May 25, 2010

Field of dreamers

Maydness is building


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness is here and in full force during Conference Tournament Week


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. With Selection Monday now less than a week away, we have five teams officially in the field of 64.


Bethune-Cookman won the MEAC title, and Bucknell took the Patriot League championship, joining Dartmouth (Ivy), Cal State Fullerton (Big West) and San Diego (West Coast) as teams with bids to the NCAA Tournament.


There are 24 conference tournaments this week to determine automatic bids. Arizona State needs one win at Stanford or one loss by UCLA against Washington State to secure the Pac-10 regular-season crown and its automatic bid.


There are few teams currently playing their way into the NCAA Tournament. We took six teams off of last week’s board, but didn’t have six teams strong enough to take their places.


We take another look at the potential field. Who’s in? Who has work to do? Team records are through games of Sunday, May 23, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at


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


America East (1)Binghamton (21-3, 30-18) swept a three-game set at Stony Brook (15-9, 26-25) to extend its win streak to 14, clinch the regular-season title and get the conference tourney on its home field. Maine (17-7, 34-20) moved past Stony Brook into second, with Albany (10-14, 11-38) in fourth. We think the Bearcats stay hot and win the America East title on their home field.

ACC (8) – There are five locks as of now: Virginia (23-7, 45-10, RPI 2), Miami (20-10, 39-15, RPI 8), Georgia Tech (21-9, 44-11, RPI 10), Clemson (18-12, 37-19, RPI 16) and Florida State (18-12, 39-16, RPI 17). Virginia Tech (16-14, 36-19, RPI 34) is in for now but can’t go 0-3 in the ACC Tournament to extend its losing streak to seven. NC State (15-15, 36-20, RPI 49) and Boston College (14-16, 29-26, RPI 46) are in by a thread. The Eagles need at least one win in the ACC tourney to avoid having a .500 overall record. North Carolina (14-16, 36-20, RPI 20) did sweep the Hokies this past weekend, but finishing ninth will keep them at home.

Atlantic Sun (1)Florida Gulf Coast (25-5, 37-18, RPI 39) added three more conference wins to finish ahead of second-place Mercer (16-11, 33-22) by 7.5 games. The conference tourney also will include ETSU (15-12, 30-26), UNF (14-12, 29-26), Jacksonville (14-12, 25-27) and Stetson (14-13, 27-29), but not host Lipscomb (9-17, 19-36). We think the Ospreys will dominate the tournament like they did during the regular season. Lots of bubble teams will be cheering for FGCU as well.


Atlantic 10 (1) Charlotte (20-7, 37-15, RPI 80) took two of three at Richmond (10-17, 24-28) to take the regular-season crown. Xavier (18-9, 25-30) swept three at Saint Joseph’s (13-14, 18-29) to stretch its win streak to eight and claim second place. Other tourney teams include Rhode Island (17-10, 29-24), Fordham (15-12, 21-33), Saint Louis (15-12, 29-27) and La Salle (14-13, 21-30). We think the 49ers survive with strong challenges from the Musketeers and Rams, as URI won regular-season series against both Charlotte and Xavier.


Big East (3) Louisville (21-6, 46-10, RPI 6) swept a three-game set at Notre Dame (10-17, 22-32) to win the regular-season title and help its fight to become a national seed. Connecticut (20-6, 43-12, RPI 24) dropped its series finale to Seton Hall (8-19, 19-30-1) to fall into second. Pittsburgh (18-8, 37-16, RPI 52) dropped two of three at home to USF (16-11, 25-30) to put itself precariously on the bubble. If the Panthers don’t win the Big East tourney, they need the Cardinals or Huskies to prevail to keep their hopes alive for an at-large bid.

Big South (2)Coastal Carolina (25-0, 47-7, RPI 3) did fall during the week to College of Charleston, but won twice against Radford (15-11, 29-24) to remain perfect in Big South play. The Chanticleers are still in line for a national seed. Liberty (19-8, 39-17, RPI 51) dropped two of three at Winthrop (13-14, 25-28) to damage its at-large resume. The Flames need a deep run in the Big South tourney and could use a win over Coastal Carolina to solidify their body of work. And if anyone other than Coastal or Liberty take the tourney title, the Flames will be doused.

Big Ten (1) – Minnesota (15-9, 27-28) took two of three at Ohio State (11-13, 28-23) to take the regular-season crown and keep the host Buckeyes out of the conference tournament. Michigan (14-10, 34-20, RPI 65) also won two of three to stay in second. Other tourney entrants include Northwestern (13-11, 24-30), Iowa (13-11, 27-26), Purdue (12-12, 31-22) and Indiana (12-12, 27-25). After some debate, we lean toward the Wolverines over the Golden Gophers to win the Big Ten tourney.

Big 12 (6) – There are four locks right now: Texas (24-3, 46-8, RPI 4), Oklahoma (15-10, 42-14, RPI 18), Texas A&M (14-12-1, 36-19-1, RPI 26) and Kansas State (14-12, 35-18, RPI 38). Baylor (12-13, 31-21, RPI 40) swept a three-game series from Oklahoma State (8-19, 29-26) to climb into sixth and into an at-large spot. Texas Tech (13-14, 27-27, RPI 55) was swept at ninth-place Nebraska (10-17, 27-27, RPI 60) to fall to fifth and to .500 overall. Kansas (11-15-1, 31-24-1, RPI 53) was swept at home by Oklahoma to fall to seventh. The Jayhawks are in by a whisker and need to make some noise in the Big 12 tourney to help their at-large chance. The Red Raiders need to make some serious noise at Bricktown.

Big West (2) – First-place Cal State Fullerton (18-3, 37-15, RPI 11) has clinched the regular-season title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Titans are in good shape to host a regional and are fighting for a national seed. Second-place UC Irvine (14-7, 34-18, RPI 44) helped its RPI by taking two of three from UC Riverside (11-10, 29-21, RPI 72). The Anteaters travel to Long Beach State (7-14, 22-29) this week and could use a series win to feel safe.


Colonial (1) James Madison (18-6, 29-21) won two of three at VCU (16-7-1, 31-23-1) to claim the regular-season crown. Georgia State (17-6-1, 34-21-1) swept William and Mary (10-14, 27-24) to climb into second. Tournament host UNC Wilmington (13-11, 30-25) takes the fourth and final spot. We would not be surprised if any of the four takes the title. After much discussion, we lean toward the Dukes as the tourney champ.

Conference USA (1) – First-place Rice (17-7, 35-20, RPI 28) took two of three from UAB (11-13, 28-25) in a tune-up for the conference tournament. Southern Miss (14-10, 32-21, RPI 66) won its series against Memphis (12-12, 27-28) to secure second place. If the Owls win the C-USA tourney, this will be a one-bid league.


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (26-2, 38-17, RPI 174) has won 10 straight games and has dominated league play. The Wolverines have 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, 29-23) finished one game ahead of Milwaukee (17-8, 29-23) in the league standings. The Panthers took two of three from the Raiders during the regular season. Other tourney participants include UIC (15-9, 22-28), Valparaiso (9-10, 22-30), Butler (11-13, 21-27) and Youngstown State (9-17, 21-32). We think Wright State has the right stuff to take the tournament title.


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 (19-5, 37-19) will be the top seed in the MAAC tournament, finishing three games ahead of Marist (16-8, 33-20). Rider (15-9, 33-21) and Manhattan (15-9, 30-18) fill out the tourney field as all four squads have at least 30 wins and at least 15 conference victories. We think the Golden Griffins will prevail in a very competitive tournament.


Mid-American (1) – Central Michigan (20-7, 33-20) swept a three-game set from Eastern Michigan (13-14, 25-30) to win the Western Division and claimed the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament. Kent State (18-9, 34-22) took three at Akron (3-24, 21-34) to win the Eastern Division title and will be the No. 2 seed in the tourney. Others in the field include Toledo (19-8, 33-20), Ball State (19-8, 28-27), Bowling Green (18-9, 28-21), Miami (13-14, 28-26), EMU and Ohio (13-14, 20-33). We think the Golden Flashes will outlast the field to take the title in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (18-0, 35-20) was perfect in three tournament games, including beating second-seeded North Carolina A&T (15-3, 31-26) in the championship game, to win its fifth straight MEAC title. The Wildcats have won 10 of the 11 MEAC crowns under head coach Mervyl Melendez.


Missouri Valley (1) – Illinois State (15-6, 27-22) dropped two of three at Evansville to fall into a first-place tie with Wichita State (15-6, 38-18, RPI 57). The Shockers earn the No. 1 seed by virtue of its series win over the Redbirds. We think Wichita State will win the conference tournament on its home field to take the league’s automatic bid. Should the Shockers stumble, they likely will be on the outside looking in.


Mountain West (2) – First-place TCU (19-5, 43-11, RPI 19) and second-place New Mexico (14-8, 35-18, RPI 43) have separated themselves from the rest of the field in the MWC. The Horned Frogs are still fighting to host a regional. The Lobos need a strong showing in the MWC tourney or their RPI could fall and knock them out of the at-large field. San Diego State (13-11, 28-26) swept a three-game series from UNLV (11-13, 27-27) to move into third and could be a factor in the MWC Tournament on its home field.


Northeast (1) – Bryant (25-7, 34-22) took three of four from second-place Sacred Heart (20-12, 29-25) to win the NEC regular-season title but will not play in the conference tournament as the Bulldogs transition into Division I. The Pioneers will be the top seed, battling Central Connecticut State (18-14, 29-20), Wagner (17-15, 25-29) and Monmouth (15-17, 22-25) for the tournament title. We think Sacred Heart is the class of this quartet and wins the NEC crown.


Ohio Valley (1) – Tennessee Tech (14-6, 29-23) swept a three-game series from Murray State (12-8-1, 25-26-1) to take the OVC regular-season title ahead of Jacksonville State (15-8, 29-24). Others in the OVC tourney include Southeast Missouri State (13-9, 30-23), Eastern Illinois (11-12, 17-33) and Eastern Kentucky (9-12, 27-25). In what should be a wide-open tournament, we think the Gamecocks survive to take the OVC tourney title.

Pac-10 (8) – It’s been a great year for the Pac-10 as the league should receive its highest bid total. There are currently five locks: Arizona State (18-6, 45-7, RPI 1), UCLA (16-8, 41-11, RPI 7), Arizona (11-13, 32-20, RPI 22), Oregon (12-12, 37-19, RPI 23) and Washington State (14-10, 31-18, RPI 32). Stanford (13-11, 30-21, RPI 42) is solid. California (11-13, 27-22, RPI 41) and Oregon State (10-14, 28-21, RPI 30) are in for now, but need a strong final week. The Golden Bears dropped three this past weekend to the Bruins and visit the Ducks this weekend. The Beavers helped themselves with a win Sunday over the Sun Devils and entertain the Wildcats.


Patriot (1) – Road teams were victorious in both semifinal series, and that trend continued in the finals as fourth-seeded Bucknell (8-12, 25-33) won at third-seeded Holy Cross (10-10, 26-26) to capture the Patriot League Championship Series. The Bison dropped the first game of the series but came back in the final two against the Crusaders to win its second title in the past three years.

Southeastern (8)Florida (22-8, 40-13, RPI 5) and South Carolina (21-9, 43-13, RPI 13) have sights on national seeds. Arkansas (18-12, 40-16, RPI 9), Vanderbilt (16-12, 40-15, RPI 12), Auburn (20-10, 39-17, RPI 14), Alabama (15-15, 34-21, RPI 15) and Ole Miss (16-14, 36-20, RPI 27) are good to go. LSU (14-16, 36-20, RPI 31) took two of three from Mississippi State (6-24, 23-33) to claim the final spot in the SEC Tournament. Kentucky (13-17, 31-25, RPI 29) and Tennessee (12-18, 30-26, RPI 47) missed the SEC tourney and will likely miss the NCAA Tournament as well.


Southern (3) The Citadel (24-6, 38-20, RPI 35) swept a three-game series at Georgia Southern (19-11, 34-22, RPI 56) to claim the regular-season title. College of Charleston (22-8, 41-15, RPI 25) got a huge RPI boost with a non-conference win over Coastal Carolina. Elon (19-11, 36-20, RPI 45) moved into a tie for third and has a chance to helps its RPI with a win or two over The Citadel in the conference tournament. Samford (17-12, 30-23, RPI 68), Western Carolina (16-13-1, 34-19-1, RPI 62) and Appalachian State (14-14-1, 35-16-1, RPI 63) will be tough in the conference tourney.


Southland (1) Texas State (23-10, 34-20, RPI 50) took two of three from UT Arlington (19-14, 27-29) to claim the regular-season crown. Southeastern Louisiana (21-12, 39-17, RPI 48) was in a tie for first with the Bobcats, but was swept at home by Northwestern State (22-10, 36-19) to fall to third. The Lions severely damaged their at-large hopes. This should be a very intriguing conference tournament.


Southwestern (1)Jackson State (19-5, 36-15) had its 17-game win streak snapped, but still finished on top of the Eastern Division ahead of Mississippi Valley State (16-8, 23-28), Alcorn State (15-8, 24-27) and Alabama State (6-18, 12-26). Texas Southern (18-6, 28-24) edged Southern (17-6, 23-20) for the Western Division title, with Grambling State (10-14, 18-30) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-16, 18-32) placing third and fourth. In what should be a very entertaining tournament, the Tigers of Jackson State are our pick to take the tourney title.


Summit (1) – South Dakota State (19-9, 37-19) claimed the top seed in the Summit tourney, owning the tie-breaker over Oral Roberts (19-9, 32-25). Centenary (17-9, 28-24) and Oakland (13-14, 22-32) will fill out the tournament field. Is the Oral Roberts streak about to end? We think (think) not. In a well-balanced tournament, we think the Golden Eagles prevail on their home field.


Sun Belt (2) Florida Atlantic (21-9, 33-20, RPI 33) took two of three at home from FIU (17-13, 31-22, RPI 64) and Louisiana-Lafayette (21-9, 37-18, RPI 37) swept a three-game set at ULM (7-23, 17-38) to share the top spot in the Sun Belt. The Owls will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament due to their series win over the Ragin’ Cajuns. Middle Tennessee (18-12, 34-21, RPI 61), FIU, South Alabama (17-13, 31-25, RPI 70) and Troy (16-14, 32-23, RPI 67) will all be factors in the Sun Belt tourney. Western Kentucky (16-14, 35-21, RPI 36) won two of three at home from MTSU, but will be the No. 8 seed and must go deep in conference tournament to have a shot at the NCAA field.


West Coast (1) San Diego (17-1, 33-18, RPI 18) has dominated the WCC, sitting six games ahead of second-place Portland (11-7, 31-17). The Toreros have clinched the WCC regular-season title and secured the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. USD will continue to fight for a chance to host a regional.


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (16-8, 35-23, RPI 74) took three of four from Sacramento State (7-17, 18-35-1) to win the regular-season title and the top seed in the WAC tournament. New Mexico State (14-9-1, 36-21-1) owns the tie-breaker over Nevada (14-9-1, 34-20-1) to be the second seed. Other tourney teams include Hawaii (12-12, 29-25), Louisiana Tech (11-13, 27-28) and San Jose State (9-15, 21-35). We think the Bulldogs outlast the field to take the tourney crown.


Last five in: NC State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Liberty


First five out: Georgia Southern, North Carolina, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas Tech


(photo by Jimmy Jones)