April 30, 2010

Field of dreamers

Maydness is just a turn of the calendar away


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan




Maydness is nearly upon us.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is near. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the season started, but Selection Monday is less than five weeks away.


We take our first look at the potential field. There are teams in good shape and others have much work to do. The team records are through games of Wednesday, April 28, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at www.boydsworld.com).


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


America East (1)Maine (7-3, 23-16) is the preseason favorite and is in a first-place tie with Binghamton (7-3, 16-18), one game ahead of Stony Brook (6-4, 17-19). Maine and Stony Brook meet this weekend in Orono. Look for the Black Bears to represent the America East in the NCAA Tournament.

ACC (7) – There are five locks as of now: Virginia (15-6, 36-9, RPI 4), Miami (15-6, 31-11, RPI 9), Georgia Tech (16-5, 35-7, RPI 10), Florida State (14-7, 31-10, RPI 11) and Clemson (11-10, 25-16, RPI 14). Virginia Tech (11-10, 29-14, RPI 31) and Boston College (12-9, 24-17, RPI 44) are in for now, but must keep winning to stay in the field. North Carolina (8-13, 27-17, RPI 29) would not make the ACC Tournament today. If the Tar Heels finish strong and reach the ACC tourney, an NCAA bid awaits.

Atlantic Sun (1)Florida Gulf Coast (17-4, 27-13, RPI 73) has a three-game lead in the standings over second-place Stetson (11-4, 24-19) and is four games ahead of third-place North Florida (10-5, 22-18). We expect the Eagles to soar to their first NCAA Division I appearance.

Atlantic 10 (1)Charlotte (12-3, 29-10, RPI 74) has been the strongest team in the league and took two of three from second-place George Washington (10-5, 22-19) last weekend. Saint Joseph’s (10-5, 15-20) is tied for second with the Colonials. We think the 49ers will take the title, but keep an eye on fourth-place Rhode Island (9-6, 20-19).


Big East (3) Connecticut (13-2, 34-8, RPI 27) had its 22-game win streak snapped on Wednesday but continues to have a remarkable season. Pittsburgh (12-3, 30-10, RPI 38) is one game back in second and hosts the Huskies this weekend. Third-place Louisville (11-4, 33-7, RPI 2) is fighting for a national seed. Look for these three to represent the Big East.

Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (14-0, 36-6, RPI 5) has had a fantastic season so far and is playing for a national seed. Second-place Liberty (12-3, 29-12, RPI 55) and third-place VMI (10-8, 29-13, RPI 69) have had solid seasons as well, but not strong enough. The Keydets were swept by the Chanticleers last weekend to hurt their chances for an at-large bid. The Flames get their shot at Coastal in mid-May, and a series win could put them in.

Big Ten (1) – Many thought during the preseason that the Big Ten could have multiple bids, even possibly a regional host site. As of now, it is again a one-bid league. There is a four-way tie for first with Michigan State (7-5, 27-11, RPI 62), Michigan (7-5, 25-14, RPI 64), Ohio State (7-5, 23-13, RPI 79) and Northwestern (7-5, 15-23, RPI 201). The Wolverines and Buckeyes battle this weekend in Ann Arbor. Look for OSU to prevail with the Big Ten tourney on its home field.

Big 12 (6) – There are only two locks right now: Texas (16-2, 35-7, RPI 6) and Oklahoma (8-8, 30-11, RPI 23). Kansas State (9-5, 29-10, RPI 47) and Texas Tech (10-8, 24-21, RPI 46) are solid for now. Texas A&M (7-10-1, 23-16-1, RPI 35) needs to keep winning to ensure it makes the Big 12 tourney. We’re putting Baylor (7-9, 25-17, RPI 49) in, but we’re using pencil. We’re leaving out Kansas (6-8-1, 25-17-1, RPI 57) for now, but the Wildcats can win their way into the field.

Big West (2) – First-place Cal State Fullerton (10-2, 25-13, RPI 17) is a lock and second-place UC Irvine (8-4, 24-14, RPI 48) is in for now, with the Titans playing to host a regional. Third-place Pacific (7-5, 25-14, RPI 95) hosts Fullerton this weekend with a chance to improve its chances for an at-large bid.


Colonial (1) – Another league that looked in the preseason to have a shot at multiple bids, but the tourney winner will be the lone NCAA representative. First-place VCU (11-3-1, 23-17-1, RPI 157) went 0-2-1 this past weekend against fourth-place Georgia State (7-4-1, 24-17-1, RPI 175). Second-place James Madison (11-4, 21-19, RPI 82) is a half-game behind the Rams, with George Mason (10-5, 27-12, RPI 96) 1.5 back in third. We think the Patriots have the most balanced attack and will prevail in the CAA Tournament.

Conference USA (2) – After a strong showing in 2009, Conference USA has had a mediocre 2010 campaign. First-place Rice (11-4, 26-16, RPI 26) had rebounded after a shaky start. Tulane (6-6, 26-16, RPI 63) and East Carolina (6-6, 25-17, RPI 71) are in a tie for fourth. We think the Pirates will eventually earn the second bid for the league with the sixth-best conference RPI.


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (11-1, 21-14, RPI 204) leads in the inaugural season for the Great West, but no automatic bid or at-large bid this season.


Horizon (1) Wright State (9-4, 20-17) looks to be the top team, with a 1.5-game lead over Valparaiso (5-3, 17-22), Milwaukee (7-5, 18-18) and UIC (8-6, 14-22). The Raiders should survive.


Ivy (1) Dartmouth (11-5, 21-13) leads the Red Rolfe Division. Columbia (11-5, 22-18) is on top in the Lou Gehrig Division. We think the Big Green will prevail in the Ivy championship series.


Metro Atlantic (1)Canisius (11-1, 28-15) has dominated the MAAC so far, with a 2.5-game lead over second-place Marist (10-5, 24-16) and 3.5-game advantage over third-place Niagara (9-6, 13-26). We believe the Golden Griffins will grab the conference tournament in May.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (10-5, 25-18) has risen to the top of the Eastern Division, one game ahead of Bowling Green (9-6, 19-18). Central Michigan (11-4, 23-16) and Ball State (11-4, 20-21) are tied for first in the Western Division, one game ahead of Toledo (10-5, 24-17) and Eastern Michigan (10-5, 21-21). We think the Golden Flashes prevail in the conference tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (12-0, 26-17) is again dominating the MEAC, with a three-game lead over North Carolina A&T (9-3, 19-23). The Wildcats should roll through the MEAC Tournament on their home field.


Missouri Valley (1) – Illinois State (8-1, 20-16, RPI 109) has risen to the top of the MVC, but entertains second-place Wichita State (8-4, 27-15, RPI 65) this weekend. We think the Shockers win the series and the conference tournament on their home field to take the league’s automatic bid.


Mountain West (2) – First-place TCU (11-3, 31-9, RPI 16) and second-place New Mexico (10-4, 28-14, RPI 33) have separated themselves from the rest of the field. The Horned Frogs are playing to host a regional and should win the tourney, with the Lobos earning an at-large bid.


Northeast (1) – Bryant (11-5, 19-19) and Wagner (11-5, 17-19) are tied for first, with a two-game lead over Sacred Heart (9-7, 18-20) and Quinnipiac (9-7, 10-26). Wagner visits Bryant this weekend and we expect them to win the series and the conference tourney.


Ohio Valley (1)Southeast Missouri State (10-4, 26-15, RPI 116) took two from Jacksonville State (8-6, 21-19, RPI 100) to take sole possession of first place. We expect the Redhawks to remain in first and win the OVC tourney.

Pac-10 (8) – It has been an outstanding season for the Pac-10. The league could get its most bid ever. There are currently six locks: Arizona State (11-4, 35-5, RPI 1), UCLA (7-5, 30-7, RPI 8), Arizona (8-7, 28-11, RPI 12), Oregon (8-7, 28-13, RPI 24), Stanford (10-5, 21-14, RPI 25) and California (8-7, 23-15, RPI 34). Oregon State (4-8, 21-14, RPI 30) and Washington State (5-7, 21-15, 50 RPI) are in for now but must keep winning to stay in the picture.


Patriot (1) Army (13-3, 24-13) has dominated conference play, owning a four-game lead over Holy Cross (9-7, 22-19) and Lehigh (9-7, 19-24). The Black Knights should take the regular-season title this weekend and take advantage of home series to win the Patriot League title.

Southeastern (8)Florida (12-6, 28-11, RPI 3) and Arkansas (13-5, 34-8, RPI 7) have sights on national seeds. LSU (11-7, 32-10, RPI 13), South Carolina (14-4, 32-8, RPI 15), Alabama (8-10, 27-15, RPI 18), Auburn (10-8, 28-14, RPI 19), Vanderbilt (9-9, 32-12, RPI 20) and Ole Miss (11-7, 30-13, RPI 21) are solid for now. Kentucky (6-12, 23-18, RPI 22) needs to make the SEC tourney field to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament.


Southern (4) – The Southern Conference has had a great season to date, with six teams in the picture for an at-large bid. The Citadel (16-2, 28-15, RPI 32) sits in first and is solidly in the NCAA field. We think College of Charleston (14-7, 30-12, RPI 39), Appalachian State (11-8-1, 31-8-1, RPI 41) and Western Carolina (8-9-1, 25-14-1, RPI 42) are in for now. Georgia Southern (13-8, 23-19, RPI 54) and Elon (12-9, 28-16, RPI 59) have work to do to get into the at-large picture.


Southland (1) – Right now, we think first-place Texas State (15-6, 25-14, RPI 36) will get the lone bid for the Southland, but Southeastern Louisiana (13-8, 31-12, RPI 53) still has a shot at an at-large bid. Second-place Northwestern State (13-7, 26-15, RPI 68) could also make a run at an at-large.


Southwestern (1) – Mississippi Valley State (13-4, 20-22) leads Alcorn State (11-6, 20-21) and Jackson State (9-5, 24-14) in the Eastern Division, while Texas Southern (13-5, 23-21) is ahead of Southern (10-4, 15-17) in the Western Division. The Tigers are our pick to take the tourney title.


Summit (1) Oral Roberts (10-2, 22-17) has dominated the Summit in recent years, but is being challenged this season by second-place Centenary (9-2, 20-16). The Gents will host the Golden Eagles in mid-May. Look for ORU to prevail again.


Sun Belt (2) – This will be a very interesting conference to watch down the stretch. South Alabama (15-6, 28-17, RPI 61) has risen to first place, one game ahead of Florida Atlantic (14-7, 25-15, RPI 37) and Middle Tennessee (14-7, 26-15, RPI 67). Western Kentucky (11-7, 30-14, RPI 28) has the league’s best RPI, but sits in fifth place. Louisiana-Lafayette (10-8, 25-16, RPI 51) and FIU (10-8, 23-16, RPI 66) are tied for sixth, but could still play their way into the NCAA field. We think WKU and FAU will survive in the end, but watch MTSU on its home field for the conference tournament.


West Coast (1) San Diego (9-0, 23-16, RPI 40) has enjoyed a hot start in conference play and should stay at the top. The Toreros will be challenged by Portland (11-1, 27-9, RPI 81). We think the Toreros outlast the Pilots to take the WCC crown.


Western Athletic (1)New Mexico State (9-2-1, 31-12-1, RPI 70) has climbed to first ahead of second-place Fresno State (7-5, 24-18, RPI 87). The Aggies host the Bulldogs next weekend in a huge WAC series. We think NMSU prevails and goes on to win the conference tournament.


Last five in: East Carolina, Washington State, Baylor, UC Irvine, Boston College


First five out: Kansas, Kentucky, Southeastern Louisiana, Louisiana-Lafayette, Liberty


(photo by Jimmy Jones)