By Ben Harris and Matt Present
Entering the final weekend of the season, seven teams are vying for the remaining four open spots in the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps, currently seventh in the conference, control their own destiny and can clinch a tournament berth with a road series win against Michigan State, through which lies their best chance to hear their name called by the NCAA selection committee come May 30.
Maryland got significant help last weekend from Ohio State’s three-game sweep of Michigan and 2-1 series wins from Iowa (over Michigan State) and Nebraska (over Penn State).
The top four teams in the conference have all clinched postseason berths, and will all beat up each other this weekend: No. 1 Minnesota hosts the third-place Ohio State Buckeyes, and the second ranked Indiana Hoosiers travel to face No. 4 Nebraska.
Between the bottom three teams in the conference, No. 11 Rutgers (worst record still in contention to make the tournament) faces the already-eliminated Northwestern Wildcats. Due to the Big Ten’s 13 teams, last-place Purdue is the odd team out playing Cal State Northridge out of conference.
Those two factors, good teams playing good teams and bad teams playing bad teams, open up the middle of the conference for the seven teams still in contention. There’s even a possibility that after all the dust has settled, the Terps could be one of six teams to make the tournament with identical 13-11 conference records. If teams remain tied after this weekend, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, followed by overall winning percentage if the teams haven’t met.
Despite the Spartans (33-15, 12-9 Big Ten) having leveled off their winning pace (eight wins in their last 17), their pitching staff (third-best team ERA in NCAA, 2.64) could still spoil any hopes of reaching the postseason.
While the Michigan State series provides some obvious mismatches, the way the schedule has shaken out affords Maryland an opportunity to squeeze into the playoffs with a good showing this weekend.
The two series with the most significant playoff implications for the Terps – besides their own seven vs. six matchup – are fifth-place Michigan at tenth-ranked Illinois and No. 9 Iowa visiting eighth-place Penn State.
The Big Ten Tournament will take place May 25th-29th in Omaha, Nebraska. The tournament is a double elimination format, except in the championship game, which is winner-take-all. A complete schedule can be found here. Should the Terps make the tournament, all games from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, can be heard live on the Maryland Baseball Network.