April 20, 2011

Field of Dreamers

Maydness is rapidly approaching


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan




May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is right around the corner. We are past the midway point of the regular season and it’s tougher for teams to make big jumps in RPI.


We take our weekly look at the potential field. We try to balance teams we believe are in now with teams we project will reach the field. The team records are through games of Monday, April 18, as are the RPIs (courtesy of Boyd Nation at www.boydsworld.com).


Here’s our look the Field of 64 (happy teams in bold).


America East (1)Stony Brook (6-1, 22-9, RPI 110) swept a three-game set from UMBC (0-6, 4-23) to move into first place. Binghamton (5-2, 13-17) and Albany (5-2, 12-18) split a four-game series to settle into a tie for second. Maine (3-4, 12-20) won two of three at Hartford (1-5, 3-25) to fall three games behind the Seawolves. Stony Brook appears to be the strongest team and we think the Seawolves will continue to distance themselves from the rest of the league. Stony Brook will head to UMBC for three more with the Retrievers this weekend, while Albany visits Maine and Binghamton entertains Hartford.

ACC (7)NC State (8-10, 21-16, RPI 34) was most impressive with its three-game sweep of North Carolina (12-6, 30-8, RPI 5). The bonus was to move up 20 spots in RPI. Virginia (16-2, 36-3, RPI 1) took three from Duke (4-14, 20-19, RPI 79) to move to No. 1 in RPI. The Cavaliers and Tar Heels join Georgia Tech (14-4, 27-10, RPI 7) and Florida State (11-7, 26-10, RPI 8) in fighting for national seeds. Clemson (9-9, 22-13, RPI 16) and Miami (13-4, 24-12, RPI 24) are solid for spots. This week Virginia hosts NC State, UNC welcomes Miami, Georgia Tech entertains Boston College, Florida State brings in Duke and Clemson plays host to Wake Forest (6-12, 14-23, RPI 95).

Atlantic Sun (2)Stetson (12-3, 29-7, RPI 22) held onto first while sweeping a three-game nonconference set from Savannah State (20-19), but Jacksonville (13-5, 23-13, RPI 48) pulled within a half-game with its sweep of Campbell (2-16, 15-24). The Dolphins host the Hatters this week with a chance to move into first and improve their RPI. In a RPI head-scratcher, ETSU (11-8, 22-12, RPI 29) only dropped six spots after being swept at Belmont (9-9, 20-17, RPI 62). JU owns a series win over the Bucs and should get the league’s second bid. ETSU hosts Kennesaw State (9-8, 21-18, RPI 98) this week, looking to return to its winning ways.


Atlantic 10 (1) Charlotte (9-3, 28-8, RPI 101) dropped two of three at Saint Louis (4-5, 22-15) as three teams pulled even in the loss column: Richmond (6-3, 19-15-2), Dayton (6-3, 20-17) and Fordham (6-3, 22-13). Rhode Island (7-5, 20-14, RPI 56) and La Salle (7-5, 20-14) sit two games back. We think the 49ers survive, but it will be a dogfight. Charlotte hosts Fordham this week, while Rhode Island visits Richmond, Dayton goes to Saint Joseph’s (4-8, 13-22) and La Salle entertains George Washington (3-6, 10-26).


Big East (2) – First-place Connecticut (10-2, 22-12-1, RPI 75) took care of business with its sweep at Villanova (2-10, 13-21), but St. John’s (8-4, 19-13, RPI 54) made a huge statement with its sweep of Louisville (6-6, 14-19). Pittsburgh (8-4, 21-13) and West Virginia (8-4, 22-15) both won series to sit in second with the Red Storm. There is obviously depth in the league and there could be more jockeying for position. We’ll put UConn and St. John’s in for now, but that could change again. The upcoming schedule has Connecticut hosting Georgetown (2-10, 19-19), St. John’s welcoming Notre Dame (5-7, 14-18), Pitt playing host to Rutgers (6-6, 14-19), West Virginia bringing in Seton Hall (5-7, 16-17) and Louisville hosting USF (7-5, 17-18).

Big South (1) – After dropping a tough midweek game at Virginia, Coastal Carolina (10-2, 24-12, RPI 53) responded with a sweep of Gardner-Webb (6-9, 20-13) to run its conference win streak to nine. The Chanticleers look like they could roll through the rest of the league schedule. Second-place Liberty (10-5, 20-16, RPI 73) stayed within striking distance with a sweep of Presbyterian (4-11, 18-19). Radford (7-5, 21-14) knocked Winthrop (8-7, 18-19) out of second with a sweep and the Highlanders rose to third. This week, Coastal goes to High Point (5-10, 18-20), Liberty visits VMI (8-7, 19-16, RPI 61) and Radford travels to UNC Asheville (7-8, 15-21).

Big Ten (1) – This picture got less clear as Michigan State (6-3, 22-10, RPI 97) dropped two of three at Ohio State (5-4, 15-15, RPI 88) to fall into a first-place tie with Indiana (6-3, 23-12, RPI 96), a series winner at Iowa (3-6, 13-20). We still like the Spartans, but not as much as a week ago. The next set of series has MSU at Illinois (4-5, 12-19), Minnesota (3-6, 11-15) at Indiana and OSU at Penn State (5-4, 21-12).

Big 12 (6) – The top three in the standings all won series, as Texas A&M (11-4, 26-10, RPI 13) edged Baylor (6-9, 20-17, RPI 30), Texas (11-4, 27-9, RPI 20) took two from Texas Tech (6-9, 24-15, RPI 33) and Oklahoma State (10-5, 27-9, RPI 23) outlasted Oklahoma (7-7, 26-10, RPI 25). Kansas State (5-10, 20-15, RPI 51) took a step backwards by dropping two at Nebraska (5-7, 24-14, RPI 69). This week’s slate has OSU at Texas A&M, Texas at Kansas (8-7, 18-18, RPI 67), Nebraska at Oklahoma, Missouri (2-9, 14-22) at Baylor and Texas Tech at KSU.

Big West (2) – First-place Cal State Fullerton (8-1, 27-9, RPI 9) continues to impress after its sweep of UC Santa Barbara (2-4, 14-16). UC Irvine (6-3, 23-9, RPI 50) won its series at Pacific (3-6, 11-21) and fell into a second-place tie with Cal Poly (6-3, 15-16) after its sweep of Cal State Northridge (0-6, 17-19). Long Beach State (5-4, 18-16, RPI 63) won two of three at home to UC Riverside (4-5, 16-14) to sit in fourth. Later this week, the Titans go to Cal Poly, UCI hosts UC Davis (2-4, 8-21) and LBSU goes to UCSB.


Colonial (1) – The CAA still stands for “Can’t Assume Anything.” Former first-place Delaware (11-7, 19-16, RPI 99) lost two of three at Towson (9-9, 15-19) to allow UNC Wilmington (10-5, 21-14, RPI 81) to jump into the big chair after its sweep of William and Mary (9-9, 18-20). Old Dominion (11-7, 19-18) had an impressive series win at Georgia State (8-7, 27-11, RPI 84) and sits in second with the Blue Hens and James Madison (11-7, 25-12, RPI 92). The Seahawks are our pick for now, especially with the conference tournament in Wilmington. The upcoming schedule has UNCW at Hofstra (8-10, 9-20), JMU at UD, George Mason (3-15, 15-22) at ODU and VCU (7-8, 14-20) at W&M.

Conference USA (4) – This is a wild race, as four teams are tied for first with .667 winning percentages. Rice (8-4, 26-14, RPI 19) won its series with Tulane (4-8, 21-15), Memphis (6-3, 22-14, RPI 76) swept at UAB (6-6, 20-16, RPI 85) and Houston (6-3, 19-19, RPI 55) took two at Marshall (2-7, 14-20). Southern Miss (6-3, 27-8, RPI 15) swept a nonconference set from New Orleans and is also in the first-place tie. East Carolina (6-6, 24-12, RPI 21) won two of three against UCF (4-8, 22-14, RPI 40) to sit two games behind the Owls. We’re putting four in for now, but Houston, Tulane and Memphis could battle for a fifth spot. This week has Rice at UAB, ECU at Houston, Marshall at Southern Miss and UCF at Memphis.


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (4-0, 12-17) had its series at North Dakota (0-4, 1-19) cancelled due to snow. Texas-Pan American (6-2, 16-12) and Houston Baptist (6-2, 8-25) both split their series to fall into a tie for second. No automatic bid or at-large bid this year.


Horizon (1) Wright State (5-3, 20-12, RPI 154) lost twice at UIC (6-5, 16-15) and dropped to third. Milwaukee (7-2, 15-17) won two of three at Cleveland State (1-11, 7-25) to take sole possession of first. Valparaiso (9-3, 15-21) defeated Youngstown State (3-6, 8-25) twice to lead in conference victories. We think the Raiders will right the ship and represent the Horizon, but Milwaukee and Valpo will challenge. Wright State goes to Milwaukee this week in a key conference confrontation.


Independents (1)Cal State Bakersfield (24-8, RPI 38) won twice at UC Davis (8-21) to stay in the at-large picture. The Roadrunners host UC Riverside (16-14) this week and have upcoming contests with Kansas State (20-15, RPI 51), UC Irvine (23-9, RPI 50), Loyola Marymount (20-14, RPI 59), UCLA (19-12, RPI 60) and Fresno State (25-5, RPI 12) that can solidify their claim for a regional spot.


Ivy (1)Yale (8-4, 20-12, RPI 129) turned the tables on Dartmouth (6-6, 18-10), changing a two-game deficit into a two-game lead in the Red Rolfe Division with its four-game sweep. Princeton (9-3, 15-16) took three of four from Penn (7-5, 16-15) to take control in the Lou Gehrig Division. Even though the Tigers took two from the Bulldogs earlier this season, we like Yale to defeat Princeton for the Ivy League crown.


Metro Atlantic (1)Manhattan (12-0, 18-12, RPI 149) remained undefeated in league play with its sweep of Marist (4-8, 22-12, RPI 89). The Jaspers own a three-game lead over Rider (9-3, 20-12), which dropped two of three at Siena (3-6, 13-22). Canisius (6-2, 16-18) got a pair of wins over Saint Peter’s (2-6, 10-20) to stay near the top. Manhattan looks strong now but will be challenged by Canisius this weekend and Rider in May. The Broncs host Fairfield (4-5, 12-17) this week.


Mid-American (1)Kent State (9-3, 23-12, RPI 46) hit a bump in the road by losing two of three at Central Michigan (7-5, 18-18). The Golden Flashes still have the best record in the East and in the MAC, and have our nod to win the conference tourney. The schedule now shifts to within the division, as Kent State entertains Buffalo (0-11, 7-25). West leaders collide as Toledo (8-4, 19-17) visits Northern Illinois (8-4, 17-17).

Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (9-0, 22-17, RPI 120) swept three from third-place Norfolk State (6-5, 14-21) to maintain its dominance in the MEAC. The Wildcats host Coppin State (1-7, 4-28), while second-place Delaware State (6-2, 17-18) goes to Norfolk State.


Missouri Valley (1) – It looks like Creighton (5-1, 26-7, RPI 39) wants to be top dog in the MVC. The Bluejays won three at Indiana State (2-4, 19-15) to extend their win streak to six and move into at-large contention. Illinois State (4-2, 24-10) won three at Bradley (1-5, 19-15) and Missouri State (4-2, 21-13) took two of three at Southern Illinois (4-2, 13-22) to force a three-way tie for second. This week, Creighton hosts Southern Illinois, Missouri State entertains Indiana State and Illinois State goes to Wichita State (3-3, 23-16). It should be another interesting weekend in the Valley.


Mountain West (1)TCU (10-2, 25-11, RPI 37) swept three at San Diego State (5-7, 11-25) to maintain its hold on first, but second-place Utah (9-4, 16-13) kept pace with a sweep at New Mexico (5-7, 10-27). We still think the Horned Frogs are the best in the conference and should continue to roll. TCU hosts UNLV (4-7, 24-14) this week, while the Utes step out of conference to play three at Tulane (21-15).


Northeast (1) Monmouth (15-5, 20-13, RPI 112) stayed in first with its four-game sweep of Wagner (8-12, 10-24), while Long Island (12-4, 20-13) moved into a tie based on winning percentage with its sweep of Quinnipiac (9-11, 13-19). The Hawks have Iona in nonconference action this weekend, while the Blackbirds go to Bryant (9-7, 17-16). Monmouth will host LIU in two weeks in a key NEC series.


Ohio Valley (1) Jacksonville State (7-5, 24-13, RPI 134) fell to third by losing its series at home to Austin Peay (7-4, 17-18). Southeast Missouri State (7-4, 22-14) swept UT-Martin (2-7, 10-25) to move into a first-place tie with the Govs. We still think the Gamecocks are the best squad, but it’s going to be a battle. JSU goes to Southeast Missouri State this weekend, while Austin Peay goes to SIU-Edwardsville in nonconference action.

Pac-10 (6)Oregon State (8-1, 27-7, RPI 10) has been on fire the past three weeks, winning nine straight overall and eight in a row in conference play to move into first in the Pac-10. The Beavers won three at Stanford (3-6, 16-12, RPI 18) to enter the discussion as a national seed. Fourth-place Arizona State (8-4, 25-9, RPI 4) swept three from Washington State (2-10, 14-17, RPI 36) to stay in the hunt for a national seed. California (9-3, 23-9, RPI 35) won three at Washington (2-7, 10-23) to move into a second-place tie with UCLA (9-3, 19-12, RPI 60), which took two of three from Arizona (5-7, 23-13, RPI 41). We still believe six bids will come from the Pac-10, and it could be seven if the Cougars get on a win streak. This week, WSU goes to OSU, UCLA visits Stanford, ASU travels to Cal and Arizona heads to Oregon (2-7, 18-16).


Patriot (1) – This is another intriguing conference, with three tied for first and all six within three games. Preseason favorite Army (7-5, 14-19) lost three of four at Lehigh (6-6, 21-15) to drop into a deadlock with Navy (7-5, 22-16-1), which split with Bucknell (4-8, 16-22), and Lafayette (7-5, 13-20), which split with Holy Cross (5-7, 17-19). We’re picking the Midshipmen for now, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Navy goes to Holy Cross this week, while Army travels to Lafayette and Lehigh hosts Bucknell.

Southeastern (10) – We still think this number will decrease, but we’re sticking with 10 from the SEC for another week. South Carolina (12-3, 28-7, RPI 3) was impressive with its series win over Vanderbilt (11-4, 32-5, RPI 6). Florida (11-4, 28-9, RPI 2) also remains in the hunt for a national seed. Arkansas (8-7, 26-9, RPI 11) and Auburn (7-8, 20-15, RPI 14) continue to be candidates for regional hosts. Ole Miss (8-7, 23-14, RPI 27), Mississippi State (6-9, 22-14, RPI 27) and Alabama (8-7, 24-15, RPI 43) are solid for now. Georgia (9-6, 19-18, RPI 17) needs to keep its overall record above .500 and LSU (4-11, 23-14, RPI 31) must improve its conference mark – we’re basing the Tigers being in on the fact they will get closer to .500 in conference play. This week, South Carolina goes to MSU, Vanderbilt entertains LSU, Florida hosts Alabama, Arkansas travels to Kentucky (2-13, 17-20), Ole Miss visits Auburn and Georgia heads to Tennessee (4-11, 21-15, RPI 64).


Southern (1) Elon (14-3, 24-13, RPI 26) helped its resume with a series win over College of Charleston (8-7, 23-14, RPI 68). The Phoenix gets another strong test this week at second-place Georgia Southern (11-4, 22-15, RPI 86). The tournament will still be wide open, but Elon looks to be the only at-large candidate now.


Southland (2) Texas State (13-5, 23-13, RPI 28) won its series against Southeastern Louisiana (10-8, 24-13, RPI 45), but Stephen F. Austin (13-5, 26-11) swept three at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (7-11, 22-18) to forge a first-place tie. Sam Houston State (11-7, 26-12, RPI 58) took three from Lamar (9-9, 22-16, RPI 78) to climb to third. We think the Lions are still going to join the Bobcats in the NCAA tournament. The upcoming schedule has Texas State going to Northwestern State (4-14, 13-24), SLU hosting TAMUCC, SFA heading to McNeese State (8-10, 18-20) and SHSU traveling to Nicholls State (7-11, 17-19).


Southwestern (1)Southern (13-5, 21-13) won two of three from Prairie View A&M (9-9, 16-15) to stay in first in the Western Division. Alcorn State (13-4, 15-20) swept three at Jackson State (10-8, 20-17) to take a three-game lead in the Eastern Division. We feel the Jaguars remain the top team and will represent the SWAC in the NCAA tourney. This weekend, Southern goes to Jackson State, Grambling State (10-5, 17-16) visits Texas Southern (5-13, 15-21), Alcorn State heads to Alabama A&M (4-11, 8-27) and Mississippi Valley State (10-7, 14-23) entertains Alabama State (4-11, 12-19).


Summit (1) – South Dakota State (7-1, 20-10) won four at Centenary (0-8, 3-21) to move into first after Oral Roberts (6-2, 17-13, RPI 158) split at Western Illinois (3-5, 11-24). We still think the Eagles are best, but it’s not going to be easy. ORU goes to North Dakota State (6-2, 9-18) this week, while SDSU hosts Southern Utah (4-4, 15-18).


Sun Belt (2) – First-place Troy (11-4, 26-9, RPI 44) stubbed its toe this week, losing two of thee at Middle Tennessee (5-10, 12-24). Florida Atlantic (10-5, 23-13, RPI 49) swept ULM (5-10, 17-17) to move into a second-place tie with Western Kentucky (10-5, 24-13, RPI 72), which won its series with Arkansas State (5-10, 17-22). FIU (7-8, 22-16, RPI 42) took two of three from Louisiana-Lafayette (8-7, 20-16, RPI 64) to move closer to the top. We like Troy and FAU for now, but FIU, ULL and WKU have the opportunity to get in the mix. This week’s menu had WKU at Troy, FAU at ASU, FIU at UALR (6-9, 15-20) and South Alabama (8-7, 20-16, RPI 91) at ULL.


West Coast (1) Gonzaga (5-1, 21-11-1, RPI 47) won its series at Loyola Marymount (4-2, 20-14, RPI 59) to take an early lead in the standings. San Francisco (4-2, 17-20) won three at Portland (2-4, 12-20) to climb into a second-place tie with the Lions. We think the Bulldogs will continue to play well and will take the bid for the WCC. This week, Gonzaga hosts Saint Mary’s (3-3, 15-16), LMU goes to Pepperdine (2-4, 16-18) and USF entertains Santa Clara (2-4, 14-18).


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (5-2, 25-5, RPI 12) took three from Nevada (0-3, 11-20) to stay within striking distance of first-place Hawaii (7-1, 21-15, RPI 100), which won three of four against Louisiana Tech (3-5, 18-18). We think the Bulldogs are the best team and will survive the competition. This week, FSU goes to Sacramento State (0-4, 12-25), San Jose State (3-5, 23-14, RPI 70) hosts Tech and New Mexico State (5-3, 27-9) visits Nevada.


Last five in: LSU, UCF, St. John’s, Jacksonville, Florida Atlantic


First five out: ETSU, FIU, Kansas State, Houston, Loyola Marymount


(photo by Jimmy Jones)