May 8, 2012

Field of Dreamers

The Merry Month of Maydness


By Phil Stanton and Sean Ryan



Maydness is upon us.


May Madness – or what we call Maydness – is here. Conference tournaments have begun, so the NCAA tourney can’t be far behind.


The first bid of 2012 goes to Cornell, the winner of the Ivy League. The Big Red took two of three from Dartmouth to claim its first Ivy crown.


We take another look at the potential Field of 64. Bubble teams are still not as strong as in years past. The team records are through games of Monday, May 7, as are the NCAA RPIs. If there is no RPI value following a team’s record, its RPI is in triple digits.


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


America East (1) – First-place Stony Brook (14-3, 36-11) took two of three from second-place Binghamton (10-5, 19-20) this past weekend to open a three-game lead. The Seawolves host UMBC (2-16, 10-36) this weekend. We think Stony Brook claims the regular-season and tourney titles.

ACC (8) – There are two teams still fighting to be national seeds: Florida State (21-3, 39-8, RPI 2) and North Carolina (16-8, 34-13, RPI 8). Virginia (14-10, 31-14-1, RPI 12), NC State (16-8, 33-12, RPI 13) and Miami (12-12, 30-17, RPI 16) are hoping to host regionals. Clemson (14-10, 28-20, RPI 24), Georgia Tech (10-14, 29-19, RPI 31) and Virginia Tech (10-14, 32-16, RPI 32) are in for now. Maryland (9-18, 30-22, RPI 35) and Wake Forest (9-15, 27-20, RPI 40) are both bubble teams and need to make the ACC tourney field before being considered for the NCAA Tournament. This weekend’s slate has FSU at Clemson, UNC at Duke (7-17, 17-29, RPI 98), Georgia Tech at Virginia, WFU at Miami and NC State at Virginia Tech.


Atlantic Sun (1)USC Upstate (15-6, 32-14, RPI 71) had an impressive series win this past weekend at Stetson (12-9, 30-17, RPI 53), the site of the A-Sun tourney. Belmont (13-8, 29-19) lost two of three at home to UNF (9-12, 28-20) to fall two games back in the standings. We thought in the preseason that the A-Sun could get multiple bids, but it now looks like the tournament winner will be the lone representative. We’ll go with the Spartans for now, but the tourney should be wide open. This weekend, Upstate hosts Kennesaw State (12-9, 28-20, RPI 79), Belmont visits FGCU (10-11, 19-28) and Stetson travels to ETSU (7-14, 21-26).


Atlantic 10 (1) – No conference team has a RPI better than 100, so the tourney winner will be the lone rep in the NCAA Tournament. Saint Louis (14-7, 33-15) swept  a three-game set from St. Bonaventure (6-12, 18-22) to move into first past Rhode Island (12-6, 27-21), which lost its series at Fordham (12-9, 21-30). There are six teams within two games of the top spot. SLU and URI don’t meet during the regular season. We still lean on the Rams prevailing in a competitive A-10 tourney. This weekend, URI hosts Richmond (9-9, 22-22), SLU visits preseason favorite Charlotte (8-9, 20-26), St. Joseph’s (11-6, 21-25) entertains La Salle (5-13, 18-28) and Massachusetts (11-7, 19-17) plays at Dayton (11-7, 22-26).


Big East (2) St. John’s (16-5, 31-17, RPI 60) won two of three from USF (13-8, 30-18, RPI 80) to maintain its hold on first. Louisville (14-7, 33-15, RPI 43) and Connecticut (14-7, 26-21, RPI 90) both won series to stay tied for second. We expect the Big East will get two bids, but that’s no lock. The Red Storm needs a regular-season title to help its resume. This weekend’s schedule is highlighted by a battle for first as St. John’s travels to Louisville. Other series have UConn at USF, Rutgers (12-9, 27-20, RPI 89) at Notre Dame (11-10, 25-22) and Pittsburgh (8-13, 24-22) at Seton Hall (13-8, 28-20).

Big South (1) – After struggling early in the year, Coastal Carolina (14-4, 32-14, RPI 26) has a three-game lead and a solid RPI for an at-large bid if it stumbles in the Big South tourney. The Chanticleers look to be getting stronger and are our pick to take the title. This weekend, Coastal hosts Winthrop (7-11, 14-32), Radford (11-7, 26-20, RPI 95) goes to Campbell (10-8, 34-14, RPI 84) and Liberty (10-8, 34-15, RPI 69) entertains High Point (8-10, 23-24).

Big Ten (1)Purdue (14-4, 35-9, RPI 7) had a huge win on Sunday, scoring 10 in the ninth to win at UCLA (12-9, 31-13, RPI 3) to avoid a three-game sweep, The Boilermakers are still in the picture for a national seed and a chance to host a regional. Purdue holds a three-game lead in the Big Ten and is trying to win its first title in more than 100 years. This weekend, Purdue hosts Michigan (6-12, 19-28), Indiana (11-7, 24-24, RPI 99) visits Northwestern (5-16, 16-29), Michigan State (10-8, 29-16, RPI 44) entertains Iowa (7-11, 19-24), Minnesota (10-8, 28-22) goes to Nebraska (9-9, 29-18, RPI 85) and Illinois (8-7, 25-18, RPI 66) travels to Penn State (10-8, 24-23).


Big 12 (4) Baylor (18-0, 38-8, RPI 4) was idle last week for finals, but clinched the Big 12 regular-season title. The Bears are in great shape for a national seed. Texas A&M (13-8, 34-14, RPI 17) is fighting to host a regional and needs to finish second to help its chances. The Aggies are currently tied with Texas (13-8, 27-18, RPI 51) and Oklahoma State (13-8, 28-18, RPI 83). The Longhorns and Cowboys need to stay in the top four to remain in the at-large picture. Baylor travels to Oklahoma (10-10, 30-19, RPI 67) this weekend, giving the Sooners a chance to help their at-large chances.

Big West (1)Cal State Fullerton (12-3, 30-14, RPI 14) swept a three-game set at Pacific (1-14, 11-34) to move back into first place ahead of Long Beach State (11-4, 24-21, RPI 52). The Titans and Dirtbags will tangle the final weekend of the season in Long Beach. UC Irvine (11-7, 27-17, RPI 59) has won seven straight and is in the at-large picture but will have a tough time improving its RPI. This weekend has Fullerton at UC Santa Barbara (9-9, 23-22), LBSU at UC Davis (6-9, 18-25) and UCI at Cal State Northridge (7-8, 20-23).


Colonial (1) UNC Wilmington (19-5, 29-18, RPI 46) won its series against Towson (11-13, 21-27) to maintain a three-game lead over second-place Hofstra (16-8, 28-18). The Seahawks continue to help their resume should they not win the CAA tourney. Their RPI should improve with a midweek date at North Carolina (16-8, 34-13, RPI 8). This weekend, UNCW goes to William and Mary (11-13, 28-20), Hofstra visits Towson and Delaware (14-10, 24-22) travels to Georgia State (11-13, 20-28).

Conference USA (3) – There are three solid teams in the field from C-USA: Rice (13-5, 33-13, RPI 18), UCF (13-5, 38-11, RPI 20) and East Carolina (13-7-1, 31-16-1, RPI 23). The first-place finisher could have a chance to host a regional. This weekend’s slate has UAB (7-11, 26-23) at Rice, UCF at Marshall (3-15, 15-31) and ECU at Southern Miss (9-9, 25-22, RPI 98).


Great West (1) – The hottest team in the country continues to be Utah Valley (20-0, 35-11, RPI 61), now on a 28-game win streak. The Wolverines improved 17 spots in the RPI with its five victories this past week. We think UVU continues to dominate the league, improves its RPI and earns the Great West its first NCAA bid. The Wolverines already have wins over Arizona and Arizona State to help their resume. UVU visits NYIT (3-17, 5-36) this weekend.


Horizon (1) Valparaiso (17-7, 25-21) took two of three at Wright State (17-7, 32-16) to move into a tie for first. The Crusaders have been scalding the past five weeks, winning 17 of 20. Valpo has its final two conference series at home, while the Raiders have to hit the road. We expect the Crusaders continue to roll through the Horizon tourney. This weekend, Valpo hosts UIC (9-14, 16-28) and WSU goes to Youngstown State (7-17, 9-35).


Independents (1)Dallas Baptist (34-14, RPI 22) has won six straight to put itself in solid position for another at-large bid. The Patriots have been helped by playing MVC teams during their open weekends, including a series win over first-place Missouri State (10-4, 34-14, RPI 34). DBU hosts Texas Tech (6-15, 27-24, RPI 74) on Tuesday and travels to Creighton (5-12, 18-23) this weekend.


Ivy (1) – The only team to have already secured a spot in the 2012 NCAA Tournament is Cornell (14-6, 31-15-1) after its thrilling series win over Dartmouth (14-6, 24-18) to claim its first Ivy Championship. The Big Red will make its second NCAA tourney appearance and first since 1977.


Metro Atlantic (1) – First-place Manhattan (12-6, 23-24) and second-place Canisius (11-7, 26-24) both won series this past weekend to remain within a game of each other. We believe the Jaspers continue to win and reach the NCAA Tournament. Manhattan hosts Saint Peter’s (9-9, 19-29) this weekend, while Canisius visits third-place Marist (9-8, 23-21).


Mid-American (1)Kent State (18-3, 30-17) swept its three-game series at second-place Ohio (12-9, 23-24) to clinch the Eastern Division title. Toledo (13-8, 24-23) lost its series to Buffalo (7-13, 14-30) to have its lead in the Western Division cut to one over Central Michigan (12-9, 23-25) and Eastern Michigan (12-9, 22-24). This weekend, Kent State hosts Miami (10-11, 25-23), Toledo goes to Bowling Green (8-13, 19-27), CMU welcomes Ball State (6-15, 11-32) and EMU goes to Buffalo. We expect the Golden Flashes are the top squad and will win the MAC Tournament.


Mid-Eastern (1) Bethune-Cookman (16-4, 28-21) has dominated in the Southern Division title, as has Delaware State (20-1, 33-14-1) in the Northern Division. The Hornets have won 15 straight and will visit Maryland-Eastern Shore (10-11, 11-34) this weekend. The Wildcats will play at Savannah State (10-11, 18-29). As hot as DSU is, we think B-CU finds a way to win the MEAC tourney.


Missouri Valley (2)Missouri State (10-4, 34-14, RPI 34) has a half-game lead over Indiana State (10-5, 34-11, RPI 56) with two weekends remaining. As long as these two finish in the top two spots and one wins the MVC tourney, both should go the NCAA Tournament. The Bears and Sycamores will meet next weekend in Terre Haute. For this weekend, MSU hosts Evansville (7-8, 27-21) and Indiana State plays at Southern Illinois (9-9, 25-23).


Mountain West (1)TCU (13-5, 29-16, RPI 33) took two of three from New Mexico (13-5, 27-21, RPI 88) to move into a tie for first. We expect the Horned Frogs are the most talented team in the MWC and will earn the automatic bid with a conference tourney win. TCU goes to Air Force (5-13, 13-33) this weekend, while the Lobos travel to UNLV (6-15, 22-27).


Northeast (1) – Bryant (21-7, 30-20) split a four-game set with Monmouth (20-8, 32-19) to keep its one-game lead. We still believe the Hawks will come out on top at the conference tourney. This final weekend of league play has Bryant hosting Wagner (14-14, 21-30) and Monmouth visiting Sacred Heart (16-12, 19-29).


Ohio Valley (1) Austin Peay (14-6, 28-18) won its series at SIU Edwardsville (10-11, 24-24) to keep its half-game lead over Eastern Kentucky (14-7, 24-20) and Jacksonville State (14-7, 22-24). The Govs host Morehead State (10-11, 25-21) this weekend, while EKU entertains Tennessee Tech (9-12, 19-27) and JSU plays at SIUE. We still think Austin Peay will be the last team standing.


Pac-10 (6)UCLA (12-9, 31-13, RPI 3) and first-place Oregon (16-8, 34-14, RPI 6) are in terrific position to be national seeds. Stanford (11-10, 29-14, RPI 15) and Arizona (13-8, 30-15, RPI 21) are fighting to host regionals. Oregon State (11-10, 30-15, RPI 28) is solidly in the field for now. Washington (11-10, 26-18, RPI 42) might have had the biggest weekend in the country with a sweep at USC (7-13, 22-21, RPI 73) to enter the field. Arizona State (14-10, 29-17, RPI 30) is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this year. This weekend has USC at Oregon, Arizona at California (9-12, 25-19, RPI 75), UCLA at Washington, Washington State (9-11, 23-20) at Stanford and Oregon State at Utah (6-18, 12-33).


Patriot (1) Army (18-2, 37-12) won the regular-season crown and will be the top seed in the Patriot League tournament, which begins this weekend. The Black Knights will host No. 4 Lafayette (7-13, 14-35-1) and second-seed Holy Cross (13-7, 30-20) will welcome No. 3 Navy (9-11, 23-26) in the best-of-three semifinal series. We expect Army takes advantage of home field advantage to win the tourney title.

Southeastern (8)Florida (14-10, 35-13, RPI 1) and LSU (16-8, 38-11, RPI 5) both won road series and remain strong contenders for national seeds. South Carolina (16-8, 36-12, RPI 9), Kentucky (15-9, 37-11, RPI 10) and Arkansas (12-12, 34-15, RPI 11) are in good shape to host regionals. Ole Miss (11-13, 31-18, RPI 19) and Mississippi State (12-12, 29-18, RPI 39) are solidly in. Georgia (12-12, 28-20, RPI 41) swept its series with Auburn (10-14, 25-22, RPI 64) to keep the Bulldogs in and drop the Tigers out. Vanderbilt (11-13, 23-24, RPI 47) won its series at Tennessee (8-16, 23-24) to keep its hopes alive. This weekend has MSU at UF, Vandy at LSU, USC at UGA, Alabama (7-17, 18-30) at UK, Auburn at Arkansas and UT at Ole Miss.


Southern (3) – There are still four teams within 2.5 games of first place: Appalachian State (18-6, 34-11, RPI 29), College of Charleston (19-8, 32-15, RPI 37), Samford (18-9, 32-17, RPI 68) and Elon (17-10, 28-23, RPI 45). Right now, we think three of the four will reach the NCAAs. This weekend, ASU plays at Samford in the top series.


Southland (2) Sam Houston State (20-7, 32-15, RPI 48) lost its series at UT Arlington (16-11, 29-20, RPI 58), but still has a three-game lead over Southeastern Louisiana (17-10, 33-16, RPI 55) in the Southland standings. The Bearkats and Lions will meet this weekend in Huntsville. Preseason favorite Texas State (15-12, 27-18, RPI 54) won its series with Lamar (11-16, 19-26) and is still an at-large possibility. The Bobcats face UTSA (9-17, 20-27), while UTA goes to McNeese State (13-14, 19-26).


Southwestern (1) – Jackson State (21-3, 31-14) won the Eastern Division over Alabama State (14-10, 20-32) and Alcorn State (14-10, 17-32). Southern (17-7, 31-14) prevailed over Prairie View A&M (15-8, 24-22) in the Western Division. Southern beat Jackson State twice a couple weeks ago and is our pick to capture the SWAC tourney title next week.


Summit (1)Oral Roberts (11-4, 27-20) trails Oakland (10-3, 19-26) by percentage points for the top spot. ORU goes to IPFW (7-13, 15-33) this weekend, while the Grizzlies travel to third-place North Dakota State (11-5, 35-13). We think the Golden Eagles will find a way to win another conference title.


Sun Belt (1) Florida Atlantic (16-6, 28-18, RPI 78) won its series over Western Kentucky (10-14, 20-28), but saw its lead cut to one game as Arkansas State (15-7, 26-19) took three from South Alabama (12-12, 18-30). This weekend, FAU goes to UALR (10-14, 23-24) and ASU entertains third-place FIU (13-11, 28-20). We believe the Owls will find a way to win the conference tourney.


West Coast (3) – The WCC continues to have a strong campaign. First-place San Diego (13-5, 36-11, RPI 25) swept BYU (7-8, 18-21) to keep a comfortable lead over Pepperdine (9-6, 26-18, RPI 38), Loyola Marymount (9-6, 21-21, RPI 96), Portland (10-8, 23-16, RPI 87) and Gonzaga (9-9, 29-17, RPI 36). We expect three teams will come out of the WCC. This week, LMU plays at USD, BYU goes to Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s (6-12, 22-23, RPI 86) heads to Portland.


Western Athletic (2)Hawaii (8-4, 28-28, RPI 65) swept a three-game set from New Mexico State (7-5, 30-17, RPI 27) to move into first. We think the WAC has a great chance to get in two teams. The Rainbows go to Sacramento State (8-7, 25-23) this weekend, while NMSU hosts Fresno State (4-8, 21-23) and Nevada (7-5, 26-21, RPI 81) entertains San Jose State (5-7, 21-22).


Last five in: Hawaii, Elon, St. John’s, Southeastern Louisiana, Utah Valley


First five out: Maryland, Michigan State, Texas State, Long Beach State, Wake Forest


(photo courtesy of Cornell Media Relations Office)