Gopher baseball has 2 objectives this coming week.
1 - Win the Big Ten Tournament
2 - Earn the distinction of being able to host an NCAA Tournament Regional
If they managed to take care of the first one, the second will be a moot point.
Big Ten Tournament
By winning the regular season, the Gophers are obviously the top seed and will play Michigan State in their opening game. Should they manage to win game one against the Spartans they will then face the winner of Illinois and Indiana (or they loser, should they lose to Sparty).
The Gophers have buzzed through the Big Ten season with 2 excellent starters and then piecing together their Sunday games with a combination of pitchers to get them through. So the tournament really plays into their favor should they be able to win games one and two. Whomever goes 2-0 out of that pod will actually get a day of rest while they wait for the losers bracket to play itself out.
The other benefit to going 2-0 is that the losers bracket’s last game begins at 7:30 PM on Friday night. The winner of that game faces the 2-win team at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning. So at that point they will have played an extra game and will be getting up early on Saturday having finished their prior game less than 12 hours earlier. After a day’s rest (2-day’s rest for each of the starters), the Gophers might be able to set up their 1 and 2 starters for the final two games of the tournament.
So winning the first two games are quite important. And fortunately for the Gophers, winning games 1 and 2 are their strength.
How have they fared against the competition in their pod? They were 2-1 against Michigan State, 3-0 against Indiana and did not play Illinois.
Of course this team wants to win the tournament title, but their NCAA post-season lives are secured. Even an 0-2 quick exit from the BTT, the Gophers would still be assured of an NCAA Tournament bid...but it would be on the road.
The bigger goal is to host a regional.
NCAA Tournament Regional
So what will it take to host? Currently the Gophers really are not even on the bubble for hosting. Most projections have them solidly in the 11 through 14 seed range (top 16 seeds get to host while top 8 seeds will get to be Super Regional hosts).
- College Sports Madness - 11 seed with Louisville, Wichita St and Kent State
- D1baseball.com - 14 seed hosting Kent State in round 1 with Louisville and Washington in their bracket.
- Baseball America - 12 seed with Louisville, Louisiana Tech and Nevada also in their region.
- SEC Country - has Gophers as a 14 seed but does not compile a full bracket
- Land of 10 - puts Minnesota as a 13-seed, also does not put together a full bracket
- South Mississippi Sun Herald - 14 seed with Louisville, Arizona and Kent State.
Beating Michigan State in game one is very important, losing a game to the team with the lowest RPI in the tournament would be a huge blow to Minnesota’s hosting likelihood. In my opinion, winning that game and winning one more would probably secure a host. Getting to the championship game would secure things, but I think they can get it done regardless.
Sure, now I’m getting greedy, but is there a slim chance that the Gophers could sneak into a top 8 seed? It’s possible, but they’ll need some help.
Should they win the Big Ten Tournament unscathed with a 4-0 record. There’s certainly a chance at moving up to an 8-seed. Teams they would need to lose quickly...
- Ole Miss - faces Auburn/Kentucky winner. They’d need to go 0-2, maybe 1-2 would drop them far enough.
- North Carolina - The ACC does pool play for their tournament and UNC starts with Pitt (RPI-121). An early loss would doom the Tar Heels and give Minnesota a spot to jump up to.
- Texas Tech - conference’s 3 seed and facing TCU in game one.
- Clemson - ACC’s 2 seed faces Notre Dame followed by Miami.
- Florida State - could easily win the ACC and leap up before Minnesota.
Really if the Gophers were to go 4-0 in the BTT, they’d need some help and a few of the teams they’ll be battling with come from the ACC. I’m feel like seeing Florida State and Clemson go down early would be the best scenario while North Carolina holds serve and wins their league.
But ultimately there are quite a few different scenarios. Just know that if Minnesota wins the tourney title, there may be some serious RPI watching as they hope to slide up to an 8-seed!
First things first though...beat Michigan State and then we’ll go from there.