May 24, 2011

Field of Dreamers

We're in the midst of Maydness


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness (May Madness) is here in full force.


We have five teams in and 25 more automatic bids to award this week before Selection Monday. It should be a great Championship Week.


Congrats to Alcorn State, Bethune-Cookman, Navy, Princeton and Sacred Heart for winning their conference tourneys and securing spots in the NCAA tournament.


We’re going to take an abbreviated look at our Field of Dreamers so we cam post before all the tournaments get underway. RPI info is courtesy of Boyd Nation at Records and RPIs are through games of May 23. Happy teams in bold.


One-bid leagues (17)


America East (1)Stony Brook (22-2, 41-10, RPI 69) won the regular-season title handily and should prevail on its home turf in this four-team field.


Atlantic 10 (1) – First-place Charlotte (17-7, 39-14, RPI 90) is still our pick, but will be challenged by Rhode Island (16-8, 30-20, RPI 67) and Dayton (15-9, 30-25) in Camden.


Big South (1)Coastal Carolina (20-7, 37-18, RPI 52) is the class of the conference, but will have its hands full with Liberty (18-9, 33-22, RPI 88) and an improved Winthrop (15-12, 27-28) in the tourney. Coastal’s RPI right now may be good enough for an at-large bid, but two losses in the tournament could drop the Chants off the board.

Big Ten (1) – This is going to be a very interesting tournament. Illinois (15-9, 25-25) swept Indiana (11-13, 30-25) to earn the top seed over
Michigan State (15-9, 34-19, RPI 81). We think the Spartans will emerge victorious in Columbus, but keep an eye on Minnesota (13-11, 22-22).


Colonial (1) – Old Dominion (19-11, 28-24) surprisingly lost two of three at Hofstra (12-18, 15-32) to pave the way for James Madison (21-9, 37-17, RPI 61) to take the regular-season title. We like the bats of the Dukes to power their way to the title, but UNC Wilmington (18-12, 30-26, RPI 95) will be a challenge on its home field and Georgia State (17-13, 37-19) won’t be a pushover.


Horizon (1) – UCI (16-7, 33-17) rallied to claim a share of the regular-season crown with Wright State (16-7, 33-17). The Flames will be tough in the tourney along with Milwaukee (15-10, 27-26) and Valpo (14-10, 22-30), but we think the Raiders rule on their home field.


Independents (1)Dallas Baptist (39-17, RPI 45) saw its RPI rise nine places with its series win over Charlotte. The Patriots have concluded their regular-season schedule and must hope for minimal upsets in conference tourneys. DBU is in for now, but precariously perched on that bubble. At 30-21 and a RPI of 54, Cal State Bakersfield has played its way back to the bubble with a sweep of Fresno State.


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


Metro Atlantic (1)Manhattan (20-2, 31-17) manhandled the MAAC competition and is the strong favorite to emerge from the four-team field in Trenton, but don’t sleep on Rider (16-7, 33-16).


Mid-American (1)Kent State (21-5, 39-14, RPI 50) saw its RPI fall 10 spots by taking two of three from Akron (7-20, 16-37). The Golden Flashes are in a similar situation to Coastal Carolina. KSU should win the MAC tourney, but two losses in their bracket or a single loss in the title game could drop its RPI out of at-large consideration.


Mid-Eastern (1)Bethune-Cookman (35-22) won its sixth straight MEAC title and will look to make some noise in the NCAA tourney.


Northeast (1)Sacred Heart (34-21, RPI 78) got three complete games from its starters to win the NEC tournament. The second-seeded Pioneers topped #3 Long Island (28-23) and beat top-seeded Monmouth (36-19) twice to win their second title.


Ohio Valley (1)Austin Peay (17-6, 30-22) earned the regular-season title, but will get stiff competition from Southeast Missouri State (14-8, 32-20) and Jacksonville State (14-9, 33-21) in the OVC tourney.


Patriot (1) – Top-seeded Navy (33-23-1) beat Army (22-26) on Tuesday to earn the Patriot League title.


Southwestern (1)Alcorn State (26-27) defeated Southern (29-21) to win its first SWAC title and gets ready for its initial trip to the NCAA tournament.


Summit (1)Oral Roberts (21-7, 33-20, RPI 100) swept a four-game set from Southern Utah (11-17, 23-31) to claim another Summit title, edging South Dakota State (20-8, 35-18). We think the Golden Eagles will take the championship, but after a tough battle with the Jackrabbits.


West Coast (1)Gonzaga (14-4, 31-17-1, RPI 68) is tied with San Francisco (14-4, 28-22) for first and the two teams meet this weekend to decide the champion and recipient of the WCC automatic bid. We like the Bulldogs to take two of three at home from the Dons.


Potential bid stealers (4)


Missouri Valley (1)Creighton (15-6, 39-13, RPI 39) swept Missouri State (11-9, 31-21, RPI 66) to claim the regular-season crown. The Bluejays will be the lone MVC representative if they win the tourney. Look for Wichita State (14-7, 36-24, RPI 74) and Illinois State (13-8, 35-16, RPI 56) to challenge Creighton in Omaha.


Mountain West (1) – The masses will be amazed if someone other than TCU (20-3, 40-15, RPI 15) wins the MWC. Utah (16-7, 28-19, RPI 94) hopes to be that team.


Southern (1) – What looked to be a multi-bid league will likely send just one if Elon (23-7, 36-19, RPI 37) wins the tourney. UNC Greensboro (22-8, 34-18, RPI 82) has been hot of late, while College of Charleston (18-12, 36-20, RPI 64), Samford (18-12, 34-22) and Georgia Southern (18-12, 32-23, RPI 93) all have the talent to win it all in Charleston.


Western Athletic (1)Fresno State (17-7, 37-14, RPI 25) will be the lone wolf from the WAC in the NCAA tournament if it wins the league tourney. Hawaii (17-7, 32-23) will be the top seed and hopes to join the Bulldogs in the Big Dance.


Multiple-bid leagues


ACC (7) – The ACC is solid with its seven bids. North Carolina (20-10, 44-12, RPI 1) swept Virginia (22-5, 45-6, RPI 2) to join Georgia Tech (22-8, 39-17, RPI 7) and Florida State (19-11, 40-15, RPI 4) in the fight for a national seed. Clemson (17-13, 39-17, RPI 9) should have a great chance to host a regional. Miami (19-10, 34-20, RPI 20) and NC State (15-15, 33-23, RPI 29) are in good shape for at-large spots.

Atlantic Sun (3) – We’re keeping three in from the A-Sun for now, but fifth-place ETSU (16-12, 36-19,
RPI 31) is a shaky pick. The Bucs can’t make a quick exit from the conference tourney. Stetson (23-7, 40-16, RPI 21) is in great shape and second-place Jacksonville (19-11, 34-20, RPI 49) looks solid right now. Keep an eye on this tourney. It should be an interesting one, especially with Mercer (17-12, 36-18, RPI 58) on the buble and playing well.


Big East (2) – This could turn into a one-bid league. First-place Connecticut (20-4, 37-14-1, RPI 41) has to feel confident in its chances for an at-large spot. Second-place St. John’s (18-8, 32-18, RPI 55) has a bubbly RPI and needs some wins in Clearwater, but does have its AD on the selection committee. If a lower seed wins the tourney, St. John’s probably gets bumped.


Big 12 (7)Texas (19-8, 40-13, RPI 13) won its series with Texas A&M (19-8, 38-18, RPI 12) and has the inside track for a national seed. The Aggies and Oklahoma (14-11, 40-15, RPI 17) both hope to host regionals. Baylor (13-14, 29-24, RPI 26) and Oklahoma State (14-12, 34-21, RPI 34) both seem OK, but the Bears will be nervous if they go 0-2 in Oklahoma City. We’re putting Kansas State (12-14, 34-21, RPI 48) and Texas Tech (12-15, 33-23, RPI 44) in for now, but both could use some wins in the Big 12 tourney along with no upsets in other conference tourneys. With the chairman of the selection committee being from the Big 12, there most likely will be at least six bids.

Big West (2) – There looks to be a solid two from the Big West.
Cal State Fullerton (17-4, 37-14, RPI 11) will be in the mix to host a regional as long as it wraps up the conference title this weekend. Second-place UC Irvine (15-6, 37-14, RPI 41) looks to be in good shape as well.


Conference USA (4)Rice (16-8, 38-18, RPI 10) will be in the discussion for a national seed if it wins the C-USA tourney. Southern Miss (16-8, 38-15, RPI 16) will be a regional host candidate with a strong showing in Pearl, but just learned its top two pitchers are ineligible for the league tourney. UCF (12-12, 36-20, RPI 19) and East Carolina (14-10, 37-18, RPI 30) are in good shape for at-large spots.


Pac-10 (6) – We still like the thought of a six-pack from the Pac-10. First-place Oregon State (17-7, 38-14, RPI 27) hurt its chances for a national seed with a series loss to USC (12-12, 22-29, RPI 85). Arizona State (16-8, 38-14, RPI 8) could get a national seed if it gets at least a share of the conference crown. Stanford (12-12, 30-19, RPI 18), Arizona (12-12, 33-19, RPI 32), California (13-11 30-18, RPI 35) and UCLA (16-8, 31-20, RPI 43) are solid for now.


Southeastern (7) – What a crazy mess! Georgia (16-14, 28-28, RPI 22) has a great RPI, but we don’t think the Bulldogs will get out of the SEC tourney with a record over .500. Auburn (14-16, 29-27, RPI 36) is in a similar predicament. We’re not sure the Tigers can get a bid if they are just one or two games over .500. Ole Miss (13-17, 30-25, RPI 40) hurt its chances by missing the SEC tournament. We do think LSU (13-17, 36-20, RPI 23) gets in, with a strong overall record and RPI as well as a 12-3 mark over the past 15 games. South Carolina (22-8, 44-12, RPI 6), Florida (22-8, 41-15, RPI 3) and Vanderbilt (22-8, 44-9, RPI 5) should all be national seeds. Arkansas (15-15, 36-18, RPI 14) still has a chance to host a regional. Mississippi State (14-16, 34-21, RPI 28) and Alabama (14-16, 32-24, RPI 33) are both in good shape as well.


Southland (2)Texas State (23-9, 34-20, RPI 46) has the advantage of a regular-season crown to help its at-large resume. Southeastern Louisiana (18-14, 35-20, RPI 51) is barely in for now, but could easily get bumped with an early exit from the Southland tourney.


Sun Belt (3)Troy (21-9, 40-16, RPI 47) helped its cause by finishing first in the Sun Belt. FIU (20-9-1, 37-17-1, RPI 24) has a great RPI to go with its second-place finish. We’re keeping Florida Atlantic (17-13, 32-22, RPI 42) in for now, but the Owls need a couple wins in Monroe to help.


Last five in: ETSU, St. John’s, Southeastern Louisiana, Florida Atlantic, Texas Tech


First five out: Auburn, Ole Miss, Mercer, Illinois State, Rhode Island


(photo by Jimmy Jones)