April 12, 2013

Field of Dreamers


Maydness is Approaching


By Sean Ryan & Phil Stanton

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball

phil@collegebaseballinsider.com @roadtoomaha


Maydness is not too far off.


March Madness has recently concluded and we’re looking ahead to May Madness, or what we call Maydness.


Conference tournaments are not that far away, leading into the NCAA tourney. We take an initial look at the potential field. Records are through games of April 10 and RPIs and from www.boydsworld.com as of April 11.


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


America East (1)Maine (8-3, 18-14) is one of only two conference teams with a winning record. Defending champion Stony Brook (4-8, 10-22) is surprisingly tied for last. We think the Black Bears will prevail, claiming the regular-season crown and winning the conference tournament. Maine plays at UMBC (4-8, 8-15) this weekend.

ACC (8) – There are actually eight teams in the Top 20 in RPI and we think they will make the ACC and NCAA tourney fields. North Carolina (12-2, 31-2, RPI 4) and Virginia (12-3, 30-4, RPI 5) are working to be national seeds. The remaining six will fight to host regionals: Florida State (10-5, 27-6, RPI 10), Virginia Tech (7-8, 22-12, RPI 12), NC State (8-7, 25-10, RPI 13), Clemson (9-6, 23-11, RPI 16), Miami (6-9, 22-14, RPI 17) and Georgia Tech (9-6, 24-9, RPI 19). Right now, the Hurricanes aren’t in the ACC tourney field and must win some conference series to climb in the standings. The top league match-ups this weekend have Virginia at Georgia Tech and North Carolina at Virginia Tech.


Atlantic Sun (2)FGCU (6-3, 20-9, RPI 32) and North Florida (6-3, 24-11, RPI 73) are tied for first, with Mercer (7-5, 26-10, RPI 26) just a game behind. We think the Bears are the best in the league and will begin their rise to the top of the standings this weekend with a three-game series against FGCU. The Eagles should be good enough to make the NCAA field as well.


Atlantic 10 (1) Saint Louis (8-1, 23-10) has climbed into first and we expect the Billikens to remain there. Xavier (7-2, 15-15, RPI 65) sits in second, with Richmond (6-3, 21-10) and La Salle (6-3, 12-18) tied for third. The Billikens would be the lone representative for the A-10. SLU steps out of conference this weekend by hosting Horizon-leader Milwaukee.


Big East (2) Louisville (7-2, 25-7, RPI 29) is tied with USF (7-2, 19-14) for first. If the Cardinals continue to win, they will have a great chance to host a regional. Notre Dame (4-5, 19-11, RPI 25) has a strong RPI and needs to win some league games to benefit its resume. We think the Cards and Irish will do enough to warrant NCAA tourney bids. Notre Dame has a challenging series this weekend at Pittsburgh.

Big South (2)Coastal Carolina (7-2, 21-12, RPI 36) leads the South Division and looks to be the strongest team again. Radford (7-2, 20-11, RPI 89) and Campbell (9-3, 29-6, RPI 39) are fighting for the top spot in the North Division. We think the Chanticleers and Camels will reach the NCAA Tournament, but the Highlanders and Liberty (6-6, 18-16, RPI 96) will be factors in the conference tourney.

Big Ten (2)Indiana (8-1, 26-4, RPI 8) has been extremely impressive this season, putting together an 18-game win streak on its way to first place in the league standings. If the Hoosiers can maintain this excellence, they will be in position for a national seed or at least to host a regional. IU heads to Michigan State (2-4, 18-11, RPI 56) for an important three-game set. We think the Spartans will join the Hoosiers in the NCAA field.


Big 12 (3) Oklahoma (7-2, 27-6) has been the best team to this point in the league. The Sooners will battle to host a regional. We can’t imagine the Big 12 only getting one team in, so we’ll include second-place Kansas State (6-3, 24-10, RPI 71) and fourth-place Kansas (5-4, 20-12, RPI 63) for now. Oklahoma State (4-4, 23-8, RPI 111) has a worthy record, but an awful RPI to accompany it. Texas (3-6, 18-13, RPI 51) could still enter the at-large picture, but must pile up more wins, especially in conference contests. The Sooners head to Baylor (5-3, 17-16, RPI 77) this weekend in a key conference tilt.

Big West (3)Cal State Fullerton (6-0, 29-4, RPI 6) is by far the top team in the league and one of the tops in the nation. The Titans are in great position to be a national seed. We think two teams will receive at-large bids, and we expect Cal Poly (4-2, 22-8, RPI 35) and UC Irvine (3-3, 21-8, RPI 43) to pick up those bids.


Colonial (2) – The top three teams have put together strong performances to date. UNC Wilmington (7-1, 24-10, RPI 33), Delaware (9-3, 23-8, RPI 37) and William and Mary (6-3, 22-13, RPI 31) each has a strong RPI for at-large consideration. We think two of the three will advance to the NCAA tourney. We’re picking the Seahawks to capture the automatic bid, and we’re giving the Tribe a slight edge for the at-large spot based on a series win over the Blue Hens. Delaware takes a 13-game win streak to UNCW this weekend in a huge series.

Conference USA (2) – If bids were going out today, there might only be one for Conference USA. We think two will work their way into contention. Houston (6-3, 24-9, RPI 42) and Rice (6-2, 24-11, RPI 57) are tied for first and we expect both to win enough down the stretch to earn bids. The Owls host UCF (4-5, 18-16) this weekend.


Great West (0) – Many thought Utah Valley (3-1, 12-18) deserved an at-large bid a year ago, but no team will sniff a bid in this final season for the Great West. No team has a winning overall record and Houston Baptist (3-1, 13-14-1) owns the top RPI at 217.


Horizon (1) – Preseason favorite Valparaiso (2-7, 11-19) sits at the bottom of the standings. Milwaukee (8-4, 12-14) occupies first, with UIC (5-4, 15-14), Youngstown State (5-4, 9-23) and Wright State (4-5, 14-16) not far behind. We think the Panthers will prevail in a very competitive conference tournament.


Ivy (1) – The teams have finished their cross-division doubleheaders and will play four-game series against division-mates over the next three weekends. The Lou Gehrig Division looks to be the stronger side, with Columbia (6-2, 14-15), Penn (5-3, 19-11), Cornell (5-3, 17-10) and Princeton (5-3, 8-20) all within a game of each other. Dartmouth (4-4, 18-6, RPI 93) should be able to fatten its conference record against Yale (3-5, 6-19), Harvard (3-5, 6-22) and Brown (1-7, 3-20). We think the Big Green will end up with the top conference mark and will host and win the Ivy League Championship.


Metro Atlantic (1)Rider (5-1, 18-12) has risen to the top of the standings after its three-game sweep of Canisius (4-5, 21-10). The Broncs play at preseason favorite Manhattan (5-4, 14-15) this weekend. We think Rider represents the MAAC this season in the NCAA Tournament.


Mid-American (1) – Buffalo (6-3, 16-13) is second in the Eastern Division and is the only team above .500 overall. Miami (7-2, 14-15) leads the East and Northern Illinois (6-3, 11-19) is on top in the West. Even though it has struggled to this point against an aggressive schedule, we think Kent State (6-3, 14-16) returns to form and wins the MAC Tournament. The Golden Flashes play at Miami this weekend, while NIU entertains Western Michigan (5-4, 11-20) in a meeting of the top two teams in the West.


Mid-Eastern (1) Bethune-Cookman (10-5, 20-17) hasn’t dominated as in years past, but is still the team to beat in the MEAC. B-CU hosts continually improving NC Central (9-6, 21-15) this weekend in a key Southern Division series. Delaware State (10-2, 21-10) owns a four-game lead in the Northern Division and, along with Central, should give the Wildcats their toughest tourney challenge. We believe B-CU finds a way to win again.


Missouri Valley (1)Creighton (5-1, 18-6, RPI 49) sits in first after its first two conference series. Missouri State (4-2, 19-9, RPI 81) is just a game behind and we believe the Bears will be the team to beat down the stretch. Creighton plays at Indiana State (4-5, 14-13, RPI 92) this weekend.


Mountain West (1) – With TCU gone, it looks to be wide open in the Mountain West. San Diego State (8-4, 17-16, RPI 58) and New Mexico (8-4, 17-16, RPI 91) are currently tied for first. We think third-place UNLV (7-5, 22-10, RPI 69) will catch fire and win the MWC Tournament. The Rebels host Nevada this weekend.


Northeast (1) Bryant (8-0, 19-9-1) has been a beast of late, winning 14 straight contests. The Bulldogs are perfect so far in NEC play, just ahead of second-place Monmouth (9-3, 17-12, RPI 100). We think Bryant continues to batter the opposition and advance to the NCAA Tournament, with the Hawks its biggest challenger.


Ohio Valley (1) – The top four teams in the OVC are within two games of each other. Belmont (10-2, 23-8) and Tennessee Tech (12-3, 23-10) hold the top two spots, followed by Jacksonville State (9-3, 17-16) and Austin Peay (8-3, 25-9, RPI 27). We think the Govs will be last team standing at the OVC tourney and have a shot at an at-large if they fail to win the tourney. Belmont entertains SIUE (6-9, 8-19) this weekend, while Tennessee Tech faces Eastern Illinois (3-8, 12-18).


Pac-12 (5) – The state of Oregon has two of the top teams in the nation with Oregon State (7-2, 25-6, RPI 1) and Oregon (9-3, 24-8, RPI 7). Both have eyes on securing a national seed. If Arizona State (6-6, 20-9-1, RPI 9) can move up from its fifth-place spot in the Pac-12, it could host a regional. UCLA (7-5, 20-9, RPI 22) is solid in the field for now. Stanford (5-4, 17-10, RPI 75) wouldn’t get in today, but we think it puts together enough wins to earn an at-large bid. Arizona (6-6, 21-11, RPI 87), Washington State (4-5, 17-13, RPI 95) and California (5-7, 16-16, RPI 66) have work to do to return to the at-large picture.


Patriot (1) Holy Cross (6-2, 14-18) is the only team to win each of its first two series in the Patriot League. We think the Crusaders continue to have success and move on to the NCAA tourney. Holy Cross hosts Navy (4-4, 17-17) this weekend.

Southeastern (10) – The SEC will have 12 of its 14 teams in the conference tournament, but we don’t think all 12 will earn NCAA tourney bids. Vanderbilt (11-1, 30-4, RPI 2) and LSU (11-1, 32-2, RPI 3) each lead their division by three games and are strong candidates for national seeds. South Carolina (8-4, 27-7, RPI 11), Mississippi State (5-7, 27-9, RPI 14), Ole Miss (4-8, 23-10, RPI 18) and Kentucky (6-6, 23-9, RPI 20) will hope to host regionals. Florida (5-7, 16-18, RPI 15) still needs to get over .500, but we think the Gators will do that. We think Texas A&M (6-6, 21-13, RPI 24), Alabama (8-4, 22-13, RPI 34) and Arkansas (8-4, 24-10, RPI 48) also earn bids.


Southern (2) – This is another interesting season in the Southern Conference as teams jockey for position. Elon (12-6, 20-15, RPI 74) and Georgia Southern (10-5, 21-11, RPI 45) are currently tied for first, with College of Charleston (9-5, 18-14, RPI 59) not far behind. Four other teams are within three games of first. It should be a strong finish and should again be a competitive tournament. We expect the Phoenix and Eagles to survive and advance to the NCAA Tournament, and the Cougars will make a push. Elon has an important non-conference series at Louisville this weekend, while Georgia Southern hosts The Citadel (6-6, 17-17),


Southland (2) Southeastern Louisiana (7-2, 23-11, RPI 54) and Sam Houston State (7-2, 19-13, RPI 53) are tied for first, just a game ahead to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6-3, 19-13) and Stephen F. Austin (6-3, 16-16). Central Arkansas (4-5, 24-8, RPI 47) has the best overall record and top RPI in the league, but sits in sixth primarily from being swept at Oral Roberts (4-5, 9-22) to start conference play. We expect the Lions and Bearkats to prevail in the always competitive Southland. But keep an eye on Central Arkansas.


Southwestern (1)Jackson State (12-3, 18-16) has built a two-game lead in the East over Alabama State (10-5, 19-17), while Southern (8-7, 12-14) sits narrowly ahead of Grambling State (7-7, 13-18), Prairie View A&M (6-6, 16-14) and Texas Southern (6-6, 14-15). We think JSU will outlast the competition and capture the SWAC title, moving on to the NCAA tourney.


Summit (1) – The bully is gone. After Oral Roberts won 15 straight titles, the Golden Eagles have moved on to the WAC. The Summit appears to be wide open. Omaha (4-0, 10-15) holds down first over South Dakota State (2-2, 14-11), North Dakota State (2-2, 14-13) and Oakland (2-2, 7-21) after the first weekend of conference play. We think the Jackrabbits will eventually come out on top.


Sun Belt (2) – These teams are beating up on each other, as no team has fewer than four losses after four conference series. Florida Atlantic (8-4, 22-11, RPI 46) and Western Kentucky (8-4, 18-15, RPI 86) are tied for first, with Troy (7-5, 23-9, RPI 62) and South Alabama (7-5, 24-10, RPI 23) both a game back. We think the Owls and Jaguars will end up as the top two teams, with Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, 22-10, RPI 40) pushing for a bid. WKU hosts Troy in the top conference series this weekend.


West Coast (2) Gonzaga (8-4, 20-10-1, RPI 70) and Pepperdine (6-3, 18-13, RPI 82) are tied for first, with Loyola Marymount (7-5, 17-15, RPI 50), San Diego (5-4, 19-13, RPI 28) and San Francisco (5-4, 17-15, RPI 78) close on their heels. We think the Zags will win the WCC tourney and the Toreros will pick up an at-large bid. Pepperdine visits USD this weekend.


Western Athletic (1) – We thought there was a chance that this year’s collection in the WAC could make for a strong baseball conference. But it looks to be a one-bid league. CSU Bakersfield (6-3, 21-13) and UT Arlington (6-3, 16-15) are currently tied for first after three series. We think the Roadrunners will be the last team standing and reach the NCAA Tournament.


Last five in: Stanford, Kansas, Michigan State, Elon, Gonzaga


First five out: Delaware, Creighton, Texas, Arizona, College of Charleston