I am a little late on this, but the Big Ten Tournament is already underway in Columbus with Michigan State putting a hurt on Nebraska in game one. Purdue could possibly play the winner, depending on the result of Ohio State-Penn State later on. If Ohio State wins, we get the Buckeyes. If Penn State wins, we get the Nebraska-Michigan State winner. Our first game is at roughly 7pm tomorrow night, and all game are televised live on BTN.
If you have the luxury of being around a computer today and a TV, feel free to use this as an open thread. In the meantime, here is what is at stake for all six teams in descending seed order:
1. Purdue (41-12) - Our Boilermakers are in the NCAA Tournament regardless and some people have said we will host even as a No. 2 seed. We don't want that, however. A win or two likely gets us safely on the happy side of hosting and a No. 1 seed in our regional. Indiana State is commonly projected as our No. 3 seed, but that is up in the air after the Sycamores crashed out of the MVC tourney in two games. Our No. 4 seed (and thus our first game) is projected to be the Horizon League winner. Valparaiso is the regular season champ. The MAC champ (likely a dangerous Kent State team) has also been mentioned. Our No. 2 seed is a toss-up. I have seen Oregon State, Miami, and Mississippi State thrown around. All three are very inconsistent teams capable of dominating us or crapping the bed and getting blown out (especially Miami).
We definitely want to win at least one game to assure we still host. Two is probably more than enough to still be a No. 1 seed in our regional. If we win the tourney, we're definitely hosting, but there is very little chance at a National seed. Hopefully we would avoid being opposite the No. 1 national seed. To get a national seed we would have to win all three games by large margins and hope for complete chaos elsewhere.
2. Indiana (30-26) - The Hoosiers have been spectacular in Big Ten play and might be the hottest team in the league. they have the Freshman of the Year, but their overall record and RPI is not nearly strong enough for at large consideration. They need to win the tournament to keep playing after this weekend. They are certainly capable of doing so. IU beat Penn State and Nebraska in series this year and swept Ohio State. they dropped two of three to Michigan State. Getting the bye helps them greatly, as they could be three wins away from the NCAA Tournament. This is also a young team that is building towards something special and their own stadium opening soon. Think of them as Purdue a year or two ago.
3. Penn State (29-25) - The Nittany Lions are another team that was great in conference but not so much outside of it. They also need to win the tourney, but because they finished third they will have to do it from day 1. As with any of the four teams playing today, pitching will be a premium if they make it to Friday or Saturday. No. 2 starter Steven Hill did throw the Big Ten's only no-hitter this year against Iowa, however.
4. Nebraska (34-21) - The Cornhuskers have a borderline at large case at best with an RPI of 93. Therefore, they need to win the tournament. Nebraska has been a hard luck team all season in league play. They were 14-10, but dropped two to Northwestern (who was 6-18), two to Iowa, and one to Michigan. If they win those four games against the last three teams in the league, they win the conference and are safely in the NCAAs with a win or two this week.
5. Michigan State (35-19) - This is where things get tricky. Many projections have the Spartans squeezing into the field as one of the last at large teams. They have a strong RPI at 46, which is higher than Indiana State who was a conference champion of a much stronger conference. Still, the Spartans have a bad Big Ten record at 13-11. They have the best non-conference win in the league when they beat an excellent Baylor team that is on par with our UCLA win> they also have a win over us (and a 14 inning loss). the RPI is buoyed by at least playing (and losing) three at regional host candidate Texas A&M, but they have a bunch of missed opportunities. One-run losses to Louisville, Texas A&M, and Purdue would look really good right now had they been wins.
Of the 11 Big Ten losses, nine were by two runs or less. MSU got left out last year as a regular season champ, and hasn't been since 1979. they are agonizingly close this year. As little as two more victories in those close losses would have them sitting much better.Will the selection committee take the fifth place Big Ten team even if it is the second best team in the conference on paper? Michigan State needs to win probably 3-4 this weekend to feel anywhere near safe. If one of those wins is over Purdue, even better. So far, so good with this afternoon's result.
Ohio State (31-25) - The Buckeyes are another team that had a good non-conference ruined by a bad (11-13) conference season. they won a three-way tie over Minnesota and Illinois for the final spot there. Their RPI is still 76, but they have proven they can't beat the conference's best. IU swept them. Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State, and Michigan State took two of three. That puts them just 4-11 against the tourney field. Again, if that was a winning record we might be looking at an NCAA team given out of conference wins over Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State. instead, they need to win the tourney.
On the Bubble:
Must win the tourney to get in:
Nebraska, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State