Conference tourneys to pick up
Three SEC teams share regular season title
Most teams finished out the regular season this weekend, cementing seeding position in their respective conference tournaments, while the Big West, Pac-10 and West Coast Conference all battled for the top of the standings with one more weekend left of play to decide their league champions. The MEAC, Northeast Conference and SWAC also crowned champions with the winners being award automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.
Punching Their Tickets
Bethune-Cookman claimed its sixth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title with a 9-3 victory in the championship game of the league tournament on May 22. The Wildcats have won 46 consecutive games against conference opponents, which is a NCAA record according to the school’s Sports Information Department. B-CU has won 15 MEAC titles.
Alcorn State won its first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship by upending Southern University 12-6 in a matchup between the two top seeds in the Eastern and Western divisions. Alcorn State designated hitter Kilby Perdomo, the tournament MVP, hit his third home run in four days to jumpstart the Braves. The championship game will be re-aired at 8 p.m. ET May 23 on ESPNU.
Sacred Heart University rode the back of pitcher Kody Kerski’s compete-game outing to a 9-2 win against top-seeded Monmouth as the Pioneers captured their second Northeast Conference title. The Pioneers set a school record for victories with 34 as they reeled off 11 consecutive wins against NEC foes to finish strong before advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Around the Leagues
Illinois’ strong ending to the season earned the squad a share of the Big Ten title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. The Illini swept Indiana to close the season, capped by a Matt Dittman walk-off two-run homer that gave them the 7-5 win. Illinois shares the title with Michigan State, but earned the No. 1 seed because of its series victory against the Spartans earlier this season. The Illini have won 13 of 17 games and 11 of 14 Big Ten contests, evening their overall record to 25-25 during the past month.
In one of the most-hyped series of the weekend, No. 5 Texas prevailed with a series victory against No.11 Texas A&M by winning two of three games. The Longhorns and Aggies share the Big 12 title, ending the season with identical 19-8 league records, but Texas claimed the No. 1 seed for the tournament. Texas has won three consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, while the Aggies earned their sixth in program history.
James Madison University won its sixth consecutive game to finish off the season with a sweep of Northeastern to claim its second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the league championship. The Dukes have won 10 CAA games in a row. JMU strung together 30 scoreless innings during the series with Northeastern, including a pair of 5-0 shutouts to begin the weekend.
With a series victory against first-place Southern Miss in Conference USA action, Rice earned a share of the league title with the Golden Eagles. Rice’s series win against USM gave the Owls the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. The Owls have won or shared 16 consecutive conference championships (including regular season and tournament) dating to 1996.
Creighton claimed its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season crown since 2005 as the Blujays swept Missouri State during the weekend. It also was the first time Creighton swept the Bears since 2005, and it is the first time in the past six seasons Missouri State has not upset CU’s chances at the MVC title.
There is a lot of title-sharing going on in the Southeastern Conference as three Eastern Division teams -- South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt -- all tied for the league regular season championship with 22-8 conference records. South Carolina, winning its first SEC title since 2002, will be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament. Florida became the first team to repeat as SEC champions since LSU accomplished the feat in 1996-97, while Vanderbilt earned a share of its first crown since 2007. In the Western Division, Arkansas won the race with a series victory against Mississippi as the Razorbacks won their first divisional title since 2007, giving them the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.
• Troy University clinched its first Sun Belt Conference regular season title since 2006 with a series victory against South Alabama this weekend.
• Hawaii earned its first Western Athletic Conference regular season title since 1992, capping off the season with a dominating 24-3 defeat of New Mexico State. The Rainbows shared the crown with Fresno State, but will be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament.
• By winning two of three games against Pepperdine this weekend, Gonzaga moved into a tie for first place in the West Coast Conference standings with San Francisco. The two squads will now meet for a three-game series beginning May 27 that will decide the conference champion and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.