April 6, 2011

Field of dreamers

Maydness is up next


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan




Maydness is approaching


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is near. With March Madness just completed on the hardwood, it whets the appetite for the college baseball postseason.


We take our first look at the potential field. This is the earliest we have done Field of Dreamers, so much can change between now and Selection Monday. We have projected many of the bubble teams to be included in the Field of 64, even though they might not get in if picks were made today. The team records are through games of Monday, April 4, 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)Stony Brook (0-0, 16-6, RPI 70) has been the most impressive team to date. The preseason favorite is the only squad with a winning record. We still think Maine (0-0, 9-16) will be a factor. The Black Bears have won three straight and four of their past five. Maine travels to Stony Brook this weekend to kick off conference play.

ACC (7) – This top-heavy league has three teams from the Coastal Division fighting for national seeds in Virginia (11-1, 28-2, RPI 3), resurgent North Carolina (10-2, 26-4, RPI 4) and Georgia Tech (11-1, 23-6, RPI 5). Florida State (8-4, 21-7, RPI 10) and Clemson (4-8, 14-12, RPI 13) are battling to host regionals. The Tigers need to bolster their overall record to be a No. 1 seed. Miami (8-3, 17-11, RPI 37) and NC State (5-7, 17-12, RPI 45) are in for now, but need to improve their overall records to stay. Georgia Tech hosts Virginia this weekend in a huge series, while North Carolina goes to Florida State in another important set.

Atlantic Sun (2)Stetson (9-3, 22-7, RPI 30) was picked fifth in the preseason poll, but the Hatters have been impressive so far. Stetson already owns a series sweep of preseason co-favorite Mercer (8-6, 21-9, RPI 63) and a series win over ETSU (8-5, 16-8, RPI 23). We still think the Bears, Kennesaw State (8-3, 18-12) and Jacksonville (7-5, 17-11, RPI 50) will be in the mix. But the Hatters and the Bucs get the nod for now, although we expect the RPIs to drop as they get deeper into conference play. This weekend, Stetson hosts Kennesaw State, ETSU entertains Lipscomb (3-6, 11-17) and Jacksonville goes to Mercer.


Atlantic 10 (1) Charlotte (5-1, 23-6, RPI 82) put together a strong week with a home win over North Carolina and a three-game sweep of Xavier (2-4, 16-13, RPI 90). Rhode Island (3-3, 13-12, RPI 62) has played a difficult schedule, but not enough wins. This looks to be a one-bid league, with Charlotte our pick for now. The 49ers go to Saint Joseph’s (3-3, 10-17) this weekend, while Rhode Island welcomes Saint Louis (1-2, 18-10) and Richmond (3-0, 15-11-2) goes to Xavier.


Big East (2) – After getting three bids a year ago, the Big East got off to a disappointing start. Louisville (4-2, 18-9, RPI 51) and Connecticut (5-1, 14-10, RPI 75) struggled out of the gates, but are showing signs of life. The Huskies were impressive this past weekend with a sweep of St. John’s (3-3, 13-12, RPI 61). We think two teams will play their way into bids, with Louisville and UConn the favorites for now. This weekend, Louisville goes to Cincinnati (3-3, 13-12), Connecticut travels to Notre Dame (3-3, 11-14) and St. John’s heads to Seton Hall (3-3, 12-13).

Big South (1) – Speaking of disappointments, Coastal Carolina (4-2, 18-10, RPI 85) did not lose a conference game in 2010, but dropped two of three two weeks ago at UNC Asheville (4-5, 10-17), the team picked to finish ninth in the league. The Chanticleers quickly turned around their fortunes as they swept first-place Liberty (5-4, 15-14, RPI 87) this past weekend. This should be a very interesting conference race this year. We think Coastal Carolina will prevail, especially after its strong showing against the Flames. This weekend, the Chants go to Presbyterian (4-5, 17-11), Liberty travels to High Point (3-6, 15-15, RPI 65) and UNCA heads to Winthrop (6-3, 14-13).

Big Ten (1) – There were no sweeps last weekend to start conference play, which could be an indicator of another tight race. Preseason favorite Minnesota (2-1, 10-9, RPI 96) has struggled as the road warriors, but the Gophers had a sluggish start a year ago before catching fire. Minnesota won its opening league series with Purdue (1-2, 17-10). Michigan State (2-1, 17-7, RPI 84) swept a three-game nonconference set at Michigan two weeks ago before winning its series at Iowa (1-2, 10-15) this past weekend. The Spartans entertain the Gophers this weekend in a huge series. We think Minnesota will mirror its run from a year ago and be there at the end of May, but we’re going to keep an eye on Michigan State and Indiana (2-1, 18-9, RPI 94). The Hoosiers welcome Ohio State (2-1, 10-11, RPI 99).

Big 12 (6) – There are three Big 12 teams fighting to be regional hosts: Texas A&M (7-2, 22-6, RPI 9), Oklahoma (5-3, 22-6, RPI 20) and Texas (7-2, 21-7, RPI 31). Baylor (4-5, 17-12, RPI 39), Oklahoma State (5-4, 21-7, RPI 41) and Texas Tech (4-5, 17-11, RPI 43) are in good shape for now. This weekend, Texas A&M goes to Texas Tech, OU heads to Kansas State (2-7, 16-11) and Texas battles with Baylor.

Big West (3)Cal State Fullerton (3-0, 20-8, RPI 19) has won eight straight, including a three-game sweep of UC Davis (0-3, 5-18) this past weekend to start league play. UC Irvine (3-0, 18-6, RPI 44) also had a sweep to start Big West play, coming at the expense of Cal State Northridge (0-3, 14-14). The Titans entertain the Anteaters this weekend in the top conference series of the season. If Long Beach State (2-1, 14-12, RPI 34) can finish in the top three in the Big West standings, it will give three bids to the league. The Dirtbags host UC Davis this weekend.


Colonial (1) – It doesn’t look like an at-large will come out of the CAA, but it should be a run ride to watch the teams fight for those four precious spots in the conference tournament. James Madison (10-5, 20-9, RPI 122) has been pounding the baseball all season and is our early pick to outlast the competition. Delaware (8-4, 15-13, RPI 81) and UNC Wilmington (6-3, 14-11) are both tied with the Dukes with a winning percentage of .667 in league play. William and Mary (9-6, 16-15), Old Dominion (7-5, 14-15) and Georgia State (5-4, 22-8) are right behind the leaders. This weekend, JMU hosts GSU, UD goes to UNCW and ODU welcomes Towson (6-6, 11-16-1).

Conference USA (5) – After talking about some disappointing leagues, Conference USA is a pleasant surprise. C-USA only had two bids a year ago, but there looks to be more than that in 2011. Southern Miss (5-1, 22-5, RPI 2) has been impressive, with a series win over Tulane (1-5, 18-6, RPI 47) two weeks ago and a sweep at UCF (2-4, 19-9, RPI 32) this past weekend. Houston (3-0, 15-14, RPI 36) earned a sweep at Tulane and needs to boost its overall record to stay in the at-large picture. Rice (4-2, 21-11, RPI 21) and East Carolina (3-3, 20-7, RPI 22) are in good shape for now. This will be another fun conference race to watch. This weekend, Southern Miss goes to Memphis (1-2, 16-11), ECU hosts Rice, Houston welcomes UAB (4-2, 16-11, RPI 64) and Tulane travels to UCF.


Great West (0) – All teams have struggled so far, with Texas-Pan American (0-0, 9-8) the only squad over .500. No automatic bid or at-large bid this season.


Horizon (1) Wright State (5-1, 15-9) was the preseason favorite and has started strong in conference play. UIC (4-2, 12-12) and Milwaukee (2-1, 7-16) should challenge, but we think the Raiders will rule. Milwaukee goes to UIC this weekend in the top conference series.


Independents (1)Cal State Bakersfield (20-7, RPI 40) has been solid against a strong early schedule, including wins over Arizona State and at South Carolina. We think the Roadrunners will be ready for their first regional run.


Ivy (1)Penn (4-0, 12-10) and Princeton (4-0, 9-13) both swept a pair of doubleheaders this past weekend to start league play and sit atop the Lou Gehrig Division. Dartmouth (2-2, 12-6) and Yale (2-2, 12-10) are tied for first in the Red Rolfe Division. Since Penn already has a pair of wins over Dartmouth, we think the Quakers will outlast the competition in the Ivy League.


Metro Atlantic (1)Marist (4-2, 19-6, RPI 57) has been impressive so far, winning 14 of 17 away from home to start the season before taking two of three from Fairfield (1-2, 7-11) and two of three at Canisius (4-2, 12-16) to open MAAC play. We like the Red Foxes, but they will be challenged by Manhattan (6-0, 12-11), Rider (5-1, 15-10) and Canisius (3-0, 9-14). Marist entertains Rider this weekend, while Manhattan goes to Saint Peter’s (2-1, 8-15).


Mid-American (1)Kent State (5-1, 15-10) is the preseason pick in the MAC, and we like the Golden Flashes, but it isn’t going to be easy. Miami (4-2, 13-14) swept a three-game series from West favorite Central Michigan two weeks ago and should battle Kent State for the East crown. Eastern Michigan (5-1, 18-10) has started strong in the West. Kent State hosts EMU this weekend, while Miami goes to Northern Illinois (4-2, 10-14).

Mid-Eastern (1) – As has been the case for many years, Bethune-Cookman (3-0, 15-14) looks to be the dominant team again in the MEAC. The Wildcats swept a series from Florida A&M (2-4, 10-22) two weeks ago, piling up 29 runs in three games. And Bethune-Cookman will host the MEAC Tournament this season. Bethune-Cookman travels to North Carolina A&T (2-3, 8-18) this weekend.


Missouri Valley (1) – This could be a very competitive race in the MVC. Wichita State (0-0, 18-11, RPI 121) has solid wins against Tulane, Arizona (twice) and Oregon (twice). Creighton (0-0, 20-5, RPI 74) and Illinois State (0-0, 19-7) could be formidable foes for the Shockers. We think the Shockers will outlast the competition and take the league’s one bid. Wichita State goes to Missouri State (0-0, 16-10) to kick off conference play this weekend, while Creighton heads to Illinois State.


Mountain West (1) – Many thought TCU (5-1, 18-9, RPI 33) would roll through its schedule on its way to a return trip to Omaha. But the Horned Frogs have struggled at times. TCU took two of three from UNLV (2-6, 19-10) and swept Air Force (0-5, 11-17) to open its conference schedule. Utah (5-2, 12-10, RPI 76) and New Mexico (4-2, 9-20) have had good league starts. TCU entertains New Mexico this weekend, while the Utes head to San Diego State (3-3, 9-19). We think the Frogs will hop alone into the NCAA Tournament, but Utah could make a run again.


Northeast (1) Monmouth (8-4, 13-12) took three of four from preseason favorite CCSU (6-6, 9-11-1) to move into a first-place tie with Quinnipiac (8-4, 12-10). We think the Hawks fly high the rest of the way to take the NEC bid. Monmouth goes to Quinnipiac this weekend and CCSU entertains Mount St. Mary’s (5-7, 12-13).


Ohio Valley (1) Jacksonville State (4-2, 19-9) has had the best start in the OVC and took two of three from UT Martin (1-2, 5-18) and at Tennessee Tech (1-2, 9-16) to open league play. We think the Gamecocks will be challenged by Southeast Missouri State (3-2, 15-12), but will survive and advance to the NCAA Tournament. JSU goes to Murray State (3-2, 12-14) this weekend, while Southeast Missouri travels to Tennessee Tech.

Pac-10 (6) – After a record-setting year in 2010, the Pac-10 has slipped a bit this season. Arizona State (5-1, 21-6, RPI 6) and Stanford (2-1, 13-7, RPI 8) will battle for national seeds. California (5-1, 19-6, RPI 26) and Oregon State (2-1, 20-7, RPI 27) are in good shape. We think Arizona (2-4, 20-9, RPI 56) and UCLA (5-1, 19-6, RPI 93) will do enough work to earn a bid. Washington State (1-5, 11-12, RPI 38) and Oregon (0-3, 14-12, RPI 73) both have a chance to earn at-large bids, but need series wins in conference play. This weekend, ASU goes to OSU, Stanford travels to USC (2-4, 10-18), Cal heads to Arizona and UCLA visits WSU.


Patriot (1) – Preseason favorite Army (4-0, 11-13) struggled during its nonconference slate, but swept a four-game series at Holy Cross (0-4, 12-14). Navy (3-1, 17-12-1) took three of four at Lehigh (1-3, 16-11) and Lafayette (3-1, 9-15) won three of four against Bucknell (1-3, 12-16). We think the Black Knights will continue to improve, especially against league opponents. This weekend, Army entertains Navy, Lehigh goes to Lafayette and Bucknell visits Holy Cross.

Southeastern (9) – There again are a plethora of strong teams in the SEC. Florida (7-2, 24-5, RPI 1), South Carolina (7-2, 22-5, RPI 7) and Vanderbilt (7-2, 26-3, RPI 11) will fight for national seeds as well as the top spot in the East. Ole Miss (4-5, 19-10, RPI 14), LSU (3-6, 20-8, RPI 17), Alabama (7-2, 21-9, RPI 28) and Arkansas (3-6, 19-8, RPI 29) are in good shape now for bids. Auburn (2-7, 15-13, RPI 15) and Mississippi State (4-5, 19-9, RPI 46) should be able to get enough wins to earn at-large spots. We are not sure Georgia (6-3, 14-14, RPI 16) will get enough victories to stay above .500 and qualify for a bid.


Southern (2) – The Southern Conference got three bids a year ago and could send multiple teams again this season. Elon (9-3, 18-11, RPI 35) has risen to the top of the standings along with Georgia Southern (9-3, 18-11, RPI 54). UNC Greensboro (8-4, 16-10) and Samford (8-4, 19-11, RPI 72) are right behind the leaders, as is College of Charleston (6-3, 19-9, RPI 53). We think College of Charleston could be in the at-large pool by the end of the season, but we’re putting in Georgia Southern for now because of its series win over the Cougars. Elon entertains Wofford this weekend, while UNCG goes to Davidson (6-8, 13-14), Sanford heads to Western Carolina (2-10, 11-14-1) and College of Charleston visits The Citadel (5-10, 10-18).


Southland (1) Texas State (10-2, 19-8, RPI 18) not only is in the conversation for an at-large bid, but also could be a No. 1 seed. The Bobcats have played a strong schedule with a win at Baylor and losses to Rice, Texas and TCU. Texas State is one game ahead of Stephen F. Austin (9-3, 20-9) and three ahead of Southeastern Louisiana (7-5, 19-10, RPI 52), Lamar (7-5, 19-12, RPI 92) and UT Arlington (7-5, 15-13). This is another league which could get a second bid. We think Southeastern Louisiana could get a spot if it moves up the conference standings. This weekend, Texas State goes to Central Arkansas (4-8, 13-16), UTSA (4-8, 11-18) goes to Stephen F. Austin, UTA entertains SLU and Lamar hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-6, 20-11, RPI 71).


Southwestern (1)Southern (10-2, 17-9) holds a two-game lead over Grambling State (8-4, 13-13) in the Western Division. Mississippi Valley State (8-3, 12-17) is tied with Alcorn State (8-3, 10-16) in the Eastern Division. We think the Jaguars take the bid.


Summit (1) – After years of dominance, South Dakota State (0-0, 9-9) finally caught Oral Roberts (0-0, 10-11) to earn a share of the regular-season title a year ago. The Golden Eagles did win the conference tournament, but the field has closed in on ORU. We think the Eagles still have the best team, but it will be a fight. The Eagles host Centenary (0-0, 3-13) this week to start conference play, while SDSU goes to Western Illinois (0-0, 6-19).


Sun Belt (1) – As it was a year ago, this is going to be a fun conference race. Troy (8-1, 22-5, RPI 24) holds a two-game lead over Western Kentucky (6-3, 17-11, RPI 80) and Louisiana-Lafayette (6-3, 16-11, RPI 69). Florida Atlantic (5-4, 17-11, RPI 78) took a hit by getting swept by ULL this past weekend. FIU (4-5, 18-10, RPI 42) must move up the conference standings to be in the at-large hunt. We will give one bid to the Sun Belt for now, but that could increase. This weekend, FIU goes to Troy, ULL heads to WKU and FAU travels to South Alabama (4-5, 14-13).


West Coast (1) Gonzaga (0-0, 16-8-1, RPI 25) has put together a strong start, including a three-game sweep of UC Irvine two weeks ago. Pepperdine (0-0, 14-13, RPI 55) will not be eligible for a spot in the NCAA Tournament due to self-imposed sanctions. Loyola Marymount (0-0, 16-10, RPI 68) has work to do to get into the at-large discussion. Preseason favorite San Diego (0-0, 7-18) has struggled mightily, but should still be a factor in the WCC race. As conference play begins this weekend, USD goes to Gonzaga, LMU heads to Santa Clara (0-0, 12-13) and Pepperdine visits Portland (0-0, 10-14).


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (0-0, 20-3, RPI 12) has been superb and could make another run for a national championship. New Mexico State (0-0, 22-6, RPI 179) has been hot, winning 11 of its past 12. As league play commences this weekend, FSU goes to San Jose State (0-0, 19-8) and NMSU visits Louisiana Tech (0-0, 15-12).


Last five in: Connecticut, Georgia Southern, Long Beach State, Houston, Auburn


First five out: Georgia, Tulane, Jacksonville, FIU, Southeastern Louisiana


(photo by Jimmy Jones)