The regular season is drawing to a close for Iowa baseball, which means tournament time is right around the corner. Jeremy broke down the scenarios for Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament yesterday, so today we're going to look at Iowa's NCAA Tournament hopes. Iowa made it to NCAAs as an at-large team in 2015, Rick Heller's second year in charge, and made it after winning the Big Ten Tournament last year. The good news is that right now they're in good shape to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons.
Last week Jeremy broke down Iowa's NCAA Tournament resume and it boiled down to the Hawkeyes needing to pick up some quality wins. They didn't get them at first, losing a high-scoring heartbreaker to Missouri in mid-week, but things turned around in a big way over the weekend where Iowa took two of three from #17 Oklahoma State for their biggest series win of the season. Those big wins have Iowa sitting in much more stable position from an NCAA Tournament standpoint, at least according to the college baseball bracketologists.
D1Baseball: #3 seed in Chapel Hill regional (#1 North Carolina, #2 Tennessee Tech, #4 North Carolina A&T)
D1Baseball has been the most bullish on Iowa all year -- they've had Iowa in mock brackets for a few weeks now -- so it's no surprise to see them holding firm on Iowa in their newest mock bracket. The good news is that they also have Iowa out of their Last Five In designation, meaning that the Hawkeyes are firmly in the field of 64 at this point.
Baseball America: #3 seed in Oxford regional (#1 Ole Miss, #2 Tennessee Tech, #4 Yale)
Baseball America had Iowa on the outside looking in last week as part of the First Four Out, but the wins over Okie State have catapulted them into the field itself in their newest mock bracket. Like D1Baseball, BA also has Iowa firmly in the field and not one of the Last Four In teams.
College Sports Madness: #3 seed in Corvallis regional (#1 Oregon State, #2 Minnesota, #3 Iowa, #4 Yale)
Iowa was one of the Last Four in on CSM's bracket a week ago, so the series win over Okie State has helped them shore up a spot in this mock bracket as well.
While Iowa's regional host differs in all three brackets (though all three teams are very good -- in the most recent D1Baseball Top 25 Oregon State is #3, North Carolina is #4, and Ole Miss is #6), it's curious to see some duplicated teams among the other teams slotted into regionals with Iowa. Tennessee Tech appears as the #2 seed in Iowa's regional in both the D1Baseball and Baseball America mock brackets, while Yale appears as the #4 seed in both the Baseball America and College Sports Madness mock brackets. Tennessee Tech has been one of the best stories in college baseball this year -- they're 41-6 (!) overall and winners of 32 of their last 33 games, including a 28-game winning streak that was snapped just a few weeks ago.
Of course, the prospective regional match-ups in these mock brackets are largely guesswork; the odds of Iowa being matched up with any of those teams are probably fairly low. The more important thing is just to be one of the 64 teams listed and to be one of the teams firmly in the field and not on the bubble. Right now Iowa appears to be trending in that direction, which is very good news.
The (slightly) bad news for Iowa is that the last seven games of the regular season aren't going to help them much at all. In fact, just playing teams as bad as Northwestern (RPI 231), Western Illinois (283), and Penn State (237) is going to hurt Iowa's own RPI, which currently sits at 49. Even if they beat those teams, Iowa's RPI is going to go down a bit. And, certainly, losing to those teams would be extremely bad news for Iowa's NCAA Tournament resume -- that would undo a lot of the benefits Iowa accrued from playing (and beating) Oklahoma State. So don't do that, Iowa.
There's nothing Iowa can do about losing some ground in the RPI rankings by beating bad teams; they just need to go out and beat those teams and let the chips fall where they may. How much of an RPI hit they take from those games may determine how much (if any) additional work Iowa will need to do in the Big Ten Tournament to put themselves in good position for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Or they could just go ahead and win the whole dang thing again this year -- that was pretty fun last time.
TL;DR -- Iowa appears to be in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament at the moment. Next up? Beat some bad teams and avoid losing to those same bad teams.