May 18, 2010

Field of dreamers

Maydness is in the air


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness is in full force, and the bubble is getting bigger.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. With Selection Monday now less than two weeks away, we have three teams officially in the field of 64 and two more to be awarded this week.


Dartmouth won the Ivy League Championship for one bid. There are no postseason tournaments in the Big West and West Coast Conferences, so regular-season champs Cal State Fullerton and San Diego are in the field.


The MEAC and Patriot League will conclude their championships this weekend to give us five tourney teams. Arizona State could make it a six-pack if it clinches the Pac-10 regular-season crown.


We take another look at the potential field. Some teams are in good shape, others have work to do. The team records are through games of Monday, May 17, 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 (18-3, 27-18) has made us believers. The Bearcats have won 11 straight, all conference games, to stay in first. Stony Brook (15-6, 26-22) has won seven consecutive league contests to take sole possession of second. Binghamton needs one win at Stony Brook this weekend to win the regular-season title and the right to host the conference tournament. Maine (13-7, 30-20) is sitting in third, hoping to get hot come tourney time. We think Binghamton will ride the momentum to an America East title on its home field.

ACC (7) – There are six locks as of now: Virginia (21-6, 43-9, RPI 2), Miami (19-8, 37-13, RPI 7), Georgia Tech (19-8, 41-10, RPI 10), Florida State (18-9, 39-13, RPI 12), Clemson (15-12, 33-19, RPI 19) and Virginia Tech (16-11, 36-16, RPI 27). Boston College (13-14, 28-23, RPI 46) is in for now, but could use at least one win this week against Georgia Tech to help its resume. North Carolina (11-16, 32-20, RPI 30) was swept this past weekend at Virginia and fell behind NC State (12-15, 32-20, RPI 59) for the final ACC tourney spot. The Tar Heels need to get into the ACC Tournament to be considered for an NCAA bid. UNC entertains Virginia Tech, while NC State hosts Duke (8-19, 29-24, RPI 76).

Atlantic Sun (1)Florida Gulf Coast (22-5, 34-17, RPI 44) won its third straight regular-season title with a series victory at Jacksonville (12-11, 23-25). The Eagles have a six-game lead over UNF (14-9, 29-22) and will host the Ospreys this week to conclude the regular season. Mercer (14-10, 31-21) and ETSU (14-10, 29-24) are tied for third. We expect FGCU to keep the pressure on throughout the A-Sun tourney to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance in Division I. Others around the country will be cheering for the Eagles, who might snag an at-large bid if someone else takes the tourney title.

Atlantic 10 (1) Charlotte (18-6, 35-13, RPI 84) needs one win this week at Richmond (9-15, 23-26) to wrap up the regular-season title. Rhode Island (15-9, 26-22) and Xavier (15-9, 22-30) are tied for second, vying for the second bye in the first round of the A-10 tourney. The Rams welcome George Washington (13-11, 25-26) this week, while the Musketeers travel to Saint Joseph’s (13-11, 18-26). There are 10 teams still battling for the six tournament spots. We think Charlotte wins the tourney as the No. 1 seed, but keep an eye on Rhode Island.


Big East (3) – It’s still tight at the top, with Connecticut (18-5, 41-11, RPI 24) narrowly ahead of Louisville (18-6, 42-10, RPI 5) and Pittsburgh (17-6, 36-14, RPI 47). The Huskies finish at home with Seton Hall (7-17, 18-28-1). The Cardinals, still fighting for a national seed, visit Notre Dame (10-14, 22-29). The Panthers host USF (14-10, 23-29) and need a series win to stay in the at-large picture after suffering two losses this past week. 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 (23-0, 45-6, RPI 3) keeps adding to its resume for a national seed, having won nine straight. The Chanticleers won three at second-place Liberty (18-6, 37-15, RPI 45) to maintain dominance in the Big South. The Flames need to get back on the winning track this week at Winthrop (11-13, 23-26) to stay in the at-large picture. VMI (12-12, 31-18, RPI 72) will need to win the Big South tourney to get a NCAA bid.

Big Ten (1) – Minnesota (13-8, 25-27) swept a three-game set from Penn State (8-13, 21-28) to take sole possession of first place, one game ahead of Michigan (12-9, 31-19) and Purdue (12-9, 30-19). The Golden Gophers travel this week to Ohio State (10-11, 27-21) with a chance to secure the regular-season title on the field on which the Big Ten tourney will be played and eliminate the home team from the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines head to Penn State, while the Boilermakers head to Iowa (10-11, 23-26). After some debate, we lean toward Michigan to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Big 12 (6) – There are four locks right now: Texas (21-3, 43-8, RPI 6), Oklahoma (12-10, 37-14, RPI 23), Texas A&M (12-11-1, 33-18-1, RPI 31) and Kansas State (13-10, 34-16, RPI 41). Texas Tech (13-11, 27-24, RPI 51) is in for now. The Red Raiders are tied for third and have series wins over Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas (11-12-1, 30-21-1, RPI 54). The sixth-place Jayhawks could use a win this week over the Sooners to help its cause. Baylor (9-13, 27-21, RPI 50) needs a series win against Oklahoma State (8-16, 28-23) this week, plus some wins in the Big 12 tourney, to help its at-large case.

Big West (2) – First-place Cal State Fullerton (18-3, 34-14, RPI 11) has clinched the regular-season title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Titans are fighting for a national seed. Second-place UC Irvine (12-6, 32-17, RPI 52) is in for now with one of the final at-large bids, but can’t slip over the final two weeks. The Anteaters entertain UC Riverside (10-8, 28-19) and travel to Long Beach State (7-11, 22-26) in their final two conference series.


Colonial (1) – Three teams have clinched spots in the four-team CAA tourney field: James Madison (16-5, 26-20), VCU (15-5-1, 30-20-1) and Georgia State (14-6-1, 31-20-1). The Rams entertain the Dukes this weekend to decide the regular-season title. Four teams are vying for the fourth and final tourney spot. Tournament host UNC Wilmington (13-11, 28-24) has concluded its conference slate. George Mason (10-11, 27-19) travels to Towson (9-12, 17-34), William and Mary (10-11, 26-20) heads to Georgia State, and Hofstra (10-11, 20-25-1) hosts Old Dominion (8-13, 21-30). After a lengthy discussion, we lean toward JMU as the tourney champ.

Conference USA (1) – Could the fifth-ranked conference in RPI only get one bid? If first-place Rice (15-6, 32-19, RPI 28) wins the conference tournament as we expect, that might happen. We’re leaving out second-place Southern Miss (12-9, 30-19, RPI 60) for now, primarily based on its RPI. The Owls have clinched the top seed in the tourney and host UAB (10-11, 27-23) this week. The Golden Eagles entertain third-place Memphis (11-10, 26-26) and need a series win to stay in second.


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (22-2, 33-17, RPI 196) had dominated league play and has won the regular-season title in the inaugural season for the Great West, but no automatic or at-large bid this year.


Horizon (1) Wright State (17-6, 29-20) has won four straight league games and still looks to be the best team, with a 2.5-game lead over Milwaukee (14-8, 26-22) and three-game lead over UIC (13-8, 20-27). The Raiders should survive.


Ivy (1) Dartmouth (13-7, 26-17) 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 (17-4, 35-18) clinched the regular-season title in the MAAC and will be the top seed in the tournament. There are five teams battling for the other three tourney spots. Manhattan (13-8, 28-17) hosts Siena (12-9, 26-25), Marist (13-8, 30-20) goes to Fairfield (8-13, 18-29), Rider (12-9, 30-21) travels to Iona (3-18, 9-37) and Niagara (12-9, 16-34) visits Canisius. We still believe the Golden Griffins will grab the conference tournament title.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (15-9, 31-22) took two of three from Bowling Green (15-9, 25-21) to move into a first-place tie in the Eastern Division. The Golden Flashes play at Akron (3-21, 20-31) this week, while the Falcons entertain Buffalo (9-15, 23-26). Ball State (18-6, 27-24) has risen to first in the Western Division, one game ahead of Toledo (17-7, 31-19) and Central Michigan (17-7, 30-19). All hope to be the top seed in the conference tourney. The Cardinals and Rockets meet this week in the hometown of Jamie Farr, while the Chippewas entertain Eastern Michigan (13-11, 25-27). We think Kent State prevails in a competitive conference tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (18-0, 32-20) completed its conference slate without a loss, finishing three games ahead of North Carolina A&T (15-3, 28-24). The Wildcats should again win the MEAC Tournament on their home field.


Missouri Valley (1) – Illinois State (14-4, 26-20) holds a narrow half-game lead over second-place Wichita State (15-6, 34-18, RPI 66). 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 (19-5, 40-11, RPI 20) and second-place New Mexico (13-7, 34-17, RPI 38) have separated themselves from the rest of the field in the MWC. The Horned Frogs had their RPI take a hit with a loss to Air Force (2-18, 12-40), which might cost them a chance to host a regional. We think TCU wins the MWC tourney in San Diego, with the Lobos earning an at-large bid.


Northeast (1) – Bryant (22-6, 31-21) 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. Bryant needs one win at home this week against second-place Sacred Heart (19-9, 28-22) to claim the crown. Four teams are fighting for the final two tourney spots. Central Connecticut State (15-13, 26-19) hosts Long Island (10-18, 13-39), Monmouth (13-15, 20-23) entertains Fairleigh Dickinson (9-19, 14-35) and Wagner (13-15, 21-29) welcomes Quinnipiac (13-15, 14-35). We think the Pioneers take advantage of being the top seed and win the NEC tourney.


Ohio Valley (1) – Murray State (12-5-1, 25-22-1) maintains first place, one game ahead of Southeast Missouri State (12-7, 29-21) and Tennessee Tech (11-6, 25-23). The Thoroughbreds play the Golden Eagles in Cookeville, while the Redhawks travel to Eastern Illinois (9-11, 15-32). We think Southeast Missouri State outlasts the field and takes 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 five locks: Arizona State (16-5, 43-6, RPI 1), UCLA (13-8, 37-11, RPI 8), Arizona (10-11, 31-18, RPI 17), Oregon (10-11, 34-18, RPI 22) and Washington State (11-10, 28-18, RPI 32). California (11-10, 27-18, RPI 35) and Stanford (11-10, 27-20, RPI 43) are solid. Oregon State (9-12, 26-19, RPI 33) is in for now, but could use some wins over Arizona State and Arizona over the final two weeks.


Patriot (1) – After a pair of upsets in the semifinal series, third-seeded Holy Cross (10-10, 25-24) will host fourth-seeded Bucknell (8-12, 23-32) in the Patriot League Championship Series. The Crusaders won three of four at Bucknell in April and had the better pitching in the semifinal series. After some debate, we think Holy Cross wins the title and heads to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1978.

Southeastern (9)Florida (20-7, 37-12, RPI 4) and South Carolina (20-7, 41-11, RPI 14) have sights on national seeds and meet this week in Columbia. Arkansas (16-11, 38-14, RPI 9), Vanderbilt (15-10, 39-13, RPI 13), Alabama (12-15, 31-21, RPI 15), Auburn (17-10, 35-17, RPI 16) and Ole Miss (15-9, 34-15, RPI 21) are good to go. Kentucky (12-15, 29-23, RPI 21) helped itself with a sweep of LSU (12-15, 34-18, RPI 25) this past weekend. We’re putting nine in for now, but the teams that miss the SEC tourney could be home for the NCAA Tournament as well. LSU, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee (12-15, 29-23, RPI 39) are all fighting for the final two conference tourney spots. The Crimson Tide and Volunteers square off in Knoxville, the Wildcats travel to Georgia (3-22, 14-36) and the Tigers host Mississippi State (5-22, 21-31).


Southern (2) – Six teams are still in the picture for an at-large bid. The Citadel (21-6, 34-20, RPI 42) sits in first, slightly ahead of College of Charleston (22-8, 39-14, RPI 29). Both swept series this past weekend. The Bulldogs travel to third-place Georgia Southern (19-8, 33-19, RPI 53) this week, while the Cougars have completed their conference slate. Elon (17-10, 34-19, RPI 48) entertains Samford (16-10, 29-21, RPI 68), Western Carolina (13-13-1, 31-18-1, RPI 57) welcomes Davidson (5-22, 19-29) and Appalachian State (11-14-1, 32-15-1, RPI 56) travels to Wofford (9-18, 17-35) in other key conference series this week. We have two in for now, but we still think this could turn into a three or four-bid league.


Southland (2) – We have a first-place tie with Southeastern Louisiana (21-9, 39-14, RPI 40) and Texas State (21-9, 31-19, RPI 49). The team that wins the regular-season title will have an advantage for an at-large bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. The Lions host Northwestern State (19-10, 32-19) this week, while the Bobcats entertain UT Arlington (18-12, 26-26). We think one will win the conference tourney and both get in.


Southwestern (1)Jackson State (19-5, 35-14) has won 16 straight to take over first place in the Eastern Division ahead of Alcorn State (15-8, 24-26) and Mississippi Valley State (15-8, 22-26). Texas Southern (18-6, 28-23) is ahead of Southern (17-6, 22-20) in the Western Division. The Tigers of Jackson State are our pick to take the tourney title.


Summit (1) – South Dakota State (16-8, 33-17) and Oral Roberts (16-8, 29-23) are tied for first, just ahead of third-place Centenary (13-7, 24-22). The Jackrabbits host Western Illinois (5-16, 13-34), the Golden Eagles entertain North Dakota State (10-13, 21-27) and the Gents finish a series with WIU before heading to IPFW (11-13, 15-36). Look for ORU to survive with the conference tournament on its home field.


Sun Belt (2) – Good stuff in the Sun Belt this season. Florida Atlantic (19-8, 31-19, RPI 36) has climbed to the top spot ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette (18-9, 34-17, RPI 34). Middle Tennessee (17-10, 33-19, RPI 58), FIU (16-11, 30-20, RPI 61) and South Alabama (16-11, 30-23, RPI 62) are within three games of the top spot. Western Kentucky (14-13, 33-20, RPI 37) has been excellent outside the conference, but sits in seventh place. The Hilltoppers host the Blue Raiders in a huge series. The Owls entertain the Panthers, the Ragin’ Cajuns go to ULM (7-20, 17-34) and the Jaguars welcome Troy (14-13, 29-22). We think FAU and ULL will prevail in the end, but watch MTSU on its home field for the conference tournament.


West Coast (1) San Diego (15-0, 31-17, RPI 18) had its RPI go up five spots without playing this past week. The Toreros clinched the WCC regular-season title and secured the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. USD has series remaining at Pepperdine (8-7, 20-26) and at home with Saint Mary’s (7-11, 16-28-1) with a chance to host a regional.


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (13-7, 32-22, RPI 74) stumbled a bit this past weekend by splitting a four-game series with San Jose State (8-12, 20-32). The Bulldogs entertain Sacramento State (6-14, 17-32) this week, while second-place New Mexico State (14-9-1, 36-19-1, RPI 90) has completed its conference slate. Third-place Nevada (11-8, 30-19-1) hosts Louisiana Tech (10-10, 25-25). We think Fresno State finished strong and wins the conference tournament.


Last five in: LSU, Boston College, UC Irvine, Liberty, Pittsburgh


First five out: Southern Miss, Elon, Baylor, North Carolina, Georgia Southern


(photo by Jimmy Jones)