May 12, 2010

Field of dreamers

Maydness is upon us


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness has arrived.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. With Selection Monday less than three weeks away, one team is officially in the field of 64. Dartmouth won the Ivy League Championship this past weekend and will head to a regional for the second straight season.


We take our second 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 Tuesday, May 11, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at


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


America East (1) – Binghamton (15-3, 24-18) has won eight straight conference games to vault into sole possession of first. Maine (11-6, 28-19) and Stony Brook (11-6, 22-22) are tied for second, 3.5 games back. We think the Black Bears will still win the America East Tournament.

ACC (8) – There are five locks as of now: Virginia (18-6, 40-9, RPI 3), Miami (18-6, 36-11, RPI 8), Georgia Tech (17-7, 39-9, RPI 11), Florida State (16-8, 36-12, RPI 12) and Clemson (14-10, 32-17, RPI 14). Virginia Tech (14-10, 34-15, RPI 27), North Carolina (11-13, 31-17, RPI 29) and Boston College (13-14, 27-23, RPI 49) are in for now, but must keep winning to stay in the field. The Tar Heels are tied with NC State for the final ACC Tournament spot, but hold the tie-breaker with the series victory. UNC needs to make the ACC tourney field to secure a NCAA bid. The Heels play at Virginia and host Virginia Tech, while the Wolfpack goes to Florida State and entertains Duke.

Atlantic Sun (1)Florida Gulf Coast (20-4, 32-16, RPI 43) has a six-game lead in the standings after its sweep of ETSU (14-10, 29-21). With a win over Clemson, FGCU has worked its way into the discussion for an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the ASun tourney. North Florida (12-8, 26-21) has climbed into second, with Mercer (12-9, 29-20) and Stetson (12-9, 25-24) tied for fourth. We expect the Eagles to soar to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in Division I.

Atlantic 10 (1) Charlotte (15-6, 32-13, RPI 100) continues to hold a two-game lead ahead of Rhode Island (13-8, 24-21) and surprising Saint Joseph’s (13-8, 18-23). The 49ers finish with Saint Louis (12-9, 25-23) and at Richmond (8-13, 22-24). We think Charlotte wins the tourney as the No. 1 seed, but keep an eye on those URI Rams.


Big East (3) Connecticut (16-4, 39-10, RPI 20) has kept its hold on first, narrowly ahead of Louisville (16-5, 40-9, RPI 4) and Pittsburgh (15-5, 34-12, RPI 39). The Huskies finish at UCF (13-8, 22-26) and at home with Seton Hall (6-15, 17-26). The Cardinals, fighting for a national seed, entertain St. John’s (14-7, 33-14) and visit Notre Dame (8-13, 20-27). The Panthers go to Cincinnati (9-12, 25-24) before hosting USF. As long as one of the top three captures the Big East tourney, all three are in the NCAA Tournament. If a lower seed wins, Pitt could be on the outside.

Big South (2)Coastal Carolina (20-0, 42-6, RPI 7) keeps updating its resume for a national seed, having won six straight. Second-place Liberty (18-3, 37-12, RPI 45) has won eight in a row as it prepares to host the Chanticleers this weekend. If the Flames can take at least one game, they will help their RPI enough to stay in the at-large field. VMI (11-10, 30-16, RPI 70) will need to win the Big South tourney to get a NCAA bid.

Big Ten (1) – Pete Rozelle would love the Big Ten race this year, as all 10 teams are within two games of one another. There is a four-way tie for first with Michigan (10-8, 29-17), Purdue (10-8, 28-18), Minnesota (10-8, 22-27) and Northwestern (10-8, 21-27). The most important goal now for each team is to secure a Big Ten tourney spot. If we had a 10-sided die, we’d roll it to pick our winner. The Golden Gophers have played well of late, so they are our pick for now.

Big 12 (6) – There are still only two locks right now: Texas (21-3, 41-8, RPI 5) and Oklahoma (12-10, 35-13, RPI 22). The Longhorns have clinched the Big 12 regular-season title and are working toward a national seed. Texas A&M (9-11, 29-18, RPI 35), Kansas State (11-9, 32-16, RPI 42) and Texas Tech (12-9, 26-22, RPI 44) are solid for now. We’re putting Kansas (10-10-1, 29-19-1, RPI 53) in for now, based mostly on its fifth-place standing. Baylor (7-12, 25-20, RPI 51) is in eighth place and needs to get more conference wins to return to the at-large discussion.

Big West (2) – First-place Cal State Fullerton (15-3, 30-14, RPI 10) is a lock and is in the discussion for a national seed. Second-place UC Irvine (10-5, 30-16, RPI 48) is in for now, but can’t slip over the final three weeks.


Colonial (1) – Like the Big Ten, teams are fighting to secure a spot in the CAA Tournament. But this year, there are only four spots. First-place James Madison (14-4, 24-19) looks to be in good shape. Georgia State (12-5-1, 29-19-1) and VCU (12-5-1, 27-20-1) are tied for second, with George Mason (10-8, 27-16) currently in fourth. The tourney host, UNC Wilmington (11-10, 26-23), must have a strong performance this weekend at William and Mary (9-9, 25-18) in its final CAA series to have a shot at making the field. The tournament will be wide open without the Seahawks. We think the Panthers are playing well of late and will repeat as tourney champs.

Conference USA (2) – First-place Rice (13-5, 30-18, RPI 28) sees speeding headlights in its rearview mirror, as second-place Southern Miss (11-7, 29-17, RPI 58) has won 11 straight and is two games behind the Owls. The Golden Eagles head to Houston this weekend for a three-game set with their eyes locked in on first place.


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (18-2, 28-17, RPI 199) leads in the inaugural season for the Great West, but no automatic or at-large bid this year.


Horizon (1) Wright State (13-6, 25-20) still looks to be the best team, with a 1.5-game lead over Milwaukee (11-7, 23-20) and two games over UIC (10-7, 17-26). The Raiders should survive.


Ivy (1) Dartmouth (13-7, 25-16) lost the first game of the Ivy League Championship Series at Columbia (14-6, 26-21), but stormed back to win the final two games to capture its second straight title. The Big Green grabbed the league’s automatic bid and will represent the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament.


Metro Atlantic (1)Canisius (16-2, 34-16) continues to dominate the MAAC, building a five-game lead over second-place Marist (11-7, 28-19). We still believe the Golden Griffins will grab the conference tournament title in May.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (13-8, 29-21) has fallen a game behind Bowling Green (14-7, 24-19) in the Eastern Division, but the Golden Flashes host the Falcons this weekend. Ball State (15-6, 24-23) has risen to first in the Western Division, one game ahead of Toledo (14-7, 28-19) and Central Michigan (14-7, 26-19). We think Kent State prevails in a competitive conference tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (18-0, 32-19) completed its conference slate without a loss, finishing three games ahead of North Carolina A&T (15-3, 25-24). The Wildcats should again win the MEAC Tournament on their home field.


Missouri Valley (1) – Illinois State (12-3, 24-18) holds a narrow half-game lead over second-place Wichita State (13-5, 32-17, RPI 64). We think the Shockers will win the conference tournament on their home field to take the league’s automatic bid.


Mountain West (2) – First-place TCU (16-4, 36-10, RPI 16) and second-place New Mexico (13-7, 31-17, RPI 30) have separated themselves from the rest of the field in the MWC. The Horned Frogs are playing to host a regional and should win the tourney in San Diego, with the Lobos earning an at-large bid.


Northeast (1) – Bryant (18-6, 27-21) has had a great season and could win the NEC regular-season title, but will not play in the conference tournament as the Bulldogs transition into Division I. Sacred Heart (15-9, 24-22) has moved into second place and hosts third-place Monmouth (13-11, 20-19) this weekend with a visit to Bryant next weekend. We think the Pioneers will prevail and win the NEC tourney.


Ohio Valley (1) – Murray State (11-5, 24-21) has moved into first, one game ahead of Southeast Missouri State (10-6, 27-20) and Tennessee Tech (9-5, 23-22). With an easier schedule down the stretch, we think the Redhawks will win the regular=season title and take the OVC tourney.

Pac-10 (8) – It has been an outstanding season for the Pac-10. The league could get its most bids ever. There are currently six locks: Arizona State (14-4, 41-5, RPI 1), UCLA (10-8, 34-11, RPI 9), Arizona (9-9, 30-16, RPI 25), Oregon (10-11, 31-18, RPI 26), California (11-10, 27-18, RPI 32) and Stanford (10-8, 25-18, RPI 41). Oregon State (7-11, 24-18, RPI 33) and Washington State (9-9, 26-17, RPI 37) are in for now but must keep winning to stay in the picture.


Patriot (1) Army (16-4, 27-15) has dominated conference play, winning the regular-season title by four games over Lehigh (12-8, 22-25). The Black Knights should take advantage of having home field for the semifinals and finals to win the Patriot League title.

Southeastern (8)Florida (17-7, 33-12, RPI 2) and Arkansas (16-8, 38-11, RPI 6) have sights on national seeds. Vanderbilt (12-10, 36-13, RPI 13), LSU (12-12, 34-15, RPI 15), Auburn (15-9, 33-16, RPI 17), Alabama (10-14, 29-19, RPI 18), South Carolina (17-7, 37-11, RPI 19) and Ole Miss (15-9, 34-15, RPI 21) are solid for now. The Crimson Tide needs some conference wins this weekend against the Rebels and next week at Tennessee (11-13, 27-21, RPI 46) to make the SEC Tournament and ensure a NCAA bid. Kentucky (9-15, 26-22, RPI 24) needs to make the SEC tourney field to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats entertain LSU this weekend before heading to Georgia (3-19, 14-33) next week.


Southern (2) – The Southern Conference has had a great season to date, with six teams in the picture for an at-large bid. The Citadel (18-6, 30-20, RPI 47) sits in first, slightly ahead of College of Charleston (19-8, 36-13, RPI 36). The Bulldogs have struggled of late and need to get back on the winning track to keep its at-large bid. Georgia Southern (16-8, 30-19, RPI 54) has climbed into third, with Elon (17-10, 34-19, RPI 50) in fourth. Western Carolina (12-11, 29-16, RPI 60) and Appalachian State (11-11, 31-12, RPI 59) need strong finishes to improve their RPIs.


Southland (1) – Right now, we think first-place Texas State (20-7, 30-16, RPI 38) will get the lone bid for the Southland, but third-place Southeastern Louisiana (18-9, 36-14, RPI 52) still has a shot at an at-large bid. The Lions travel to second-place Stephen F. Austin (18-8, 32-14, RPI 98) and need a series win to leapfrog the Lumberjacks.


Southwestern (1)Jackson State (16-5, 32-14) has won 13 straight to take over first place in the Eastern Division ahead of Alcorn State (14-6, 23-24) and Mississippi Valley State (13-7, 20-25). Texas Southern (15-6, 25-23) is ahead of Southern (14-6, 19-20) in the Western Division. The Tigers of Jackson State are our pick to take the tourney title.


Summit (1)Oral Roberts (14-6, 27-21) has dominated the Summit in recent years, but is being challenged this season by second-place Centenary (11-4, 22-18) and third-place South Dakota State (13-7, 30-16), which took three of four from ORU this past weekend. The Gents will host the Golden Eagles this weekend. Look for ORU to prevail again with the conference tournament on its home field.


Sun Belt (2) – This has been a very interesting season in the Sun Belt. Florida Atlantic (19-8, 31-18, RPI 31) has climbed to the top spot ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette (16-8, 32-16, RPI 34) and South Alabama (16-8, 30-20, RPI 55). Middle Tennessee (14-10, 30-18, RPI 57) and Western Kentucky (13-11, 32-18, RPI 40) could still work into the at-large picture, but must move up in the league standings. We think FAU and ULL will survive in the end, but watch MTSU on its home field for the conference tournament.


West Coast (1) San Diego (15-0, 31-17, RPI 23) continues to impress, especially with its sweep at Portland (11-4, 31-13, RPI 78) this past weekend. We think the Toreros stay classy and take the WCC crown.


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (11-5, 30-20, RPI 65) swept a four-game set at New Mexico State (13-6-1, 35-16-1, RPI 77) this past weekend. The Bulldogs will use that momentum to finish strong and win the conference tournament.


Last five in: Southern Miss, Kansas, Boston College, Oregon State, Liberty


First five out: Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Elon, Southeastern Louisiana, Georgia Southern


(photo by Jimmy Jones)