What are Iowa baseball’s chances of reaching NCAA Tournament?
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What are Iowa baseball’s chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament this year?
ANSWER: Iowa baseball opens Big Ten Tournament play at 9 a.m. CT Wednesday against Michigan at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. BTN will televise the game.
The Hawkeyes (33-18, 13-9 Big Ten) are seeded sixth after facing the league’s toughest schedule. The unbalanced regular-season format had Iowa playing series this spring against five of the top seven seeds in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes claimed series victories against Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois, a two-game split with Indiana and a series loss to league champion Minnesota. Overall, Iowa was 8-6 against those squads.
Each of those teams have a better RPI than Iowa, which could mean the difference between staying home next week or advancing to the NCAA Tournament. That’s why the Big Ten Tournament is vital to the Hawkeyes’ chances of reaching their third postseason in the last four years.
“If we can go down there and find a way to play well and win some games, that’s definitely going to enhance our chances of getting an at-large [bid],” Iowa coach Rick Heller said. “That’s obviously important.”
Iowa has won five games in a row after a disappointing series loss to Northwestern on May 18-20. By losing two of three, the Hawkeyes’ RPI hovers at 66, which is tournament bubble territory.
The Hawkeyes did challenge themselves in nonconference play this season. They took two of three from Big 12 runner-up Oklahoma State (RPI: 28) and lost single games to Missouri State (RPI: 30) and Missouri (RPI: 38). Along with dropping two of three to Northwestern, the Hawkeyes were swept by UNLV (RPI: 74) in Las Vegas earlier in the season, which damages their at-large chances.
Iowa players hope the selection committee views the team’s quality wins when deciding their postseason fate.
“I’d just say hopefully they know what we’re capable of,” outfielder Robert Neustrom said. “They’ve seen us beat really good teams and there’s been times when we’ve lost to lesser teams. But hopefully they know what we’re capable of and we’re a great team. I still think we’re a great team — 33 wins in the regular season. That’s pretty impressive. I just hope they see that.”
“There’s so many factors that go into it,” Iowa catcher Tyler Cropley said. “We played a really good schedule. We had some big, key wins and we’ve had some losses that might hurt us. But at the end the day, if they choose us, we’re going to go out and do our best.”
Heller believes Iowa’s schedule strength should play a role in the decision-making process.
“Hopefully [committee members will] do their due diligence and look at our résumé a little bit deeper than glancing at the RPI and moving on,” Heller said. “I feel like they’re going to do that. I hope that they will. That’s all we can do is hope for the best.”
The easiest path for Iowa to reach the postseason is to win the Big Ten Tournament, which the Hawkeyes did last year. Iowa earned an at-large bid in 2015 and lost in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2016.
“We’re the defending champions so we want to go down and make it a good showing and give it a good run and try to win the tournament again,” Heller said.
Read more Question of the Day answers about the Iowa Hawkeyes here.