Breaking down the conferences
Who will make an impact during the conference championship
Here's a breakdown of what to watch durng the week's conference play this week.
Atlantic 10 Conference
May 25-28, Campbell’s Field, Camden, N.J.
Charlotte is the top-seeded team for the second consecutive season, but will be vying for its first tournament title since winning back-to-back championships in 2007-08. The 49ers lead the league a 2.48 ERA and ranks second in hitting with a .299 batting average. Second-seeded Rhode Island is making its ninth straight tournament appearance, and seeking its first championship since 2005. Last year’s champion, Saint Louis, did not qualify for the six-team field. No. 3 Dayton has never won an A-10 title, while No. 4 Xavier claimed the championship in 2009.
Players to Watch: Charlotte right-handed pitchers Tyler Barnette (8-1, 1.98 ERA) and Andrew Smith (8-4, 1.99 ERA) provide the 49ers a one-two punch on the mound as they rank first and second in ERA, respectively, in the league.
Atlantic Coast Conference
May 25-29, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, N.C.
After getting swept by North Carolina last weekend, No. 1 seeded Virginia will look to bounce back as the Cavaliers seek their second championship in last three years. Atlantic Division champion Florida State is seeded second as the Seminoles try to repeat as tournament champions for the second consecutive season. Six teams in the field are ranked in the USA Today/ESPN Division I Top 25, including three in the Top 10. The eight-team field is divided into two groups, and each team will play one game against the other three teams in their group according to the pool-play format. The winners of each pool-play division will meet in Sunday’s title game.
Player to Watch: Clemson shortstop Brad Miller paces the ACC with a .431 – 61 points higher than any other player in the league, while he ranks fourth in the conference with 21 stolen bases. Miller has helped the Tigers win 25 of their last 30 contests.
America East Conference
May 25-28, Joe Nathan Field, Stony Brook, N.Y.
Top-seeded Stony Brook will host the league championship after posting a stellar 22-2 league record to win their first-ever regular season title. Stony Brook enters the tournament on an 11-game winning streak, and has won 22 of its last 23 contests. The Seawolves are looking for their second straight tournament title and third in the last fourth years. Maine is seeded second for the second consecutive season, and is vying for its first title since 2006. Binghamton and Albany round out the four-team, double-elimination tournament.
Player to Watch: Stony Brook junior right-hander Tyler Johnson is 9-2 after tossing seven scoreless innings against Albany last weekend, and lowering his ERA to a league-leading 1.66. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and gave up just two hits in the outing.
Atlantic Sun Conference
May 25-29, Dugan Field, Nashville, Tenn.
Stetson is the top-seeded team in the A-Sun thanks to the Hatters’ first 40-win season since 2007, and a 23-7 mark in league play however the six-team field is a competitive one. Jacksonville claimed the second seed after winning eight of their last 11 games as it vies for its first league title since 2009. No. 3 Kennesaw State set a program-record with 32 wins, while defending Atlantic Sun champion Mercer earned the No. 4 seed after winning 12 of its last 15 contests.
Player to Watch: Jacksonville sophomore Adam Brett Walker is batting .415, and ranks in the top 10 nationally in hits (90) and runs scored (64).
Big Ten Conference
May 25-28, Huntington Park, Columbus, Ohio
Illinois finished the on fire, winning 11 of its last 14 Big Ten contests, and 13 of its final 17 contests to earn a share of the league title and No. 1 seed for the first time since 2005. Second-seeded Michigan State claimed a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1979 as the Spartans grabbed their highest seed in tournament history. Illinois and Michigan State each received an opening round bye in the six-team tournament. Fifth-seeded Minnesota is the defending champion. All games will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
Player to Watch: Illinois senior second baseman Pete Cappetta is batting .429 over the last 17 games after hitting .220 in the first 33 contests of the season. The Illini have gone 13-4 during Cappetta’s offensive surge.
Big 12 Conference
May 25-29, RedHawks Field at Bricktown, Oklahoma City, Okla.
No. 4 Texas and No. 13 Texas A&M share the league’s regular season title, but the Longhorns will be the No. 1 seed after taking two of three from the Aggies in the final weekend of league play. Texas last won the tournament in 2009, while the second-seeded Aggies are the defending champions. No. 12 Oklahoma is seeded third and looking for its first league crown since 1997. The championship is an eight-team, two-division, double-elimination format with a single championship game. Big12Sports.com will video stream each tournament game free of charge.
Player to Watch: Texas always boasts a great pitching staff, and at this point in the season there is none better than junior right-hander Taylor Jungmann who enters the tournament with a 12-0 record and a league-leading 0.95 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 113.2 innings pitched.
Big East Conference
May 25-29, Bright House Field, Clearwater, Fla.
Top-seeded Connecticut clinched the No. 1 spot a week before the end of the regular season, and tied a league record with 22 Big East wins as the Huskies won the crown by three-and-a-half games. Connecticut has reached the championship game in three of the last four years, but is vying for its first tournament title since 1994. Second-seeded St. John’s rallied to close out the regular season, winning nine of its last 10 games, as the Red Storm seeks to repeat as tournament champion. Only eight of 12 league teams qualify for the double-elimination tournament. The championship game will be televised live on ESPNU on May 29 at 12 p.m. ET.
Player to Watch: UConn centerfielder George Springer leads the Big East in slugging percentage (.685) and RBI (72), while batting .379 with 22 doubles and 12 home runs.
Big South Conference
May 24-28, Gray-Minor Stadium, Lexington, Va.
Coastal Carolina is the top seed of the tournament for the fifth straight year after winning the regular season with a 20-7 mark. The Chanticleers have claimed four consecutive tournament championships. Liberty, seeded No. 2, looks to be Coastal’s toughest challenger as the Flames posted 30 wins for a seventh straight year. The eight-team tournament begins Tuesday with the bottom four teams playing a single elimination contest. Opening round winners will advance to the main double-elimination bracket with the lowest remaining seed playing No. 1 Coastal Carolina.
Player to Watch: Coastal’s Tommy LaStella ranks second in the league with a .408 batting average and paces the conference in runs (53) and RBI (60), along with 11 home runs.
Colonial Athletic Association
May 26-28, Brooks Field, Wilmington, N.C.
Four teams begin a double-elimination tournament on Thursday with No. 1 James Madison riding a 10-game winning streak against CAA opponents entering the week. The Dukes lead the league with a solid .319 batting average, which ranks in the top 10 nationally, and rank second in Division I with 76 home runs. JMU faces Georgia State, which boasts the CAA’s best ERA (4.23) in the opening round, while No. 2 Old Dominion and No. 3 UNC Wilmington face off in Thursday’s second contest. James Madison seeks its first title since 2008. Georgia State was the last team in the field to win the title in 2009. Last year’s winner, VCU, did not qualify.
Player to Watch: James Madison’s Jake Lowery ranks second in the nation with 22 home runs, and tops the CAA in RBI (81), triples (8), and runs scored (72), while slugging a league-leading .805.
May 25-29, Trustmark Park, Pearl, Miss.
While Rice and Southern Miss shared the regular season title, the Owls earned the No. 1 seed after taking two of three games from the Golden Eagles during the final weekend of action. Rice ranks second in the league with a 3.13 ERA, while pacing the C-USA with 489 strikeouts. Southern Miss is the conference’s second-best batting team at .305, and tops the league with 382 runs scored. The top eight teams in the C-USA advanced to the tournament. The teams will split into two four-team pools with the winner of each pool advancing to a single championship game. Saturday’s championship game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. CT.
Player to Watch: Memphis junior infielder Chad Zurcher is the nation’s leading hitter with a .455 batting average, helping the Tigers to a No. 5 seed in the championship tournament. Zurcher has struck out just 12 times in 189 at bats, and paces Division I with a .560 on-base percentage.
Great West Conference
May 24-28, Kraft Field, Grand Forks, N.D.
Defending champion Utah Valley is the top seed in the tournament after posting a 22-2 record in league play and winning the regular season title for the second straight year. The champion does not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Player to Watch: Utah Valley right-hander Jeremy Gendlek led the GWC with a 1.65 ERA, earning Pitcher of the Year honors. He compiled a 5-0 record with a 0.41 ERA against GWC foes this season.
May 25-28, Nischwitz Stadium, Dayton, Ohio
Wright State and UIC shared the regular season title, but the Raiders will be the top seed in the tournament by virtue of the tie-breaking procedure. WSU last won the title in 2009, while UIC has claimed the crown four times in the last eight years, most recently in 2008. Third-seeded Milwaukee is looking to repeat as champion of the six-team, double-elimination tournament. WSU leads the league with a stellar .327 batting average, while fourth-seeded Valparaiso owns the only ERA less than 4.00 at 3.91.
Player to Watch: Wright State third baseman Jake Hibbard leads the league in practically every offensive category: batting average (.415), slugging percentage (.627), RBI (54), hits (90), doubles (19) and home runs (9).
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
May 26-29, Waterfront Park, Trenton, N.J.
After compiling an incredible 20-2 mark in league play, No. 1 Manhattan looks to claim its first tournament title since 2006, beginning with an opening round game against No. 4 Canisius on Thursday in the four-team, double-elimination event. No. 2 Rider, the defending champion, and No. 3 Siena will face off in the second opening contest. Manhattan leads the league with a .290 batting average, and has won eight of its last 10 contests to finish the regular season.
Player to Watch: Rider University senior left-hander Mike Thomas is the school’s all-time wins (29) and strikeout (276) leader. He has compiled a 9-2 record on the year, and leads all MAAC starting pitchers with a 2.25 ERA.
May 25-28, VA Memorial Stadium, Chillicothe, Ohio
Top-seeded Kent State will be seeking its third straight tournament title after earning its first regular season crown since 2008. The Golden Flashes have won 30 of their last 35 games entering the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. Central Michigan earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament by virtue of winning its second straight MAC West Division title, but the Chippewas have lost four of their last seven contests. Kent State tops the league with a 2.62 ERA and a .977 fielding percentage.
Player to Watch: Kent State’s starting pitching rotation consisting of three left-handers: Andrew Chafin (6-1, 2.14 ERA, 91K), Kyle Hallock (9-4, 1.63 ERA, 80K) and David Starn (7-2, 1.07 ERA, 88K).
Missouri Valley Conference
May 24-28, TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.
Creighton boasts the No. 1 seed for the second time in school history and first time since 2005 after sweeping Missouri State to conclude the regular season. Wichita State finished the season with a sweep of Bradley to grab the No. 2 seed. No. 4 seed Missouri State leads the league with a .290 batting average, while third-seeded Illinois State boasts the best ERA at 3.24. All eight league teams qualify for the tournament, which is divided into two four-team brackets with a single championship game.
Player to Watch: Wichita State catcher Chris O’Brien is the league’s Player of the Year topping the conference with a.412 batting average, 93 hits and 23 doubles. He enters the tournament on a 24-game hitting streak.
Mountain West Conference
May 24-28, Tony Gwynn Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
Top-seeded TCU claimed the league’s regular season title for the sixth straight season after posting a 20-3 mark in conference play. The Horned Frogs pace the league in both hitting (.305) and ERA (3.17). No. 2 Utah is the only team to have won the tournament since TCU entered the league prior to the 2006 season, taking home the tournament title in 2009. TCU and Utah received an opening round bye in the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
Player to Watch: Utah’s C.J. Cron is on track to win the league’s “triple crown” as he tops the MWC in batting (.444), RBI (58) and home runs (15).
Ohio Valley Conference
May 25-28, Pringles Park, Jackson, Tenn.
Austin Peay claimed the regular season title for the first time since 2007 and will be the No. 1 seed after not qualifying for the six-team tournament in each of the last two years. Southeast Missouri swept Eastern Illinois to secure the No. 2 seed as the Redhawks vie for their first tournament title since 2002. No. 3 Jacksonville State is the defending league champion, and enters the tournament on a five-game winning streak. The top three seeds are batting .309 or better.
Player to Watch: Southeast Missouri third baseman Trenton Moses concluded the regular season on a high note with his third OVC Player of the Week award. Moses ranks second in the league with a .405 batting average, a .693 slugging percentage and 51 RBI.
May 25-28, Regions Park, Hoover, Ala.
In one of the most heated races in the nation, defending NCAA champion South Carolina earned the No. 1 seed of the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. No. 3 Vanderbilt and No. 4 Florida shared the league crown with the Gamecocks, while Arkansas earned the No. 2 seed by virtue of winning the Western Division title. Vanderbilt paces the SEC in both batting (.319) and ERA (2.55). LSU, winner of the last three tournament championships, failed to qualify for this year’s event.
Player to Watch: It’s a tough call but keep a close eye on Florida sophomore catcher Mike Zunino, who batted .636 in a series win against Kentucky last weekend to garner SEC Player of the Week honors. Zunino ranks second in the conference with a .383 batting average and a .701 slugging percentage, and tops the league in runs scored (62), RBI (59) and home runs (15).
May 25-29, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Park, Charleston, S.C.
After winning the regular season title for the third time in the last four years, Elon earned the No. 1 seed in the eight-team tournament. The Phoenix is batting just .260, but rank second in the league with a 3.93 ERA. UNC Greensboro exceeded expectations as the preseason No. 9 pick claimed the second seed in the tournament. Third-seeded Samford, which finished in a three-way tie for third place with Georgia Southern and the College of Charleston, paces the SoCon with a 3.25 ERA. The Citadel, the defending league champion, did not qualify for the tournament.
Player to Watch: Georgia Southern sophomore outfielder Victor Roache is the Division I leader with a SoCon single-season record 29 home runs and paces the league with 78 RBI. Roache is batting .335 with an .813 slugging percentage.
May 25-28, Bobcat Field, San Marcos, Texas
Texas State claimed its third consecutive regular season title with a 24-9 mark in league play, earning the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Bobcats are seeking their first tournament title since 2000. No. 2 Stephen F. Austin opens play against defending champion and No. 7 seed Lamar. SFA is the conference leader in both batting (.302) and ERA (3.38), while Texas State paces the league with 51 home runs and 442 strikeouts.
Player to Watch: Stephen F. Austin junior outfielder Bryson Myles tops the league with a .413 batting average, 92 hits, a .480 on-base percentage and 50 stolen bases. He is the first Southland Conference player to steal 50 bases in a season.
May 26-28, Sioux Falls Stadium, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Oral Roberts won 13 of its last 16 league games to earn the tournament’s No. 1 seed and the Golden Eagles’ 13th straight regular season title. ORU has won 13 consecutive tournament titles. No. 2 South Dakota State finished just a game behind ORU, while No. 2 North Dakota State is making its’ first-ever appearance in the tournament. No. 4 Western Illinois rounds out the four-team field, qualifying for the event for the first time since 2008. SDSU is the league’s batting leader at a .313 clip, while Oral Roberts boasts the top pitching staff with a 3.54 ERA.
Player to Watch: Oral Roberts junior shortstop Cam Schiller is riding a 10-game hitting streak entering the tournament after batting .579 with 10 RBI last week. He is batting .342, and ranks second in the league with 49 RBI behind teammate Chris Elder (50).
Sun Belt Conference
May 25-29, Warhawk Field, Monroe, La.
Troy captured its first regular season title since 2006, along with the tournament’s No. 1 seed, after winning a school-record 30 home games and posting a 21-9 league mark. Florida International earned the second seed after winning 18 of its last 19 games. The Panthers, who lead the SBC in hitting and ERA, are looking to repeat as league champions. The tournament has moved to a new format this season, splitting the eight qualifying teams into two pools with the winners advancing to the championship game.
Player to Watch: Troy senior shortstop Adam Bryant leads the SBC with 84 hits, 56 runs scored and 64 RBI, and ranks fifth in the league with a .571 slugging percentage.
Western Athletic Conference
May 25-29, Hohokam Stadium, Mesa, Ariz.
Hawaii and Fresno State shared the league’s regular season crown, but the Rainbows earned the top seed in the tournament by virtue of a tie-breaker. It is Hawaii’s first regular season title since 1992 as the Rainbows seek to repeat as tournament champions. Fresno State has won the WAC Tournament four of the last five years. The Bulldogs lead the league with a 2.86 ERA and .976 fielding percentage.
Player to Watch: Fresno State senior right-hander Greg Gonzalez boasts a flawless 10-0 record and a league-leading 1.44 ERA entering the tournament. He has won 12 straight decisions dating back to 2010, and paces the conference 11.34 strikeouts per nine innings.