May 18, 2011

Field of Dreamers

Maydness is upon us


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness (May Madness) is here.


What a great time for college baseball! One conference tournament is in the books, three will play this week and the remainder will commence next week.


There continues to be much at stake this week. Some teams are hoping to be national seeds or regional hosts. Some are working to improve resumes for at-large consideration. Others are fighting for spots in conference tourneys with the hopes of capturing a league title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.


Princeton remains the lone squad already in the Field of 64 after winning the Ivy League crown. The Tigers await the other 63 to the party.


Here’s our weekly look at the potential field. RPI info is courtesy of Boyd Nation at Records and RPIs are through games of May 17. Happy teams in bold.


America East (1) – The field is set for the conference tournament, just seeding to be determined. First-place Stony Brook (18-2, 37-10, RPI 79) has won seven straight and needs one victory in its four-game set with fourth-place Albany (11-7, 19-25) to claim the regular-season title and the top seed in the tourney. Second-place Maine (15-5, 26-21) looks to extend its 10-game win streak at home against third-place Binghamton (12-7, 20-23). We still think the Seawolves are the top dogs in America East.


ACC (7)Georgia Tech (20-7, 37-16, RPI 8) helped its chances for a national seed with a series win over North Carolina (17-10, 41-12) to claim the second-best record in the ACC. Virginia (22-5, 45-6, RPI 1) won its series with Miami (17-9, 32-19, RPI 21) to maintain the top spot in the league. Florida State (18-9, 39-13, RPI 4) and Clemson (15-12, 37-16, RPI 9) are still in the picture as national seeds. NC State (12-15, 30-23, RPI 29) appears safe for an at-large bid. This week, the Tar Heels host the Cavaliers, the Yellow Jackets go to Virginia Tech (10-17, 29-23, RPI 69), the Tigers visit the Seminoles, the Wolfpack goes to Boston College (7-19, 17-30), the Hurricanes host Duke (6-21, 25-28) and Wake Forest (12-15, 22-28, RPI 65) travels to Maryland (5-22, 21-32, RPI 85) in hopes of holding onto the final ACC tourney spot.

Atlantic Sun (3) – Tuesday night was huge for A-Sun at-large hopefuls, as ETSU (15-10, 35-17,
RPI 31) won at Georgia Tech and Jacksonville (18-9, 33-18, RPI 42) was victorious at Florida. Stetson (22-5, 39-14, RPI 22) already has secured the tourney’s top seed and this week will face Belmont (15-12, 30-23), a team fighting for one of the final two spots in the A-Sun tourney. The other two battling for a place in Nashville are Mercer (15-11, 34-17, RPI 68), which entertains ETSU and could play itself into contention, and preseason favorite FGCU (13-14, 24-28), which hosts Lipscomb (20-17, 19-33).


Atlantic 10 (1) – There are seven teams trying to secure one of the final four spots for the A-10 tourney. Charlotte (17-7, 38-12, RPI 96) is the leader in the clubhouse after its series win at La Salle (12-9, 26-22) to complete its league slate. Rhode Island (15-6, 29-18, RPI 53) must sweep its series at Dayton (13-8, 28-24) to win the regular-season title. We’ll stay with the 49ers as our pick for now, but the Rams should be formidable in the conference tournament. Other significant series this week include Xavier (12-9, 28-23) at Fordham (11-9-1, 30-21-1), La Salle at Saint Louis (8-13, 26-26), Richmond (12-9, 25-23-2) at Saint Joseph’s (9-12, 19-30) and Massachusetts (7-13-1, 16-27-1) at St. Bonaventure (11-10, 21-22).


Big East (2) – First-place Connecticut (20-4, 37-14-1, RPI 41) has clinched the regular-season title, which helps its at-large chances if it doesn’t win the conference tourney. Second-place St. John’s (16-7, 30-17, RPI 49) saw its RPI jump 14 places after a sweep at Georgetown (5-19, 23-30) to extend its win streak to seven. We’ll put the Huskies and Red Storm in for now, but St. John’s needs to keep winning and pull for minimal upsets in other conference tourneys. Seven teams are battling for the final five spots in Clearwater. This week’s slate has UConn at Cincinnati (13-11, 29-23), Villanova (6-18, 19-30) at St. John’s, Pittsburgh (15-9, 31-19) at USF (11-13, 23-28, RPI 99), Rutgers (9-15, 18-29) at West Virginia (13-11, 27-23), Notre Dame (12-11, 21-25-1) at Louisville (12-12, 27-26, RPI 100) and Georgetown at Seton Hall (11-13, 26-23, RPI 78).


Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (18-6, 35-17, RPI 50) stumbled last weekend, dropping two of three at Winthrop (13-11, 25-27). It was a result that could give others in the league a bit of hope that the Chanticleers can be knocked off in the Big South tourney. Liberty (17-7, 32-20, RPI 81) won its series at Gardner-Webb (13-11, 29-19, RPI 92) to pull within a game of Coastal. We still pick the Chants, but an at-large isn’t guaranteed if someone else takes the tourney title. This week’s schedule has Charleston Southern (14-10, 27-26) at Coastal, Radford (12-12, 28-22) at Liberty, Gardner-Webb at Winthrop, High Point (8-16, 23-29) at VMI (12-12, 25-22, RPI 71) and Presbyterian (6-18, 21-32) at UNC Asheville (7-17, 15-34).

Big Ten (1)
Minnesota (12-9, 21-20) is still our pick, but it is a shaky one after the Golden Gophers lost two of three at Penn State (10-11, 30-19, RPI 93). More surprising was first-place Michigan State (13-8, 32-18, RPI 74) getting swept at Indiana (11-10, 30-22). These series could be a prelude to an exciting and unpredictable Big Ten tourney. The final week of the regular season has Northwestern (9-11, 19-27) at MSU, Ohio State (11-10, 23-24) at Minnesota, Indiana at Illinois (12-9, 22-25), Iowa (9-12, 20-29) at Purdue (11-10, 33-18) and PSU at Michigan (6-14, 16-35).


Big 12 (6)Baylor (11-13, 27-23, RPI 33) got a huge series win at Oklahoma State (13-10, 33-19, RPI 32) to help its at-large chances and distance itself from .500. Texas Tech (10-14, 31-22, RPI 45) drops out of the field this week after losing its series at Missouri (10-13, 23-28, RPI 75). Kansas State (9-14, 31-21, RPI 56) saw its RPI drop 17 spots after a sweep of New Orleans and an extra-innings loss at Wichita State. The Wildcats are still in because of a series sweep of the Red Raiders but must make the Big 12 tourney field to stay in the at-large pool. Texas A&M (18-6, 37-16, RPI 10) and Texas (17-7, 38-12, RPI 13) have hopes of being a national seed and will face off this weekend for the Big 12 regular-season title. Oklahoma (13-9, 39-13, RPI 17) is still fighting to host a regional. The Sooners travel to Baylor this week, while Texas Tech hosts OSU and KSU tangles with Kansas.

Big West (2)
Cal State Fullerton (17-4, 36-14, RPI 12) swept Long Beach State (8-10, 26-20, RPI 70) to enhance its chances of hosting a regional. The Titans are off this weekend and could clinch the title and the automatic bid if second-place UC Irvine (13-5, 35-13, RPI 46) loses its series at UC Riverside (8-10, 26-20). The Anteaters need to keep winning to keep their RPI up for an at-large bid.


Colonial (1) – Old Dominion (18-9, 27-22) won its home series with UNC Wilmington (16-11, 28-25, RPI 95), but James Madison (18-9, 34-17) swept Towson (14-13, 25-26-1) to force a tie for first. We are still picking the bats of JMU, but it should be a great CAA tourney. The Monarchs and Dukes have clinched playoff spots, but five teams are battling for the other two slots. This week, JMU goes to Northeastern (12-15, 18-30), ODU heads to Hofstra (10-17, 13-31), VCU (11-16, 21-30) travels to UNCW, Georgia State (15-12, 35-18) hosts George Mason (6-21, 20-30-1) and Towson entertains William and Mary (14-13, 25-26-1).


Conference USA (4) – Kudos to the schedule-maker. For the first time in league history, the top two teams will meet on the final weekend with the regular-season title on the line. First-place Southern Miss (15-6, 37-13, RPI 15) and second-place Rice (14-7, 36-17, RPI 11) both hope to host regionals. UCF (10-11, 34-19, RPI 18) had a critical sweep at UAB (9-15, 27-25, RPI 64) to move into a tie for fifth. East Carolina (11-10, 34-18, RPI 34) remains in good shape for a bid. The Pirates travel to Tulane (10-11, 30-21, RPI 60) this week, while the Knights host Marshall (6-15, 19-29).


Great West (0) – Utah Valley (19-1, 27-20) won four at Houston Baptist (13-11, 15-37) to keep its lead over second-place Northern Colorado (18-4, 22-27) by three in the loss column. No automatic bid or at-large this year.


Horizon (1)Wright State (14-6, 31-16) split a doubleheader with Cleveland State (5-20, 12-40) and holds a one-game lead over UIC (13-7, 24-24). Valparaiso (13-8, 21-28) and Milwaukee (13-9, 25-25) are close behind. We still pick the Raiders, but they’ll have their hands full in the Horizon tourney. This week, WSU hosts Butler (10-12, 22-24), UIC entertains Youngstown State (7-13, 12-36) and Valpo goes to Milwaukee.


Independents (0) – Dallas Baptist (37-16, RPI 54) missed a great opportunity to improve its RPI in a Tuesday loss at Baylor. The Patriots host Charlotte this weekend, but we’re not sure a sweep would be adequate to raise their RPI enough for at-large consideration. But they would be at 40 wins, which would merit consideration.


Ivy (1)Princeton (23-22) anxiously awaits Selection Monday after earning the automatic bid for the Ivy League.


Metro Atlantic (1)Manhattan (17-2, 28-17) has clinched the regular-season title and the top seed in the MAAC tourney. The Jaspers will play at Iona (7-14, 17-31) this week. Second-place Rider (16-7, 30-16) has completed its conference schedule. Four teams are fighting for the remaining two spots in Trenton. Marist (12-9, 34-15, RPI 97) goes to Siena (12-9, 24-27) in a battle for third, while Canisius (10-9, 23-29) hosts Niagara (4-17, 7-38) and Fairfield (10-11, 19-25) entertains Saint Peter’s (5-15, 16-31).


Mid-American (1)Kent State (19-4, 37-13, RPI 40) needs one win in its series against Akron (6-18, 14-35) to secure not only first place in the East Division, but also the top spot in the MAC tournament. The West is a bit more crowded. The top two teams meet this week as Central Michigan (15-8, 27-24) travels to Eastern Michigan (15-9, 33-18). Also in the West, Northern Illinois (14-10, 27-24) visits Western Michigan (11-12, 24-27) and Toledo (14-10, 25-25) goes to Ball State (9-14, 13-34). We think the Golden Flashes will win the MAC tournament and advance to the NCAA tourney.


Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (18-0, 32-22) is the top seed and host in this week’s MEAC tournament. The Wildcats are the heavy favorite to advance to another NCAA tourney.


Missouri Valley (1) – First-place Creighton (12-6, 36-13, RPI 52) won its series at Evansville (7-10, 28-20) to stay on top of the standings, but Missouri State (11-6, 31-18, RPI 66) swept Bradley (4-14, 22-27) to pull within a half-game of the Bluejays. The Bears will travel to Creighton this week in a battle for first. Wichita State (11-7, 33-24, RPI 82) won its series against Indiana State (7-11, 25-24) to stay within a game of Creighton. The Shockers travel to Bradley, while Illinois State (10-8, 32-16, RPI 72) hosts Evansville. Creighton remains our pick, but the tourney should be wide open.


Mountain West (1)TCU (17-3, 37-15, RPI 16) won its series against second-place Utah (16-7, 27-18, RPI 90) to clinch the MWC regular-season title. The Horned Frogs are still working to host a regional. TCU goes to New Mexico (10-11, 16-36) to close the regular season.


Northeast (1)Monmouth (25-7, 34-17) is the top seed in this week’s NEC tournament, followed by Sacred Heart (23-9, 31-21, RPI 94), Long Island (19-11, 28-21) and CCSU (17-14, 25-23-1). The tourney has been delayed one day by rain and will begin on Friday in Norwich, Conn. The competition will be tough, but we’re going with the Hawks.


Ohio Valley (1) – We’re changing horses in this OVC race. Austin Peay (15-5, 28-21) won its series against our previous pick, Southeast Missouri State (11-8, 29-20), to clinch the regular-season title. The Governors go to UT Martin (9-11, 18-32) this week, while the Redhawks entertain Eastern Illinois (9-9, 18-30).


Pac-10 (6) – We’ll stick with our six-pack in the Pac-10. First-place Oregon State (16-5, 37-12, RPI 20) won its series at Washington (5-16, 15-32), but watched its RPI drop nine spots to fall out of the national seed picture. The Beavers still have a good chance to host a regional. Arizona State (14-7, 36-13, RPI 7) lost two of three at USC, but still has a strong RPI for national seed and hosting considerations. Stanford (10-11, 28-18, RPI 23), Arizona (11-10, 32-17, RPI 27), California (12-9, 28-16, RPI 35) and UCLA (14-7, 28-19, RPI 47) are solid for now. The Beavers host the Trojans this weekend, while the Sun Devils visit the Huskies, the Bruins entertain the Golden Bears and the Cardinal welcomes the Wildcats.


Patriot (1) – Top-seeded Navy (12-8, 31-22-1) will host Army (11-9, 21-24) next week in the Patriot League Championship Series. We lean toward the Midshipmen on their home field after the two split their four-game series in West Point, with four tight games.

Southeastern (9) – Georgia (15-12, 27-26, RPI 25) had a damaging stretch last week, losing to Mercer before dropping two of three at Kentucky (7-20, 24-28). The Bulldogs will host Vanderbilt (20-7, 42-8,
RPI 5) before the SEC tournament. We don’t think Georgia will be able to stay above .500 for its overall record, so we’re leaving the Bulldogs out. We’re putting LSU (11-16, 34-19, RPI 28) in this week. The Tigers play at Mississippi State (13-14, 21-10, RPI 24) this week and we think LSU wins the series to earn an at-large bid, even if it misses the SEC tourney. The Commodores join Florida (20-7, 39-14, RPI 2) and South Carolina (20-7, 42-11, RPI 6) in working to be national seeds. Arkansas (13-14, 34-17, RPI 14) still has a chance to host a regional. Auburn (13-14, 28-25, RPI 30), Alabama (13-14, 31-22, RPI 36) and Ole Miss (12-15, 29-23, RPI 38) are in for now, but the Tigers have to keep that overall record above .500. Auburn ends the regular season at Tennessee (5-22, 23-28).


Southern (1) – First-place Elon (21-6, 34-18, RPI 37) remains in great shape for an at-large spot. College of Charleston (17-10, 35-18, RPI 61) won its series against Appalachian State (13-14, 29-24) to stay in third, now tied with Georgia Southern (17-10, 31-21, RPI 86). Second-place UNC Greensboro (19-8, 31-18, RPI 91) swept The Citadel (8-19, 20-33), but must win the SoCon tourney to get into the NCAA tourney because of its RPI. This week, Elon hosts Furman (12-14, 22-29), UNCG goes to Wofford (9-18, 22-30), CofC travels to Samford (16-11, 32-21, RPI 77) and GSU heads to ASU. This should be another excellent conference tourney.


Southland (2)Texas State (23-7, 34-18, RPI 39) swept Nicholls State (12-18, 23-27) to clinch the regular-season crown. Southeastern Louisiana (17-13, 34-19, RPI 44) took two of three from Stephen F. Austin (18-12, 32-20) to stay in the at-large picture. Sam Houston State (17-13, 34-19, RPI 59) is on the board, but just out of the field in our view. Many teams are still battling for conference tourney spots. This week, TSU visits UT Arlington (13-17, 25-28), SFA hosts Lamar (14-16, 28-23), SHSU entertains Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (16-14, 31-22), SELA goes to Northwestern State (10-20, 21-31), McNeese State (14-16, 26-26) heads to Nicholls State and Central Arkansas (12-18, 23-27) goes to UTSA (14-16, 24-29).


Southwestern (1)Southern (16-8, 26-20) is still our pick to win the SWAC tourney this week in Shreveport, La. Alcorn State (19-4, 22-27) won the East and will provide tough competition.


Summit (1)South Dakota State (17-7, 32-17) lost three of four at Oral Roberts (17-7, 29-20) to fall into a tie for first. The Jackrabbits host IPFW (11-13, 16-31) this week, while the Golden Eagles entertain Southern Utah (11-13, 23-27). We still think SDSU will unseat ORU at the Summit tourney, but it won’t be easy.


Sun Belt (3)FIU (18-8-1, 35-16-1, RPI 26) is scalding hot, unbeaten in its past 16 games. The Panthers won 15 straight before a travel curfew tie on Sunday with Arkansas State (10-16-1, 22-30-1). Troy (19-8, 38-15, RPI 48) remains in first by an eyelash. Florida Atlantic (16-11, 31-20, RPI 43) is still in decent shape for an at-large bid. Louisiana-Lafayette (16-11, 29-23, RPI 62) needs a big finish to return to the at-large picture. This week features repeat series from the opening weekend of conference play as Troy goes to South Alabama (14-13, 28-24, RPI 88), FIU hosts FAU, ULL heads to ULM (8-19, 23-28), Western Kentucky (15-12, 30-21, RPI 80) travels to Middle Tennessee (8-19, 17-35) and UALR (10-17, 20-29) visits ASU.


West Coast (1)Gonzaga (12-3, 29-16-1, RPI 58) swept a three-game set at Portland (6-9, 18-29) to keep pace with San Francisco (14-4, 28-22), which took three from Pepperdine (5-10, 20-27). The Dons are off this weekend, while the Bulldogs head to Pepperdine. USF will play at Gonzaga next weekend to determine the champion and recipient of the WCC automatic bid.


Western Athletic (1) – Hawaii (15-5, 30-21, RPI 73) took three of four from San Jose State (10-10, 32-21, RPI 98) to keep its hold on first ahead of Fresno State (16-7, 36-11, RPI 19), which swept four from New Mexico State (7-13, 32-20). The Bulldogs have completed their conference slate, while the Rainbows go to NMSU this week. We still think Fresno State represents the WAC in the NCAA tourney.


Last five in: Kansas State, LSU, St. John’s, Southeastern Louisiana, UC Irvine


First five out: Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, Rhode Island, College of Charleston, Missouri State


(photo by Jimmy Jones)