Posted at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2007
by Steve Rudolph
Once again a Minnesota baseball team that calls the Metrodome home will experience postseason play. But I’m not talking about the Twins.
In each of his 26 seasons, John Anderson has coached the University of Minnesota to a winning season. A second-place finish in conference play this season now has his team is headed to Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Big Ten tournament and in prime position for another NCAA bid.
If you’re not familiar with the Big Ten Tournament, you’re missing out on one of the goofiest formats in all of sports. Six of the conference’s ten teams play in a double-elimination tournament. The top two seeds (Michigan and Minnesota) receive a bye in the first round.
It’s a format that requires the conference’s NCAA-bound team(s) to play too many innings late in the season, often requires them to throw their ace pitchers a second time on little rest, and doesn’t prepare them for the play they’ll experience the following weekend. Despite those reasons I wouldn’t expect them to change the format anytime soon.
That’s because some of the schools feel limiting the field to only four teams, and mimicking the system used in the NCAA tournament, means two schools won’t experience postseason play and won’t have a shot (albeit a long one) to earn the conference’s automatic bid and the right to be quickly eliminated in the tournament.
With 38 victories (including wins over powerhouses Arkansas, Ole Miss and Pepperdine), Minnesota should be a lock to make the tournament. The experts think so.
But I’ve followed college baseball long enough to know the selection committee doesn’t listen to me and it doesn’t think highly of northern baseball. There is no way it will ever place more than two Big Ten teams in the field. So should Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State or Illinois receive the conference’s automatic bid, the Gophers season might come to a premature end in Ann Arbor this weekend.