Conference Tournament Capsules

Breakdowns of every Division I conference tournament




ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

Site: Jacksonville, Fla.

Dates: May 21-25

Format: Round-robin play within two pools of four teams. Team with the best record from each bracket advances to title game.

The Field: Division A bracket: No. 1 Miami, No. 4 North Carolina State, No. 5 Georgia Tech, No. 8 Clemson.

Division B bracket: No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 North Carolina, No. 6 Virginia, No. 7 Wake Forest.

Who's Hot: Defending champion North Carolina has not lost a weekend series all year and won two out of three at Miami to finish the regular season. That series knocked the Hurricanes out of the top spot in the top 25 rankings and elevated the Tar Heels to No. 1.

Wins and losses have come in bunches for Clemson, which closed the regular season riding its fourth five-game winning streak of the season. But only one of those wins—a win in the finale of a series loss to Georgia Tech on May 11, was in conference play.

Who's Not: Virginia lost its final three regular-season series against Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, going 2-7 in those three weekends.

Bubble Watch: The ACC boasts three of the top four teams in the rankings, but only the league's top five teams are sure-fire regional teams. Through Sunday, Virginia ranked 21st in the Ratings Percentage Index, according to warrennolan.com, but that does not assure the Cavaliers a regional bid. Virginia's problem is a lack of quality wins: the Cavs have yet to win a series against a regional contender, and their best series win is against Wake Forest. At the very least, the Cavaliers need to win two games this week, including one against either North Carolina or Florida State.

Clemson has a similarly strong RPI (24) and a similar lack of quality wins, but at least the Tigers won a series against a good N.C. State team. The Tigers also have a total of five midweek wins against strong regional contenders Elon, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina. Clemson's trouble is its conference record—at 11-18, the Tigers barely squeaked into the ACC tournament field. Clemson needs to reach the ACC championship game to feel good about its chances to secure an at-large bid, but two wins in pool play might be enough, because not many other teams competing for the final few at-large spots can match Clemson's eight wins against likely regional teams (counting the lone win in the Georgia Tech series).

The Favorite: North Carolina has already won series against the other two ACC superpowers, Miami and Florida State. The Tar Heels shut down the potent Seminoles in a tight, low-scoring series in Cary, N.C., then out-slugged the potent Hurricanes in a high-scoring series in Miami. That's an illustration of UNC's excellent balance and a testament to its experience and poise. And with one of the nation's deepest pitching staffs, the Tar Heels are well-equipped to play four games in four days.

The Darkhorse: Georgia Tech has played its best baseball down the stretch, winning its last four weekend series. The Yellow Jackets are capable of slugging their way through pool play, as evidenced by their ACC-leading 86 home runs, and they've also got four talented starters in David Duncan, Zach Von Tersch, Deck McGuire and Eddie Burns—all of whom won at least seven games in the regular season.

AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE

Site: Farmingdale, N.Y.

Dates: May 22-25.

Format: Four teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Binghamton (host), No. 2 Stony Brook, No. 3 Maryland-Baltimore County, No. 4 Vermont.

Who's Hot: Binghamton won its final six weekend series—difficult to do with America East's four-game series structure—to vault past Stony Brook for the regular-season crown

Who's Not: Stony Brook stumbled down the stretch, dropping four-game series to Lafayette and Albany and splitting a set against UMBC in the final three weeks.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will represent the one-bid America East in the NCAA tournament.

The Favorite: Binghamton has the momentum and the regular-season title, but we're dubbing Stony Brook the favorite—after all, the last series the Bearcats lost was a four-game sweep at the hands of the Seawolves in early April. Stony Brook has the league's best arm in senior righthander Tom Koehler (6-4, 3.78), who is capable of dominating with a four-pitch mix highlighted by a fastball up to 94. His 98 strikeouts in 83 innings led the league by 26. Also keep an eye on switch-hitting center fielder Brian Witkowski (.364/.449/.631 with nine homers ant 12 steals), an above-average runner with surprising pop in his compact 5-foot-11 frame.

The Darkhorse: Vermont is balanced and dangerous, with a strong weekend rotation of Joe Serafin (6-4, 2.66), Justin Albert (5-4, 3.72) and Eric Thompson (6-1, 3.96). The Catamounts also have a pair of dynamic athletes in Justin Milo and Kyle Massie, who ranked first and second in the league with eight triples and seven triples, respectively.

ATLANTIC-10 CONFERENCE

Site: Camden, NJ.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Xavier, No. 2 Charlotte, No. 3 Duquesne, No. 4 Temple, No. 5 Rhode Island, No. 6 St. Bonaventure.

Who's Hot: Charlotte won eight of its final nine regular-season games to tie Xavier atop the regular-season standings, but the Musketeers won the head-to-head series earlier in the year to earn the top seed. The 49ers got a walk-off homer from senior catcher Chris Taylor—the A-10's co-player of the year—in the 10th inning of their regular-season finale against Rhode Island to claim a share of the conference title.

Who's Not: Duquesne went 3-5-1 down the stretch and dropped its final two regular-season games at Dayton.

Bubble Watch: Charlotte is the only team with a chance to earn an at-large bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. The 49ers have posted back-to-back 40-win seasons for the first time in school history, and their RPI (53) gives them a decent at-large chance as long as they don't have an early exit in Camden.

The Favorite: Charlotte has the league's best offense, led by bashers Taylor (18 home runs) and Rob Lyerly (14 homers). Seven regulars batted .335 or better, and veterans Brad McElroy, Shayne Moody and Aaron Bray have the experience of being mainstays on Charlotte's 2007 regional team. The pitching staff isn't as dominant as it was a year ago, when it led the nation with a 2.64 ERA, but freshman righthander Joe Yermal (8-1, 3.56) has emerged as a strong candidate to follow in the footsteps of Adam Mills as the next great Charlotte ace.

The Darkhorse: It's strange to think of the top seed as a darkhorse, but it would be a major upset if anyone other than Charlotte won the A-10 tournament. Xavier has the best shot at toppling the 49ers, though. The Musketeers will need ace lefthander Charlie Leesman (2-5, 4.64), perhaps the league's best arm, to pitch better than he has recently. Give Xavier an edge in close games thanks to lights-out closer Jordan Conley (2-1, 1.31 with nine saves).

ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE

Site: DeLand, Fla.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Lipscomb, No. 2 Mercer, No. 3 Belmont, No. 4 Gardner-Webb, No. 5 Stetson (host), No. 6 Campbell.

Who's Hot: Defending champion and perennial league power Stetson might have salvaged a rough season by winning its final five games, including a sweep at East Tennessee State, to get into the tournament it is hosting as a No. 5 seed.

Who's Not: Campbell limped into the postseason, losing 11 of its final 14 games, but the Camels did squeak into the conference tournament by taking two of three against Lipscomb in the season's final weekend.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will be the lone NCAA tournament team in the one-bid A-Sun.

The Favorite: Provisional A-Sun members Florida Gulf Coast and Kennesaw State finished first and second in the regular season, and Lipscomb actually finished six games behind the Eagles in the standings, but the two top dogs won't be eligible for the conference tournament until 2010. So make Lipscomb the favorite by default. The Bison have one of the league's most dangerous hitters in junior catcher Caleb Joseph (.345/.409/.618 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs), and their 5.23 ERA is the best among A-Sun tournament qualifiers. Junior righthander Brandon McClurg (6-5, 2.70) might be the best pitcher in the tournament.

The Darkhorse: Never count out the Hatters, especially in DeLand. Stetson's lineup features a potent one-two punch in Justin Bass (.414/.483/.687 with 11 homers, 45 RBIs and 17 steals) and Jeremy Cruz (.401/.456/.712 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs), and the Hatters are entirely capable of bashing their way through a tournament that should be very offensive.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

Site: Ann Arbor, Mich.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Purdue, No. 3 Penn State, No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Indiana.

Who's Hot: The top-seeded Wolverines have won three straight weekend series and nine of their last 10 games overall.

Indiana won its last six games, including a four-game sweep at Michigan State, to edge Northwestern for the final spot in the Big Ten tournament.

Who's Not: Illinois has lost five of its last six, including three out of four at home to Purdue. The Illini have surrendered 11 or more runs in each of their last four losses.

Bubble Watch: Michigan is the lone Big Ten team in position to earn an at-large bid if it does not win the conference tournament. But the Wolverines have bigger things on their minds this weekend; if they can run through the conference tournament, they have a good chance to host a regional at sparkling Ray Fisher Stadium.

The Favorite: The Wolverines have won three straight Big Ten regular-season titles, but hosting the conference tournament proved little advantage last year, when they went 0-2. This year, Michigan was by far the class of the league, winning the regular-season crown by five games over Purdue and 9 1/2 games over third-place Penn State. UM boasts the league's two best starting pitchers in righthanders Zach Putnam (7-0, 2.64) and Chris Fetter (9-1, 2.49). The deep, talented lineup is anchored by the league's premier slugger, senior catcher/first baseman Nate Recknagel (.381/.471/.787 with 23 home runs and 68 RBIs).

The Darkhorse: Indiana has stood toe-to-toe with the league's two top teams in the regular season, splitting four games with Michigan and winning three out of four against Purdue. Catcher Josh Phegley (.436/.514/.733 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs) headlines an offense that finished second in the Big Ten in batting (.337). The Hoosiers will need to slug their way through the tournament, because they lack reliable arms after ace lefty Matt Bashore (7-3, 3.16).

BIG 12 CONFERENCE

Site: Oklahoma City.

Dates: May 21-25.

Format: Round-robin play within two pools of four teams. Team with the best record from each bracket advances to title game.

The Field: Pool A: No. 1 Texas A&M, No. 4 Missouri, No. 5 Texas, No. 8 Oklahoma.

Pool B: No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Kansas State.

Who's Hot: Texas has won its last three weekend series, nine of its last 10 games and six games in a row. After battling inconsistent pitching for most of the year, the Longhorns' rotation seems to have stabilized behind freshman Chance Ruffin and juniors Austin Wood and Kenn Kasparek.

Missouri has won three straight weekend series and five of its last six series. The Tigers swept Nebraska in the final weekend.

Who's Not: Texas A&M limped to the regular-season title, losing its final six games, including series to Nebraska and Texas. The Aggies' vaunted offense scored just seven runs in the three-game sweep at the hands of the Longhorns.

Bubble Watch: The top five seeds are safe for regionals, but Baylor is very much on the bubble. The Bears lost their final four weekend series to finish a meager 11-16 in conference play, and their lone series win against a regional contender was in mid-March against Oklahoma State. The Bears need to win at least two games to have even a chance at an at-large bid, but anything less than an appearance in the Big 12 title game might not be enough.

The Favorite: Any of the top four teams could realistically be dubbed the favorite, but we're going with fourth-seeded Missouri, which has the conference's best starting pitching, led by ace righthander Aaron Crow (12-0, 2.66) and sophomore righty Kyle Gibson (8-1, 3.43). Missouri's underrated offense has some thunder with sluggers Jacob Priday (15 homers) and Aaron Senne (13 homers).

The Darkhorse: On paper, Baylor is talented enough to win the tournament, but its stars have largely underachieved all year long. Still, it's entirely possible that talented sophomores Aaron Miller, Dustin Dickerson, Raynor Campbell and Shaver Hansen get hot and carry the Bears all the way through. Baylor has enough quality arms to be competitive with righthanders Kendal Volz (3-5, 4.13), Shawn Tolleson (5-4, 5.00), Willie Kempf (6-2, 4.00) and Craig Fritsch (3-3, 3.75).

BIG EAST CONFERENCE

Site: Clearwater, Fla.

Dates: May 20-24.

Format: Eight teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 St. John's, No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 Seton Hall, No. 6 South Florida, No. 7 West Virginia, No. 8 Villanova.

Who's Hot: Cincinnati won its last three weekend series and five games in a row overall to finish just a game behind St. John's in the regular-season standings. Big East co-player of the year Josh Harrison (.372/.433/.547 with 29 stolen bases) leads a group of five Bearcats who earned all-conference honors. The Bearcats racked up a Big East-leading 123 stolen bases in the regular season (led by outfielder Tony Campana's 44), and their team speed is an X-factor in Clearwater. Cincinnati got off to a good start with an 11-5 win over West Virginia on Tuesday.

Who's Not: Notre Dame lost its final six games to fall to third place in the regular-season standings. The Fighting Irish lost three straight one-run games in a sweep at the hands of South Florida in the final weekend.

Bubble Watch: St. John's is the only Big East team assured of an at-large regional bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. With an RPI of 58, Louisville has an outside chance to get in with a strong week in Clearwater even if it doesn't win the conference tournament. Eight early games against Chicago State and Niagara torpedoed Cincinnati's RPI (79), making an at-large bid unlikely. Notre Dame's poor finish and weak RPI (89) destroy its at-large hopes.

The Favorite: St. John's has been the Big East's premier team all season long, and the Red Storm tied school records for wins (41) and conference wins (20). Few teams in the nation, let alone the Big East, can match the Red Storm's deep stable of arms, which is highlighted by lefthanders Scott Barnes (7-3, 3.89) and George Brown (9-0, 2.73). Barnes is the harder thrower, but Brown is a consummate winner who captured Big East pitcher of the year honors. However, the Red Storm opted to start slop-tosser Matt Tosoni in its opener Tuesday against Villanova, and the Johnnies were hammered 12-0. They'll have to run through the loser's bracket if they are to capture the Big East tournament title.

The Darkhorse: Louisville still has three prominent members of its 2007 College World Series team in righthander Zack Pitts (6-5, 4.50), lefty Justin Marks (7-1, 2.08) and Big East co-player of the year Chris Dominguez (.363/.425/.677 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs). Teams will be determined not to let Dominguez beat them this weekend, which means Justin Mcnahan (.351 with eight homers) and Andrew Clark (.316 with five homers) will have to come up big. The Cardinals pounded Seton Hall 12-3 in their opener Tuesday.

BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE

Site: Danville, Va.

Dates: May 20-24.

Format: Eight teams. Bottom four teams play a single-elimination game, with the winners advancing to the six-team double-elimination bracket.

The Field: No. 1 Coastal Carolina, No. 2 Liberty, No. 3 Virginia Military Institute, No. 4 Winthrop, No. 5 High Point (eliminated Tuesday by UNC Asheville), No. 6 Radford, No. 7 Charleston Southern (eliminated Tuesday by Radford), No. 8 UNC Asheville.

Who's Hot: Regular-season champion Coastal Carolina has won five games in a row and did not lose a conference series for the second year in a row.

Liberty finished the season on a 9-1-1 run to earn the No. 2 seed.

Who's Not: High Point went 2-8 down the stretch and tumbled to fifth place in the conference. The Panthers did salvage a win in their regular-season finale against Liberty.

Bubble Watch: Coastal is the only Big South team that will earn a regional bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. The Chanticleers would like to win the Big South tournament to solidify a No. 1 seed in a regional and potentially to host a regional.

The Favorite: Coastal Carolina ace righthander Bobby Gagg missed the last two weeks with a strained oblique muscle, but whether he returns this week or not, the Chanticleers are overwhelming favorites. Coastal led the league by wide margins in batting (.323), home runs (83), stolen bases (87) and ERA (4.02), among other categories.

The Darkhorse: Liberty's stable of power arms racked up a conference-leading 457 strikeouts in 504 innings during the regular season. David Stokes (8-4, 2.89), Ryan Page (4-5, 3.01) and Dustin Umberger (7-3, 4.01) are capable of carrying the Flames to the Big South tournament title.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION

Site: Wilmington, N.C.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 UNC Wilmington, No. 2 James Madison, No. 3 George Mason, No. 4 William & Mary, No. 5 Old Dominion, No. 6 Towson.

Who's Hot: George Mason swept its final weekend series against William & Mary to earn the tournament's No. 3 seed. The Patriots have won eight of their last 10.

Runaway regular-season champion UNC Wilmington has also won eight of its last 10 games, finishing with a series win against Old Dominion.

Who's Not: George Mason has dropped four straight, including the last three to the surging Seahawks. The Patriots have surrendered 13.25 runs per game in the four losses.

Bubble Watch: UNC Wilmington is likely the only team that would earn an at-large bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. The Seahawks have a strong RPI (22) to go along with their gaudy record (41-13, 25-4 in the CAA), and a strong performance this week could solidify them as a No. 2 seed. James Madison has an outside chance at an at-large bid, but a mediocre RPI (64) and a lack of quality wins block their path.

The Favorite: The Seahawks dominated the CAA from wire to wire and are overwhelming favorites to win their second conference tournament title in three years. Led by mashers Mark Carver (21 home runs and 78 RBIs) and Daniel Hargrave (17 homers and 57 RBIs), UNCW led the league with 87 home runs, but the team's true strength is its pitching. Potential top-two-rounds pick Bradley Holt (9-1, 3.40) fronts a staff that posted the league's only sub-5.00 ERA (4.64).

The Darkhorse: Old Dominion, which began the year in the preseason top 25, has had a disappointing season, going 25-25 overall and 14-14 in conference. The Monarchs garnered high expectations because of their talented, experienced pitchers, and righthanders Dan Hudson (5-5, 4.71), Anthony Shawler (5-3, 4.71) and Ryan Bergh (6-5, 3.27) have shown glimmers of their potential down the stretch. Don't be shocked if they carry ODU to the CAA's automatic bid.

CONFERENCE USA

Site: New Orleans

Dates: May 21-25.

Format: Eight teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Rice, No. 2 Southern Mississippi, No. 3 Tulane, No. 4 Houston, No. 5 East Carolina, No. 6 Marshall, No. 7 Central Florida, No. 8 Alabama-Birmingham.

Who's Hot: Rice has won the Conference USA regular-season title by a landslide in each of its three seasons in the league, and the Owls will go for their third straight CUSA tournament title this weekend. Rice has won 10 in a row and 22 of its last 23 games.

Who's Not: UCF started the season 19-1 against a soft nonconference slate, but the Knights' season went into the tank as soon as conference play started. Things only got worse in the second half, as longtime coach Jay Bergmann was fired amidst allegations of improper conduct. The Knights went 8-21 down the stretch and lost their final four regular-season games.

Bubble Watch: The top five seeds should be safely into the NCAA tournament, although Houston could use a strong showing this week just to be safe. The Cougars are 45th in the RPI and were swept three times this season, but they also have quality series wins against Tulane, East Carolina, UC Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Southern Miss needs a very strong showing this weekend to get back into the regional hosting discussion after dropping its final regular-season series against UAB.

The Favorite: In three years, Rice has gone 73-8 in Conference USA, counting its runs to the CUSA tournament title the last two years. The Owls don't have quite as much offensive firepower this year as in their previous two CUSA title teams, but they boast one of the nation's deepest pitching staffs, which will be a major advantaged in a condensed tournament.

The Darkhorse: East Carolina has the league's best offense, leading the league in batting (.319) and home runs (75) during the regular season. Senior catcher Corey Kemp (.358/.453/.637 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs), the CUSA player of the year, leads a deep, experienced lineup with few easy outs. The pitching staff is led by CUSA freshman of the year Set Maness (9-1, 2.79) and newcomer of the year Justin Bristow (8-2, 3.05), but senior righthander T.J. Hose (5-4, 5.35) must rediscover his 2007 form for the Pirates to have a strong chance to win the tournament.

HORIZON LEAGUE

Site: Niles, Ohio.

Dates: May 20-25.

Format: Seven teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Illinois-Chicago, No. 2 Wright State, No. 3 Youngstown State (host), No. 4 Cleveland State, No. 5 Wisconsin-Milwaukee, No. 6 Valparaiso, No. 7 Butler.

Who's Hot: Illinois-Chicago won its last seven games, including a season-ending sweep of Valparaiso, to edge Wright State by a half-game for the regular-season crown.

Who's Not: Cleveland State has lost nine of its last 10, scoring two runs or fewer in six of the losses.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will secure the Horizon's lone regional bid.

The Favorite: Wright State has the league's most potent offense. The Raiders led the Horizon in batting (.323) and homers (52) and tied UIC for the lead in triples (16). A pair of potential top-three-rounds picks headline the Wright State attack: first baseman and Horizon player of the year Jeremy Hamilton (.413/.516/.738 with nine homers and 48 RBIs) and shortstop Justin Parker (.398/.485/.639 with seven homers and 50 RBIs).

The Darkhorse: Calling top-seeded Illinois-Chicago a darkhorse is a bit of a misnomer, and if the Raiders don't win the tournament, chances are the defending champion Flames will. UIC relies upon its speed (87 steals, second-most in the league), defense (.962 fielding percentage and 35 stolen bases allowed, both best in the league) and pitching (league-best 4.63 ERA), led by newcomer of the year Derrick Miramontes (6-2, 3.38) and reliever of the year Adam Worthington (3.20 ERA, five saves).

METRO ATLANTIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

Site: Trenton, N.J.

Dates: May 22-24.

Format: Four teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Canisius, No. 2 Manhattan, No. 3 Siena, No. 4 Rider.

Who's Hot: Who isn't? Manhattan and Siena both carry 10-game winning streaks into the conference tournament, and Canisius has won nine of its last 10

Who's Not: The answer to "Who isn't hot?" would be Rider, which has lost nine of its last 11. The low point was May 10, when the Broncs were no-hit by LeMoyne's Eric Beaulac. In case you were wondering, the defending champion Dolphins went 17-9 against MAAC teams but were not eligible for the conference tournament after being voted out of the league last summer.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will capture the MAAC's lone regional berth.

The Favorite: Upstart Canisius dominated the MAAC for most of the season before settling into a tie with Manhattan for the regular-season crown. The balanced Griffs led the league in batting (.320), home runs (61) and ERA (4.36). Redshirt freshman lefthander Shane Davis (11-1, 1.90 with nine complete games) was a revelation on the mound, and junior third baseman Kevin Mahoney (.377/.465/.677 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs) is one of four Griffs with nine or more home runs.

The Darkhorse: Siena, the preseason pick to win the MAAC, has rebounded from a 1-12 start against a tough nonconference slate that included 11 games against Florida, Virginia, Arkansas and Central Florida. The Saints have gotten strong work recently from ace righthander Craig Chaput (4-7, 6.58), who has some of the best stuff in the league. Senior third baseman Jake Willis (.352 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs) leads the offense.

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Site: Chillicothe, Ohio

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Double-elimination play within two pools of four teams. Winner of each pool advances to championship game.

The Field: Division A bracket: No. 1 Kent State, No. 4 Northern Illinois, No. 5 Ball State, No. 8 Central Michigan.

Division B bracket: No. 2 Eastern Michigan, No. 3 Bowling Green, No. 6 Ohio, No. 7 Western Michigan.

Who's Hot: For the second straight year, Kent State recovered from a slow start with a strong second half. The Golden Flashes started the year 10-15 but went 23-5 down the stretch to claim a share of the regular-season title.

Bowling Green won its final 11 games to share the crown with Kent State. Both Eastern Division teams finished 16-8 in conference, a game ahead of Western Division champion Eastern Michigan.

Who's Not: Ball State was in the Western Division driving seat early before faltering down the stretch, losing six of its seven games, including series to Northern Illinois and Toledo.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will secure the MAC's lone regional bid. Kent State has the league's highest RPI (94)—not good enough for an at-large bid.

The Favorite: Defending champion Kent State's 5.49 ERA ranks fourth in the MAC, but there's no question the Flashes have the league's best arms. Righthanders Chris Carpenter (6-2, 3.82), Kyle Smith (8-1, 5.43) and Brad Stillings (3-7, 5.58) all throw in the 90s and have promising secondary stuff. Junior first baseman Greg Rohan (.353/.433/.772 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs) headlines an underrated offense. One caveat: last year the Flashes earned the right to host the tournament by winning the regular-season title, but this year the event will take place at a neutral site for the second time ever, negating Kent State's advantage.

The Darkhorse: The MAC is an offense-first league, and no team is better-equipped to mash its way through the tournament than Ball State, which led the league with 86 homers, 19 triples and 126 doubles. Leading the way is do-it-all senior center fielder Wayne Bond (.337/.425/.623 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 17 tries).

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE

Site: Wichita, Kan.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Wichita State (host), No. 2 Missouri State, No. 3 Creighton, No. 4 Northern Iowa, No. 5 Southern Illinois, No. 6 Bradley.

Who's Hot: Missouri State has won six straight weekend series and eight of its last nine games overall. The Bears did drop their regular-season finale against Northern Iowa to finish one game behind Wichita State in the MVC standings.

Who's Not: Bradley has lost six of its last seven, including a season-ending sweep at the hands of Wichita State.

Bubble Watch: Wichita State is the only team assured of an at-large bid if it fails to win the conference tournament. The Shockers have lost too many midweek games against tough opponents to host a regional, and they appear locked into a No. 2 seed. Missouri State's RPI has climbed to 54 recently, giving the Bears a chance to grab one of the last at-large spots with a strong showing this weekend.

The Favorite: The Shockers have a terrific home-field advantage, and they have one of the nation's best starting rotations in lefthanders Rob Musgrave (9-1, 2.11) and Anthony Capra (9-0, 2.52) and righty Aaron Shafer (9-3, 2.65). If that's not enough, Wichita has a potent lineup led by sure-fire All-American third baseman Conor Gillaspie (.403/.491/.658 with seven homers and 65 RBIs).

The Darkhorse: Southern Illinois looked like a sleeper in the preseason thanks largely to twin aces Cody Adams (5-4, 3.81) and Shawn Joy (6-2, 4.38). With just 23 home runs, the Salukis lack punch in the lineup, but their arms give them a chance to make a run in pitcher-friendly Eck Stadium.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

Site: Fort Worth, Texas.

Dates: May 20-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field:  No. 1 Texas Christian, No. 2 New Mexico, No. 3 San Diego State, No. 4 Brigham Young, No. 5 Utah, No. 6 Nevada-Las Vegas.

Who's Hot: For the second straight year, TCU rode a hot second half to the MWC regular-season title. After going 14-12 in February and March, the Horned Frogs have gone 25-4 in April and May. They carry a 10-game winning streak into the conference tournament, capped by a three-game sweep at New Mexico, which had entered the weekend tied atop the standings with TCU.

Who's Not: Last year, San Diego State's regional ambitions were dashed with a late swoon, as the Aztecs lost 11 of their final 12. This year has been the same story: the Aztecs have lost four in a row and 10 of their last 15 heading into the tournament, rendering their at-large ambitions remote at best. To make matters worse, SDSU used ace Stephen Strasburg last Thursday against Cal State Fullerton and could not bring him back for its opener Tuesday, which they lost 6-2 to UNLV.

Bubble Watch: TCU is the only team assured of a regional berth if it fails to win the conference tournament. With an RPI of 36, the Horned Frogs look like a No. 2 seed, but a strong weekend could allow them to host a regional. San Diego State has submitted a bid to host a regional, but the Aztecs have slid to 72 in the RPI and won't even make a regional if they don't win the tournament. New Mexico is in the same boat, with an RPI of 71.

The Favorite: The Horned Frogs are the class of the league once again, particularly on the mound. TCU's 3.58 ERA was a run and a half better than any other staff in the league. Leading the way are ace Tyler Lockwood (6-1, 2.11) and electric-armed closer Andrew Cashner (8-3, 1.94 with seven saves), who is likely to be drafted in the first round in June.

The Darkhorse: Led by all-conference DH Cody Guymon (.386/.459/.559 with five homers and 44 RBIs), Utah can swing the bats—its .326 batting average led the Mountain West. The Utes also have a difference-maker on the mound in ace Stephen Fife (7-4, 3.35), whose electric stuff could carry him into the top two rounds in next month's draft. Utah got off to a good start Tuesday, beating BYU in its opener.

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE

Site: Atlantic City, N.J.

Dates: May 22-24.

Format: Four teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Monmouth, No. 2 Central Connecticut, No. 3 Wagner, No. 4 Mount St. Mary's.

Who's Hot: None of the four NEC teams in the field is riding a notable hot streak, but Wagner did close the regular season by taking three out of four against Sacred Heart. The Seahawks have won four of their last five games overall.

Who's Not: Central Connecticut State dropped its final regular-season series at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will earn the NEC's lone regional bid.

The Favorite: Monmouth won the regular-season title by three games and looks poised to repeat as NEC tournament champion. The balanced Hawks led the league in batting (.306), home runs (33), doubles (92), triples (17), ERA (3.57) and fielding percentage (.969). Senior ace Brad Brach (7-2, 2.92) and closer Justin Esposito (2-1, 2.39 with 11 saves) bookend an experienced pitching staff, and senior shortstop Kyle Higgins (.386/.443/.510) leads the lineup.

The Darkhorse: Mount St. Mary's slugger Josh Vittek has mashed 39 home runs in his career and 15 in his senior season. He leads a Mountaineers club that has a chance in most slugfests.

OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE

Site:Site: Paducah, Ky.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Jacksonville State, No. 2 Samford, No. 3 Austin Peay State, No. 4 Eastern Illinois, No. 5 Tennessee Tech, No. 6 Southeast Missouri State.

Who's Hot: Jacksonville State has won eight in a row and 16 of its last 17 to win the regular-season crown by 3 1/2 games over Samford.

Who's Not: Southeast Missouri State has lost three of its last four games, including its final regular-season series at Morehead State.

Bubble Watch: The team that wins the conference tournament will secure the OVC's lone regional bid.

The Favorite: Jacksonville State's pitching won't scare anybody—the Gamecocks ranked seventh in the OVC with a 5.73 ERA—and its offense doesn't have anyone with double-digit home runs, but the Gamecocks just win. The keys are OVC co-player of the year Clay Whittemore (.421 with eight homers and 63 RBIs) and shut-down closer Alex Jones (7-2, 2.82 with eight saves and 57 strikeouts in 45 innings).

The Darkhorse: Southeast Missouri is best positioned to take advantage of the OVC's suspect pitching, with an offense that produced 58 home runs—20 more than any other team in the field. Junior outfielder Tyrell Cummings (.341 with 12 homers) leads the attack.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

Site: Hoover, Ala.

Dates: May 21-25.

Format: Eight teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Louisiana State, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Vanderbilt, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Mississippi.

Who's Hot: No team in the nation is hotter than LSU, which has won 16 in a row, including 12 consecutive conference games—the first time ever LSU has won that many straight SEC games in one season. Over the last four weekends, the Tigers have swept South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn to claim the SEC's Western Division Crown.

Who's Not: Vanderbilt's regional hosting ambitions have just about gone up in smoke over the last two weekends, as the Commodores have lost five straight games, including a sweep at the hands of Florida. Vandy needs to make a very deep run in Hoover to have any chance at hosting, and even that might not be enough.

Bubble Watch: It's entirely possible that the SEC could send nine teams to regionals for the second time this year, because Arkansas (RPI 29) has a decent case even without reaching Hoover. All eight SEC tournament teams seem likely to get bids, though Mississippi could use a few wins this week to solidify its case. Kentucky or Florida could join Georgia and LSU as regional hosts with a strong performance in Hoover, though four hosts is probably a stretch.

The Favorite: Georgia has been the SEC's best team all year, winning the SEC East by 3 1/2 games over Florida. One of the nation's deepest pitching staffs is anchored by perhaps its deepest bullpen, led by conference pitcher of the year Josh Fields (2-2, 1.52 with 16 saves and 53 strikeouts in 30 innings). The Bulldogs also boast the league's unanimous choice for player of the year in shortstop Gordon Beckham (.401/.511/.811 with 23 homers and 57 RBIs).

The Darkhorse: As usual, South Carolina led the league in home runs (99, which is 22 more than any other team in the league). The fearsome foursome of Justin Smoak (20 homers), Reese Havens (16), James Darnell (18) and Phil Disher (16) could feast upon depleted pitching if the Gamecocks get deep into the tournament.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE

Site: Charleston, S.C.

Dates: May 20-25.

Format: Ten teams. Bottom four play a single-elimination round, with the two winners advancing to the eight-team double-elimination round.

The Field: No. 1 Elon, No. 2 College of Charleston, No. 3 Furman, No. 4 Georgia Southern, No. 5 UNC Greensboro, No. 6 Appalachian State, No. 7 Western Carolina, No. 8 The Citadel (eliminated Tuesday by Wofford), No. 9  Wofford, No. 10 Davidson (eliminated Tuesday by Western Carolina).

Who's Hot: Elon won its last five games, including a sweep at Davidson two weeks ago, to capture the regular-season crown by one game over CofC. But the Phoenix were off last weekend and might need to shake off some rust.

Who's Not: Upstart Furman was leading the SoCon after sweeping Davidson May 2-4, but the Paladins have lost seven of nine since. They did salvage a series win against Georgia Southern in the final weekend.

Bubble Watch: Elon's RPI (43) should be strong enough for an at-large bid if the Phoenix don't win the conference tournament. College of Charleston is on the bubble with an RPI of 51, but the Cougars should get in if they can win at least a game or two in the conference tournament.

The Favorite: No league is as offense-oriented as the SoCon, and no team is more offensive than College of Charleston, which leads the nation in scoring (10.7 runs per game), hits (707), doubles (150) and home runs (122). The thunderous lineup is headlined by national home run leader Michael Harrington (26 homers) and the team's leading hitter Jeremie Tice (.410 with 22 homers and 79 RBIs).

The Darkhorse: If offense is the name of the game, Georgia Southern is in good shape. The Eagles lead the SoCon and rank fourth in the nation in batting (.344); and they're second in the nation and the SoCon in scoring (10.2 runs per game) and homers (109). Leading the way is the SoCon's player of the year, junior outfielder Chris Shehan (.434/.554/.816 with 20 homers, 70 RBIs and 22 steals in 23 attempts).

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE

Site: Huntsville, Tex.

Dates: May 21-25.

Format: Eight teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Texas-San Antonio, No. 2 Lamar, No. 3 Texas State, No. 4 Sam Houston State, No. 5 Northwestern State, No. 6 Texas-Arlington, No. 7 Southeastern Louisiana State, No. 8 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Who's Hot: Texas-Arlington won its final four games of the regular season, beating Texas A&M in a midweek game and sweeping Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to secure a berth in the conference tournament.

Who's Not: Northwestern State dropped its final regular-season series at Central Arkansas.

Bubble Watch: Last year, UTSA posted the best conference record in league history (24-6) and had a 67 RPI entering the conference tournament, but still did not earn an at-large bid after Sam Houston State won the automatic bid. The Roadrunners are in a similar position this year, with a 68 RPI and another dominating regular season (22-8), but recent history does not bode well for their at-large hopes if they fail to win the Southland tournament.

The Favorite: Southland player of the year Michael Rockett (.362/.382/.642 with 10 homers and 68 RBIs) leads a balanced UTSA club that ranks third in the league in batting (.314) and second in ERA (4.89).

The Darkhorse: Southeastern Louisiana had the league's best pitching staff, with a conference-leading 4.28 ERA and 453 strikeouts—79 more than any other staff in the league. The Lions are led by the league's best arm, lefthander Wade Miley (6-3, 3.98 with 110 strikeouts and 35 walks in 93 innings), a potential late-first-rounder (and more likely sandwich pick) in June.

SUMMIT LEAGUE

Site: Tulsa, Okla.

Dates: May 22-24.

Format: Four teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Oral Roberts (host), No. 2 Southern Utah, No. 3 Western Illinois, No. 4 Centenary.

Who's Hot: Who's always hot in the Summit League? Oral Roberts enters the conference tournament on a nine-game winning streak. The Golden Eagles finished the regular season with a four-game sweep of IPFW to win the regular-season crown by 7 1/2 games.

Who's Not: Western Illinois has lost four of its last six, which includes a four-game split at Centenary.

Bubble Watch: Bubble Watch: The Mid-Con is a one-bid league unless Oral Roberts gets upset, in which case the Golden Eagles would likely get an at-large bid thanks to a strong RPI (37).

The Favorite: The conference may have changed its name from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Summit League, but the story is the same: the league belongs to Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles are huge favorites to win their 11th straight conference championship. The balanced Eagles have a dangerous lineup led by Brian Van Kirk (.411/.502/.722 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs), and a strong pitching staff headlined by Carlos Luna (12-0, 2.88).

The Darkhorse: ORU led the Summit in batting and ERA, but Centenary ranked second in both categories, batting .303 and posting a 4.46 ERA. But one area where the Gents are better than the Golden Eagles is speed: they stole 88 bases to ORU's 33.

SUN BELT CONFERENCE

Site: Lafayette, La.

Dates: May 21-24.

Format: Eight teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Louisiana-Monroe, No. 2 New Orleans, No. 3 Troy, No. 4 Florida Atlantic, No. 5 Western Kentucky, No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette (host), No. 7 South Alabama, No. 8 Middle Tennessee State.

Who's Hot: It's been a disappointing year for Louisiana-Lafayette, which began the year in the top 25 but ended it just 28-27 overall and 16-14 in the Sun Belt. But the Ragin' Cajuns finished strong, sweeping New Orleans in the final weekend and spoiling the Privateers' bid for the regular-season title.

Who's Not: UNO was the hottest team in the nation until the final week, when their 13-game winning streak was snapped by LSU and they were swept by UL-L. That allowed Louisiana-Monroe to stumble its way to the conference title despite losing its last four weekend series, including three in conference play and a nonconference series at Creighton. The Warhawks have lost seven of their last nine games overall.

Bubble Watch: New Orleans (52 RPI) is in the best position to earn an at-large bid if it doesn't win the conference tournament. The Privateers have a combined five wins against likely regional teams Alabama, LSU, Tulane and Southern Mississippi. Troy is probably on the wrong side of the bubble, with a 66 RPI and just a lone significant win (against Alabama) in nonconference play.

The Favorite: With five players in double figures in home runs, New Orleans has enough firepower to bash its way to the conference title. But the Privateers also have a huge weapon on the mound in Sun Belt pitcher of the year Bryan Cryer, who won the league's pitching triple crown (11 wins, 2.93 ERA, 87 strikeouts).

The Darkhorse: UNO and ULM can both rake, but Florida Atlantic actually led the league in home runs (93). The Owls have four players with double-digit homer totals, led by conference player of the year Mike McKenna (.404/.468/.689 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs).

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

Site: Ruston, La.

Dates: May 22-25.

Format: Six teams, double-elimination.

The Field: No. 1 Fresno State, No. 2 Hawaii, No. 3 Nevada, No. 4 San Jose State, No. 5 New Mexico State, No. 6 Sacramento State.

Who's Hot: San Jose State won its final five regular-season games, including a four-game sweep of Nevada.

Who's Not: Sacramento State struggled mightily down the stretch, losing 14 of its final 17. But the Hornets did split a four-game series against Fresno State in the final weekend.

Tournament host Louisiana Tech underachieved horribly with a talented roster, going 7-23 and becoming the lone WAC team that did not qualify for the conference tournament. Yet every other team in the league flew halfway across the country to play the tournament in Ruston. Don't expect big crowds.

Bubble Watch: The WAC is very likely a one-bid league, as Fresno State owns the strongest RPI at 101. If the Bulldogs can't add a conference tournament title to their regular season championship, they'll probably wind up on the outside looking in come selection day.

The Favorite: Defending champion Fresno State's postseason ambitions took a major hit when ace righthander Tanner Scheppers, a potential top-10 pick in the draft, came down with a stress fracture in his shoulder, ending his season. Still, the Bulldogs are the class of the league, having won three straight regular-season titles, and they still have impact arms on the staff in lefthander Justin Wilson (5-4, 4.43) and righthanders Justin Miller (6-2, 4.05) and Clayton Allison (1-5, 4.14).

The Darkhorse: New Mexico State's WAC-leading home run total (97) is inflated by the thin air of Las Cruces, but it would be foolhardy to underestimate the power of the league's top two home runs hitters—Aggies Joseph Scaperotta (22) and Franky Busani (16).