Opinion | Why Iowa baseball didn’t make a regional

Even with some angry fans and coaches, Iowa baseball didn’t deserve to make the cut for the NCAA regionals this season. A lack of solid wins and a low strength of schedule hurt the Hawkeyes in the long run.

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Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Rick Heller walks back to the coaching box after disputing a call with the home plate umpire during a baseball game between Iowa and Maryland on Saturday, April 24, 2021 at Duane Banks Field. The Terrapins defeated the Hawkeyes 8-6.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter


Another year, another controversial ending. The Iowa baseball team is left out of the NCAA Tournament again. This time, not by the fault of the selection committee, but by the fault of the team.

The Hawkeyes missed out on an NCAA postseason bid for the fourth straight season despite another good year. After finishing the regular season and Big Ten Tournament at 36-19 and 17-7 in conference play, Iowa was on the outside looking in during the selection process.

After winning seven out of eight Big Ten series and finishing third in the conference with a 17-7 record, Iowa still found itself sitting at home while watching the college regional tournaments.

So why did Iowa miss the cut?

 

Strength of Schedule

The Hawkeyes’ solid record of 36-19 is slightly inflated because of their relatively easy schedule, especially in the non-conference part of their season. While a win against Big 12 power Texas Tech helped, Iowa didn’t play enough good teams to help themselves before the Big Ten slate.

Wins against Air Force and Bucknell didn’t necessarily hurt the Hawkeyes’ resume, but they didn’t help it either. Iowa only faced two teams with an RPI (a measure of a team’s wins and losses weighted by strength-of-schedule) better than 50 in Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Losses to Wichita State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi hurt Iowa as both opponents had an RPI of 145 or worse.

Iowa played the 155th hardest nonconference schedule in the nation.

During conference play, Iowa scheduled midweek contests against teams like Western Illinois and Milwaukee, both of which have RPIs in the high 200s.

Instead of scheduling these games, Iowa should have tried to get better midweek opponents to not only boost their strength of schedule but their RPI as well.

 

RELATED: Michigan ends Iowa baseball’s five-game run at Big Ten Tournament

 

Tough year for the Big Ten

Iowa wasn’t the only team that felt a little robbed of a college regional berth.

Rutgers had their best season in a long time and missed the cut. The Scarlet Knights went 44-15 with a similar 17-7 record in the Big Ten. They placed second in both the conference’s regular-season and tournament. Yet, Rutgers, like Iowa, was on the outside looking in during the NCAA selection show. That has a lot to do with the strength of the Big Ten.

Only five teams in the conference cracked the final RPI top 100: Maryland, Rutgers, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois. The other eight teams were all in the 100s or worse. While conferences like the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference have teams loaded in the upper half of the RPI, the Big Ten simply doesn’t.

That means winning a three-game series against a 166th-RPI-ranked Nebraska team won’t help the resume that much. The Big Ten simply wasn’t as talented from top to bottom this year. So, getting third place in the conference doesn’t mean as much. This makes it harder to move up in the RPI when playing below-average competition on weekends.

 

Moving forward

After another season where Iowa found itself so close yet so far, the Hawkeyes must forget and move forward.

The keys for next season are simple: schedule and consistency. Having a tough schedule can make up for many errors like a midweek defeat or series loss. If the committee sees that a team is scheduling tough opponents and trying to win tough games, it looks better in May when the chips are on the table.

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