If the season ended today, Nebraska would be playing postseason baseball. The Huskers who sit at 26-16-1 (9-5-1 Big Ten) are in the NCAA Tournament as a 3 seed in most projections. Baseball America has the Huskers traveling to Florida in the national seeded Florida Gator’s regional in Gainesville. D1Baseball has the Huskers headed to Corvallis to play in the number one seed Oregon State regional.
The Huskers currently have the 44th ranked RPI, down 5 spots from a week ago after taking a series at Minnesota. The remaining schedule for Nebraska is a home series against Rutgers, a midweek game against Creighton, and then another home series against Michigan State. The Huskers finish the season on the road at a Penn State team that looks to be on track to finish last in the conference.
None of the teams the Huskers finish the season against will boost their RPI. Rutgers is currently in the 84th spot, while the Spartans are 82nd. Creighton who currently sits atop of the Big East standings would be a nice win for the Huskers even though the sit in the 171st spot in RPI. The road series at Penn State is turning into a must sweep, as the Nittany Lions sit above 200 in RPI.
Now Nebraska has done a lot of the heavy lifting of their schedule already. The Huskers played a challenging non-conference schedule, with wins over Arizona and Utah looking big in the eyes of the selection committee. If The College of Charleston won the Colonial Athletic Conference, a Husker sweep would also be favorable in the eyes of the committee. Western Carolina and Creighton both are two teams that have a chance to win their leagues, with Creighton probably the better bet. Nebraska should be rooting for both to win in league play.
In conference, Nebraska has already taken the series against conference leader Maryland. A pair of road series wins at Indiana and Minnesota are both big statements for the Huskers. Maryland looks to end the year in the top 20 of RPI, while Indiana will be right behind them. Minnesota has dropped recently but are still in the top 100.
If Nebraska could win out, the Huskers could move up to a two seed. Rutgers was swept this season by Maryland, but took series from Iowa and Purdue, while dropping a closer than expected series to Michigan. Rutgers has struggled on the mound, and the Huskers tend to exploit teams who struggle pitching and playing defense. After finals week, expect the Huskers to come out this weekend and finally put a stamp on their first conference sweep.
Nebraska then has their final midweek game to deal with, another trip up I-80 to TD Ameritrade Park for a contest against the Creighton Bluejays. Again, this is a game on paper the Huskers should win. Creighton has a midweek game against Omaha before playing the Huskers and could use up some of their available bullpen pieces. A depleted Creighton bullpen and a Husker offense feeling good makes you like the Huskers chances.
Next up would be a visit from the Michigan State Spartans. Sparty jumped out to 9-1 start, beating up on some bad teams. Michigan State is just 14-16 in their past 30 contests, including being swept at Maryland and at home against Minnesota. They beat up on Illinois, but have not won a single contest against a team in the RPI top 100. Michigan State looks scary on paper, but of their 41 home runs, 13 came in the series at Illinois where the wind blew out anything hit in the air. Nebraska could sweep, or could win 2 of 3, either way the Huskers need to win this series.
Nebraska would finish the season at Penn State. Penn State has played some close games, but their only conference wins are against Ohio State in a Friday night game, and against Northwestern on a Sunday getaway game. Nebraska has seen the ace of the Lions, Sal Biasi and dealt him a loss in Lincoln last year. Outside of Biasi, the Lions are thin on the mound and bat .231 as a team. If Nebraska does not pick up three wins here, that could be a crushing blow to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
If the above plays out, with the Huskers taking somewhere between eight or nine more conference wins, they could be the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, or the two seed. The Huskers trail Maryland by 2 games in the conference standings, with three games in hand. Nebraska would need Maryland to lose just once, and then to sweep their remaining games to pick up a league crown. While possible, Maryland gets to play Illinois and Northwestern, two teams that should get swept.
For now, I have the Huskers as the 2nd seed in the Big Ten, playing in a bracket against the 7th seed Purdue. I like Indiana to finish as the 3rd seed and to play Iowa as the 6th seed. Nebraska could rise to 40 wins if they won out in the regular season and conference tournament, but that should not be the goal. 37 or 38 wins would make the Huskers a near lock to be in the tournament, the ultimate goal.