Ruden: NCAA Baseball Tournament deserves recognition

The NCAA Baseball Tournament has been underrated for far too long, and it deserves recognition.


Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa Pitcher Cole McDonald pitches during the baseball game at Duane Banks Stadium on Friday, May 3, 2019. The Hawkeyes beat the Eaters 6-3.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Everyone loves March Madness. After all, what’s better than watching basketball literally all day for a whole weekend? Answer: very few things.

But unfortunately, March only comes once a year, and when the “One Shining Moment” montage has finished, the whole country is forced to wait another 12 months to get the same feeling.

But unbeknown to many, there’s another electric tournament just a few months later: the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

The tournament gives fans of the sport the pleasure of watching games from sun up to sundown, and the tight games and incredible performances replay in the brain for hours and days to come.

But those close contests and amazing stat lines are often overlooked.

Many of these games aren’t on standard cable TV, and ESPN3 becomes a must-need, which isn’t ideal for a national tournament.

Because a lot of the games can’t be accessed, it doesn’t get enough of the credit it deserves.

Fans remember Loyola-Chicago’s recent run to the Final Four and the numbers Steph Curry dropped while leading Davidson to the Elite Eight in 2008, but what about Fresno State making the trip to Omaha and winning it all in a Cinderella run? And will Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker’s 19-strikeout no-hitter on June 8 be remembered beyond this year?

Memes about Virginia losing to a No. 16 seed will be created as long as the internet exists, but we probably won’t see anything about defending national champion Oregon State — which boasted the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft — losing the first two games of the regional it hosted to end its season.

Those are some incredible feats, and Rocker’s performance to even Vandy’s Super Regional with Duke rivals the best in college athletics this year.

The hype around the Baseball Tournament heightens when Iowa makes an NCAA regional, which we saw in 2017 after the Hawkeyes’ run to the Big Ten Tournament title.

But the tournament continues to be fun either way. It’s thrilling to watch smaller schools such as Jacksonville State topple historically stellar programs.

It’s also interesting to watch battles between conferences, because unlike college football and college basketball (for the most part), these unknown programs sometimes rack up higher seeds than Power Five schools, bringing an interesting dynamic to the forefront that isn’t seen in other college tournaments.

In college baseball, teams that play year-round are at an advantage, which makes it fascinating to see how far a team from the Big Ten or Big East can make it.

And let’s not forget Omaha during the College World Series. T.D. Ameritrade Park quickly becomes a hot spot for sports fans, drawing an electric atmosphere from all the visitors. One doesn’t even have to be a fan of a team that’s competing. The atmosphere is enough.

It’s clear that the NCAA Baseball Tournament isn’t March Madness, and it never will be. But for those needing their fix of a highly competitive tournament full of drama, the NCAA Baseball Tournament is perfect.

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