Last weekend was the weekend when Minnesota baseball pushed themselves into first place in the Big Ten. Now they go into the final weekend with a chance to lock up their 23rd Big Ten regular season title and an outside chance at moving closer to earning a a home regional. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first...the Big Ten Title
Last weekend the Gophers hosted Michigan State. After losing the first game of the series, Minnesota won the second two. Entering the weekend they were tied with Michigan and just one game up on Purdue. Both the Wolverines and Boilermakers lost 2 games over the weekend, dropping them to 1 and 2 games behind Minnesota respectively.
The Gopher, 1-game lead actually feels pretty substantial for two reasons. The first is that Minnesota will be playing Rutgers this weekend. The Scarlet Knights sit 11th in the conference with a 7-14 conference record. They currently have a 5-game losing streak. If you are going to play the final weekend of the season hoping to hold on to 1st place, facing a bottom-3 team is ideal.
The second thing in Minnesota’s favor is that Michigan and Purdue are playing each other. If the Gophers manage to take 2 of 3 (a very reasonable expectation), Michigan will need to sweep a very good Purdue team. Purdue, they’ll need a sweep and some major help from Rutgers.
Seems like a good scenario for the Gophers to end the weekend with a Big Ten baseball title and the tournament’s #1 seed.
But what about the NCAA Tournament?
Getting into the tournament seems like a very likely scenario, regardless of how the season finishes. So the Gophers are playing with an outside shot at hosting a regional.
Step one was beating a good St. John’s team on Tuesday afternoon. St. John’s is atop the Big East standings and has a good RPI at 32nd. This final non-conference road game is going to help the Gopher’s 23.
Step two is sweeping Rutgers. That all-important RPI is going to take a hit by facing a bad Rutgers squad. Losing one would be really bad.
Finally, the probably have to win the Big Ten tournament. The Big Ten opponents do not offer much in terms of high-quality opponents that will boost Minnesota’s RPI. Getting to the title game and losing, probably won’t get it done. But winning it? It is about the only thing that will give the Golden Gophers a shot at a regional played at Siebert Field.
Even then, it may not happen. The northern baseball teams are typically not given much love. A Big Ten regular season championship is within their grasp. We’ll worry about the rest later.