May 22, 2009

Field of dreamers:

Nine Thoughts


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



As the league tournaments continue, we offer some thoughts about the impact on the NCAA tournament. An abbreviated Field of Dreamers. 

First Inning
Georgia Tech's late-season slide may cost it a Regional bid. We had the Yellow Jackets hosting, but after losing its series to Duke and dropping their first two games in the ACC tourney, they may be hitting the road. Virginia, Arkansas or dare we say Georgia might seize the opportunity.

Second Inning
Baylor got a key win over Texas to open the Big 12 tourney but fell against Kansas State. The Bears are still auditioning.

Third Inning
Somebody steal Cinderella's slippers! That's what the bubble teams are telling the likes of the Big South, Big Ten, Mountain West and Conference USA. Liberty, Winthrop, Indiana, Utah and Southern Miss have chances to win automatic bids. Top seeds George Mason (CAA), Eastern Illinois (OVC) and Missouri State (MVC) have already been bounced from their conference tourneys and hope to receive at-large bids.

Fourth Inning
TCU entered the Mountain West tourney with a shot at a national seed. The Horned Frogs have lost twice and are out of the MWC tourney. They'll likely host and possibly be shipped to Texas for the Super Regionals should they both survive. Speaking of the Mountain West, San Diego State is in the title game with Utah. If the Aztecs come up short, they may have done enough to grab an at-large, especially considering they boast the nation's best pitcher in Stephen Strasburg.

Fifth Inning
Rhode Island is playing well in the Atlantic 10 tourney. With a RPI of 51, the Rams are knocking on the at-large door. And the committee will probably listen.

Sixth Inning
Dallas Baptist has no conference affiliation. The Patriots are watching what's going on with great interest. DBU sits with a RPI of 37 and looks to benefit as the bubble bursts for many teams.

Seventh Inning Stretch
What to make of Auburn and Oklahoma State.Every year the committee pulls out a surprise, and the Tigers and Cowboys hope they get a call. Neither made their tourneys, but both have RPIs in the top 32. Six one-run losses, including two 7-6 defeats at LSU, will stick with Auburn; six one-run defeats also will stick with OSU.

Eighth Inning
Rice had its conference title streak ended at 13 when it dropped two of three to UAB the final weekend of the year to finish in second in Conference USA. Maybe that's what the Owls needed as they've rolled in their first three games in the conference tourney, winning by a combined score of 28-3. Or maybe it's just getting pitchers Ryan Berry and Mike Ojala healthy.

Ninth Inning
Note to the nation: Elon can hit. The Phoenix rank second in the country in scoring (10.7 runs a game) and have scored 25 in its first two Southern Conference games. Elon has scored in double figures in 14 of its past 15.

Extra Innings
We may reconsider, but the bubble appears to have burst for College of Charleston (RPI 62) and BYU (59). Still playing and fighting for recognition: Notre Dame (64), Troy (66), Southern Miss (61), Tulane (68), Missouri State (65), among others. 


(photo courtesy of Georgia Media Relations Office)