, 28-13, RPI 46) will be the top seed for the Summit Tournament on its home field, a tough combination for the rest of the league. Southern Utah (15-7, 26-22) dropped three of four at South Dakota State (17-10, 24-28), but held onto third. The Golden Eagles should make it 11 straight tourney titles. After a win Monday at Dallas Baptist, the RPI should be high enough should it falter.


Sun Belt (2) Middle Tennessee (21-8, 38-15, RPI 38) took two from Western Kentucky (21-8, 37-16, RPI 47) to earn a share of the Sun Belt regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tourney. Third-place Troy (18-10, 32-21, RPI 64) dropped two of three at South Alabama (13-16, 25-28) to damage its chances for an at-large bid.


West Coast (2) Gonzaga (14-7, 32-16, RPI 60) took two of three at home from Loyola Marymount (13-8, 30-27, RPI 91) to earn the right to host the WCC Championship Series against the Lions. San Diego (11-10, 29-25, RPI 50) got a win at UC Irvine to help its chances for an at-large bid, despite a fifth-place finish in the league.


Western Athletic (1)San Jose State (15-7, 39-18, RPI 76) took four from Nevada (10-13, 25-29) to wrap up the regular-season title. Louisiana Tech (13-11, 28-20) split a pair with New Mexico State (12-12, 41-15) to take second. Defending national champion Fresno State (12-12, 28-27) swept a four-game series at Sacramento State (8-14, 27-27) to secure a spot in the WAC tourney in Honolulu. We think the Spartans prevail over Hawaii (11-12, 31-24, RPI 56).


Independents (1)Dallas Baptist (38-17, RPI 36) has benefited from the losses of other teams to enter the field. But the Patriots need minimal upsets in conference tournaments to remain in the at-large pool.


Last five in: College of Charleston, San Diego, Western Carolina, Cal Poly, Southeastern Louisiana


First five out: Stanford, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Oklahoma State


(photo courtesy of Georgia Media Relations Office)