With Rick Heller at the helm, Iowa baseball has been in the NCAA Tournament hunt nearly every season. Despite that, they have made just two regional appearances, with the last one coming in 2017 thanks to winning the Big Ten Tournament. Heading to Omaha to play in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes find themselves on the right side of the tournament talks this year. Let’s take a look at where Coach Heller’s squad stands at the moment, and what they need to do in Omaha to secure an at-large berth.
The Hawkeyes end this regular season with a 39-13 record and sit at #32 in the RPI. They went just 3-6 in their Quad One series against Indiana, Texas Tech, and Maryland, but they did avoid getting swept in all of them. They also have single Quad One wins over LSU and Indiana State. Quad Two games is where they made hay, going 6-2 that includes a three-game sweep of Michigan State and a win against Kanas State. That gives them an 11-8 record against Quad One and Two teams. In the Quad Three and Four games, Iowa has a 24-5 record, which is markedly improved from last year’s 22-8.
The question everyone wants to know, though, where does the Hawkeyes RPI need to be at the end of the Big Ten Tournament to feel safe on Selection Monday? Last year, Grand Canyon made the tournament with an RPI of 55. However, the leash is shorter for Big Ten schools, and several teams have been omitted despite an RPI in the 40’s. Rutgers was left out last year with a 44-15 record and the #43 RPI. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, their strength of schedule is nearly 40 spots higher than the Scarlet Knights.
If Iowa keeps their RPI inside the top 40, they should be in the tournament. An RPI in the 40-45 range would be the “should be in” category, while 46-50 would be uncomfortable going into the Selection show. At this moment, the Hawkeyes sit 74 points clear of #40 UC Santa Barbara and 91 points clear of #45 UC Irvine.
What the brackets are saying…
These projections do not take into the account this past weekend, but the Hawkeyes dropped only three spots in the RPI, so it is fair to assume they will have a similar stance when the new projections are released. The consensus is that Iowa is not even being mentioned in the same conversation as teams on the bubble.
D1Baseball- The popular site for college baseball coverage has Iowa as a 3 seed going to the Lexington Regional, hosted by #10 Kentucky. Indiana State (2) and Wright State (4) round out the projected regional.
Baseball America- The Hawkeyes are a 3 seed heading to the Terre Haute Regional, hosted by #16 Indiana State. Tennessee (2) and Wright State (4) round out the projected regional.
College Baseball Nation- The Hawkeyes are a 3 seed headed to the Stillwater Regional, hosted by #14 Oklahoma State. Auburn (2) and Oral Roberts (4) round out this projected regional.
11Point7- The Hawkeyes are a 2 seed headed to the Clemson Regional, hosted by #5 Clemson. Kansas State (3) and Central Connecticut State (4) round out this projected regional.
CollegeSportsMadness- The Hawkeyes are a 2 seed headed to the Palo Alto Regional, hosted by #10 Stanford. Cal State Fullerton (3) and Loyola Marymount (4) round out the projected regional.
Although Iowa is in a comfortable spot at the moment, the Hawkeyes need to avoid going 0-2 at the Big Ten Tournament. Worst case scenario, they drop the opener to Michigan (26-26) and then lose to Illinois (25-25). While it is just a guess, the Hawkeyes could be set to lose anywhere from 75-90 points in that scenario, which would drop their RPI into the mid 40’s. That makes the path to an at-large bid pretty simple. Win the opener on Tuesday against Michigan and all will be fine.
On the other hand, if the Hawkeyes go on to win the Big Ten Tournament, they would add a few more Quad One wins to their resume, the RPI would take a jump, and Iowa would likely move up to a 2 seed in whatever regional to which they are assigned.
First pitch on Tuesday against the Wolverines is set for 10:00 am at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.