Field of dreamers
Maydness is upon us
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,