Earlier this week, the Huskers finalized and dropped their baseball schedule for the spring of 2024! And a whole 3-4 months ahead of last years release, which was delayed due to a couple of early season non conference teams not locking in their spots. So here it is!
The Times, They are a Changin’
There are a couple things to take away after a quick look at the schedule.
If you will remember, the biggest reason Nebraska missed the NCAAs despite having a similar record to some teams that made the cut, was their RPI, which ended up being 100. This was mainly due to their strength of schedule. A lot of teams in the Big Ten didn’t do them any favors, but the main culprit was populating their mid week games with multiple games from Summit League teams.
Now the Huskers did not help themselves one bit by going 2-4 vs the Summit League teams, but even a win would not have done much to improve their RPI, and to the selection committee, that is now the be-all, end-all. To combat this, Nebraska has moved on from 2 or 3 game series vs Omaha, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State, to hosting them for one game each in Lincoln, with no return visit to Omaha, as in years past.
Continuing our look at mid week games, Kansas State continues to be a home and home foe, while another former Big XII rival in Kansas also shows up with a home and home series. The battle against Kansas also includes a two game series at Wichita State. Wichita State is a program in somewhat disarray, as the team en masse rebelled against their interim head coach not being retained, and assistant coach Mike Sirianni joining the staff at Nebraska.
Early season, Non-Conference
The other noticeable difference in the schedule, is the boys will start their season in Texas again, as they did so often under former coaches Anderson and Erstad. I don’t think anyone wanted to head back to California after last year. NU will be in Arlington for the Shriners Children’s College Showdown to take on 3 more former Big XII combatants in Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Baylor is coming off a dreadful last place finish in the conference, and lost their best player in the transfer portal. Oklahoma went from CWS finalist in 2022 to barely having a winning record in 2023, finishing 7th in the 9 team conference, 1 spot behind Texas Tech.
Nebraska then travels to Grand Canyon University and College of Charleston for back to back 4 game series. GCU seemed to be building on an NCAA tournament team from 2022 last year, beating many nationally ranked teams, but lost the championship game of their conference tournament to miss the NCAAs. Expect them to take a step back, as their best player in program history was selected 6th overall in the MLB draft. CoC lost the two best players they’ve had in recent seasons with their top two pitchers transferring to SEC schools to use their Covid years. They will be rebuilding a staff in a big way early on.
Familiar teams in U of South Alabama and Nicholls return to the Huskers’ schedule for a second year in a row. The Huskers swept USA behind an offensive explosion last year, and in an all around odd set of circumstances against Nicholls, won the series against the eventual NCAA Tournament team.
Nebraska gets to ease into the B1G schedule, with the corpse of the Northwestern program, followed by an Ohio State team that finished 11th out of the 13 teams. April brings 3 big time series though, with a visit to Rutgers followed by home series against 2 time defending B1G champion Maryland, and Iowa (if any of the team hasn’t placed an over/under bet recently).
Maryland lost the core of their championship teams in the draft, with 7 players being drafted, including 4 All-Americans that have just flat out owned the Huskers in their time in College Park. But the series is in Lincoln, so no lazy fly balls will end up as home runs like they do at Maryland’s home stadium.
NU then travels up to Minnesota where John Anderson returns to coach for his 97th year. (Oh, it’s ONLY 43? My mistake.) Following what should be an easier series, the Huskers welcome Indiana, whose incredibly 2021 recruiting class will be entering their Jr years, and have to be considered the preseason favorite after finishing 2nd in the conference in 2023. Michigan State rounds out the season, just like in 2022, where Nebraska took them down to seemingly get into the Big Ten Tournament, while Purdue left their tarp on the field. #NeverForget
Bigger names round out the non-conference schedule, but mostly from programs that are either struggling or will be in major rebuilding mode. It should be enough to drive up the RPI over the past few years, so long as the Huskers can find some better mid week pitching. This should be the case with the JuCos that have been brought in, along with the talented trio of sophomore lefties returning.
While the conference schedule features what should be 3 of the 4 toughest teams in the league (obviously besides our beloved Huskers), all 3 have to come to Lincoln to play. This sets up about as well for Nebraska as you could hope. This year should be another step forward for the program with how the schedule is laid out..