April 26, 2013

Field of Dreamers


Maydness is Not Far Away


By Sean Ryan & Phil Stanton

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball

phil@collegebaseballinsider.com @roadtoomaha


Maydness is quickly approaching.


May Madness, or Maydness, begins next weekend. The Ivy League Championship Series will determine the first bid for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Patriot League will hold its semifinal series, putting another team one step closer to a regional.


This year has been especially difficult to pick the potential tourney field. Typically, RPI values match up pretty well with conference standings. But that is definitely not the case this year. The Big East and Big 12 are perfect examples. This could change by Selection Monday, but if it does not, it will make for some interesting decisions for the committee. Will more weight be placed on conference standings or on RPI?


Without further ado, here’s our latest look the Field of 64 (happy teams in bold). Records and RPIs (courtesy of www.BoydsWorld.com) are through games of April 24.


America East (1)Maine (13-4, 24-15) continues to look like the team to beat in the league. Defending champion Stony Brook (7-11, 15-27) still has work to do to make the conference tourney field. We expect the Black Bears to take the regular-season crown and win the conference tournament. Maine hosts Hartford (9-9, 12-26) this weekend.

ACC (8) – There are eight teams in the Top 22 in RPI and we expect this octet will make the ACC and NCAA tourney fields. North Carolina (18-2, 40-3, RPI 1), Virginia (16-5, 37-6, RPI 3), Florida State (13-8, 32-9, RPI 7), and NC State (14-7, 33-10, RPI 9) are all battling to be national seeds. The Tar Heels and Wolfpack, the two division leaders, meet in Raleigh in the top series this weekend. Miami (10-11, 28-16, RPI 17), Clemson (13-8, 28-13, RPI 12), Virginia Tech (9-12, 25-17, RPI 15) and Georgia Tech (11-10, 27-14, RPI 22) should all be safely in. Virginia plays at Virginia Tech and Clemson hosts Georgia Tech in two key series.


Atlantic Sun (2) – FGCU (8-7, 22-16, RPI 69) has taken a huge tumble over the past two weeks, dropping to fourth in the league and falling out of the at-large picture. North Florida (11-4, 29-12, RPI 63) has sole possession of first, with Mercer (12-6, 33-12, RPI 27) close behind in second. The Ospreys own a series win over the Bears and we’re split on who will grab the automatic bid, with Phil taking UNF and Sean taking Mercer. The Bears should be strong enough to be included in the NCAA tourney if they don’t win the conference title. The Ospreys play at Jacksonville (7-8, 14-26) this weekend, while the Bears visit USC Upstate (8-10, 24-19).


Atlantic 10 (1) Saint Louis (11-1, 29-11) continues to impress, building a 1.5-game lead over La Salle (11-4, 18-20). Rhode Island (9-3, 24-17) sits two games back, while Charlotte (8-4, 24-18) and Xavier (8-4, 21-18) are three games behind. We expect the Billikens to continue their strong play and reach the NCAA tourney. SLU visits Richmond (7-5, 24-15) this weekend and URI plays at Xavier.


Big East (2) – This is an example of conference standings and RPI not matching up. USF (10-2, 26-15) sits in first, but has an RPI of 93. Notre Dame (4-8, 23-16) has an RPI of 33, but languishes in ninth place. Louisville (8-4, 30-10, RPI 25) is third and should earn an at-large bid if it doesn’t win the conference tourney. We expect Pittsburgh (9-3, 29-10, RPI 56) to have a strong finish, placing in the top two in the league and being the second representative from the Big East. The conference tournament should be interesting, as Seton Hall (7-5, 23-16, RPI 45), Rutgers (8-7, 20-19, RPI 51) and Connecticut (8-7, 25-16, RPI 91) should all be factors. And the Big East, thanks to some solid RPIs, could snag a third team in a few weeks. This weekend has USF hosting St. John’s (7-8, 19-23), Cincinnati (4-11, 17-22) at Pitt and Georgetown (5-7, 23-15) at Louisville.

Big South (2)Coastal Carolina (11-4, 25-16, RPI 50) is not as dominating as in the past. The Chanticleers do lead the South Division, but lost a conference series to Radford (9-6, 23-17) this past weekend. Campbell (14-4, 37-8, RPI 39) is on top in the North Division and will challenge Coastal Carolina for the conference crown. We expect both to make the NCAA tournament as well. This weekend, Campbell plays at High Point (9-6, 22-22), while the Chanticleers visit Presbyterian (8-7, 22-20, RPI 99).

Big Ten (2) – Minnesota (7-2, 24-13, RPI 89) sits on top, but lost a key conference series with Michigan State (5-4, 22-12, RPI 26) to the weather this past weekend. Nebraska (11-4, 19-20, RPI 42) is percentage points behind the Gophers, but must get over .500 to enter the at-large picture. MSU and Indiana (8-4, 31-8, RPI 14) look good for NCAA tourney bids. The Hoosiers will have a chance to host a Regional if they continue their success. IU hosts Michigan (8-4, 22-17) this weekend in the league’s top series.


Big 12 (3) – What a puzzling season for the Big 12. It’s going to have to fight to get more than two bids and it looks like all will have to travel for regionals. Oklahoma (8-4, 31-10, RPI 40) is in pretty solid shape. Right now, we expect second-place Kansas (9-6, 25-15, RPI 49) and third-place Kansas State (7-5, 29-13, RPI 28) to join the party. Oklahoma State (7-7, 28-11, RPI 66) has a strong record and a series win over Kansas State and could make a push - it has a series with the Sooners in May. Texas (5-10, 22-17, RPI 48) has an RPI worthy of at-large consideration, but is tied for last in the league standings. On this weekend’s slate, OU hosts Texas Tech (5-10, 19-22), the Jayhawks travel to West Virginia (6-6, 24-18, RPI 98) and the Wildcats welcome TCU (7-8, 19-21).

Big West (2)Cal State Fullerton (10-2, 34-6, RPI 5) is the top team in the league and will be in the discussion for a national seed. Cal Poly (7-5, 27-11, RPI 31) won one of three against the Titans and is in good position for an at-large bid. UC Irvine (7-5, 25-12, RPI 78) has seed its RPI tumble over the past two weeks and needs a strong finish to have a shot at an at-large spot. The Anteaters still have a series with the Titans in May. Fullerton plays at Hawaii (3-9, 8-27), second-place Cal State Northridge (8-4, 22-18) hosts Pacific (3-9, 10-25), the Mustangs travel to Long Beach State (7-5, 18-20) and UCI entertains UC Davis (3-9, 15-23).


Colonial (2) UNC Wilmington (12-2, 31-11, RPI 21) holds down first place and picked up a win at No. 1 North Carolina this week to strengthen its NCAA resume. Second-place Delaware (11-7, 26-14, RPI 58) dropped significantly in RPI, but will still be a threat in the conference tourney. William and Mary (9-6, 26-16, RPI 32) is still in good shape for an at-large spot and could help itself by working up to second place. UNCW plays at Towson (9-6, 19-20) this weekend, while the Blue Hens host Old Dominion (11-10, 21-20) and the Tribe entertains George Mason (5-16, 14-29).

Conference USA (2) – Second-place Rice (9-6, 28-14, RPI 43) looks to be the C-USA team solidly in the NCAA tourney field. If the Owls win the regular-season and tournament crowns, they may be the lone NCAA tourney team. Southern Miss (10-5, 21-19, RPI 85) is in first, but doesn’t have a strong enough RPI for at-large consideration. Houston (7-5, 27-14, RPI 61) should work its way back into a bid and is talented enough to win the conference tournament. Rice is off this weekend for final exams, while the Golden Eagles host UAB (3-9, 17-25) and the Cougars travel to UCF (8-7, 22-19).


Great West (0) – Texas-Pan American (10-2, 19-18) has been impressive in league play, one game ahead of Northern Colorado (9-3, 18-17). But no team will have a strong enough resume for at-large consideration.


Horizon (1) – Preseason favorite Valparaiso (4-8, 15-23) remains in fifth, with Milwaukee (8-4, 15-16) on top. We expect the Panthers to prevail in the league tournament. UWM hosts second-place UIC (8-7, 19-18) this weekend.


Ivy (1) – This is the final weekend of league play prior to next week’s championship series. Dartmouth (11-5, 27-7) needs just one win over second-place Harvard (7-9, 10-26) to win the Red Rolfe Division for the sixth straight year. Columbia (12-4, 20-19) also needs one victory over Penn (7-9, 22-17) to take the Lou Gehrig Division. The team with the better league record will host the championship series. Whether at home or on the road, we expect the Big Green to take the title.


Metro Atlantic (1)Rider (9-3, 24-15) plays at Siena (9-3, 18-22) this weekend in a battle for first, while Marist (11-4, 20-15) travels to Canisius (7-5, 29-10, RPI 95) with both teams eying that top spot. We’ll take the Broncs to outlast the competition and win the MAAC tourney.


Mid-American (1) – There might be a changing of the guard in the MAC. Buffalo (11-4, 21-17) swept a three-game set from defending champion Kent State (9-6, 20-20) this past weekend to take over first place in the Eastern Division. Northern Illinois (11-4, 16-22) holds a three-game lead in the West. For now we’re split again, with the Bulls being Phil’s pick and the Flashes being Sean’s pick for conference champ. Buffalo plays at Akron (6-9, 9-29) this weekend, while KSU entertains Bowling Green (8-7, 14-20) and NIU hosts Miami (9-6, 19-20).


Mid-Eastern (1) Bethune-Cookman (15-6, 28-19, RPI 86) holds a slim lead over Savannah State (12-5, 24-18) in the Southern Division, while Delaware State (16-2, 27-12) enjoys a six-game bulge over Norfolk State (10-8, 15-22) in the North prior to their meeting this weekend. We’ll pick the Wildcats to prevail and claim another MEAC crown.


Missouri Valley (1)Missouri State (8-4, 25-11, RPI 81) is tied with Wichita State (9-3, 24-19) for first, a notch ahead of Creighton (8-4, 22-9, RPI 57) and Illinois State (6-3, 24-16). For now, the Bears are the pick to take the title. MSU plays at Evansville (6-6, 15-27) this weekend, while WSU heads to Southern Illinois (2-10, 19-21).


Mountain West (1) – New Mexico (14-4, 24-16, RPI 71) has won six straight conference games to build a three-game lead over second-place UNLV (11-7, 27-13, RPI 62) prior to their series this weekend at Albuquerque. Phil likes the Rebels, while Sean likes the Lobos for now.


Northeast (1) Bryant (13-3, 25-13) lost a series to Sacred Heart (14-6, 19-17) this past weekend to end its 19-game win streak and trim its NEC lead to one game. We still feel that the Bulldogs are the best team. Bryant hosts LIU Brooklyn (10-6, 14-23) this weekend, while Sacred Heart travels to Monmouth (14-6, 24-17).


Ohio Valley (2) – We think the OVC is in position for two NCAA tourney bids. Belmont (14-4, 28-11) and Jacksonville State (14-4, 22-19) are tied for first, with Tennessee Tech (16-5, 29-12) just behind. Austin Peay (11-6, 30-12, RPI 24) sits in fourth and boasta a terrific RPI. We’ll take the Golden Eagles to win the conference tourney and the Govs to pick up an at-large bid. This weekend, Belmont hosts Eastern Illinois (5-12, 15-22), JSU travels to Southeast Missouri (12-9, 20-22), TTU entertains Murray State (6-12, 17-23) and APSU heads to Eastern Kentucky (19-8, 14-24).


Pac-12 (5) Oregon State (11-4, 31-8, RPI 6) and Oregon (13-5, 30-10, RPI 8) continue to be the top two teams in the league and two of the best in the nation. Both have great chances to be national seeds. UCLA (9-6, 25-12, RPI 20) and Arizona State (8-7, 25-12, RPI 19) are both solid at-large teams. Stanford (9-6, 23-12, RPI 84) is tied for third and that should offset its weak RPI for an at-large spot - that RPI should improve with upcoming series against OSU, UCLA and ASU after visiting Oregon this weekend. Arizona (9-9, 25-14, RPI 68) is still an at-large possibility, but needs a strong finish. The Beavers host USC (9-10, 16-23) this weekend, with the Bruins heading to Washington State (6-9, 19-18) and the Sun Devils at Utah (5-13, 16-20).


Patriot (1) – First-place Holy Cross (12-4, 22-21) travels to second-place Army (10-6, 20-18) this weekend to determine the regular-season champ on this final weekend of league play. We expect the Crusaders to prevail as Patriot League champs.

Southeastern (10) – We still expect 10 bids to come from the SEC. LSU (15-3, 38-4, RPI 2) and Vanderbilt (16-2, 36-6, RPI 4) both hold sizable leads in their divisions and are in great position to be national seeds. Mississippi State (10-8, 33-10, RPI 10), South Carolina (11-7, 31-11, RPI 16), Florida (10-8, 23-19, RPI 17) and Ole Miss (10-8, 30-12, RPI 18) are in the mix to host regionals. Alabama (9-9, 25-18, RPI 29) and Kentucky (7-11, 24-16, RPI 30) are solid. Arkansas (11-7, 27-15, RPI 59) is second in the West, but needs to pump up its RPI. We’re giving Auburn (6-12, 24-16, RPI 37) the 10th spot for now. Texas A&M (7-11, 22-20, RPI 44) needs to add wins to return to the at-large picture. South Carolina plays at LSU and Vandy heads to Mississippi State in the top series of the weekend.


Southern (1) – As competitive as the Southern Conference is, it looks like the tourney champ will receive the league’s lone bid. That should make that SoCon tournament extremely intense. Western Carolina (15-6, 27-17, RPI 82) holds first, just ahead of Elon (14-7, 22-21, RPI 77) and The Citadel (12-6, 25-17, RPI 72). College of Charleston (12-8, 22-18, RPI 65) and Appalachian State (10-10, 22-15, RPI 90) are still within striking distance. We’ll pick Elon as the team to emerge for now. The Phoenix plays at Georgia Southern (10-11, 21-19) in the weekend’s top series.


Southland (2) – What a great race, as seven teams are within two games of first. Stephen F. Austin (10-5, 23-18) sits on top of the standings, with four teams one game back: Lamar (9-6, 30-11, RPI 46), Southeastern Louisiana (9-6, 26-16, RPI 79), Sam Houston State (9-6, 24-17, RPI 74) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (9-6, 23-17). Central Arkansas (8-7, 29-10, RPI 36) and Oral Roberts (8-7, 13-25) are just two games behind. This should be a great sprint for the regular-season and tournament crowns. We’ll put Lamar and SHSU in for now, but this could change several times over the next five weeks, especially considering Central Arkansas’ strong RPI. SFA plays at Lamar and TAMUCC heads to SLU for the weekend’s top series.


Southwestern (1)Jackson State (16-5, 23-18) holds a one-game lead in the East over Alabama State (15-6, 27-19), while Southern (12-9, 17-17) sits narrowly ahead of Prairie View A&M (8-7, 19-18), Arkansas Pine Bluff (8-7, 15-25) and Texas Southern (9-9, 17-21). We expect JSU to take the SWAC title. Prairie View A&M heads to Southern for the top weekend series.


Summit (1) – Omaha (8-0, 14-16) owns a three-game lead over South Dakota State (5-3, 19-12). We think the Jackrabbits are the best team and will capture the crown. SDSU hosts Oakland (4-6, 9-25) this weekend, while Omaha entertains North Dakota State (3-3, 15-15).


Sun Belt (3) – This is another great race, as six teams sit within two games of first. South Alabama (12-6, 31-12, RPI 13) has risen to the top, with Troy (11-7, 30-11, RPI 52), Florida Atlantic (11-7, 26-15, RPI 34) and Western Kentucky (11-7, 22-19, RPI 67) all a game back. Louisiana-Lafayette (10-8, 29-13, RPI 23) and FIU (10-8, 22-17) trail by just two games. We expect the Jaguars, Owls and Ragin’ Cajuns to earn NCAA tourney bids, but it could change multiple times in the next few weeks. Troy plays at FAU and ULL goes to FIU in the weekend’s top series.


West Coast (2) Gonzaga (13-5, 26-13, RPI 97) now holds a narrow lead over a quartet of second-place teams: San Diego (9-6, 25-16, RPI 35), Pepperdine (9-6, 21-17, RPI 80), San Francisco (9-6, 22-18) and Loyola Marymount (9-6, 21-19, RPI 46). We have Gonzaga in, despite the low RPI, joining San Diego. The Bulldogs host BYU this weekend, while USD entertains USF.


Western Athletic (1)CSU Bakersfield (11-4, 28-14, RPI 64) owns a one-game lead over UT Arlington (10-5, 22-19) for the top spot in the WAC. We’ll see if the Roadrunners can run away from the field and straight into the NCAA tournament. CSUB plays at Texas State (9-6, 18-22) this weekend.


Last five in: Houston, Pittsburgh, North Florida, Gonzaga, Tennessee Tech


First five out: Troy, Loyola Marymount, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, UC Irvine


(photo courtesy of Wofford Media Relations)