TERRE HAUTE —
At high noon today, the train arrives for the Indiana State baseball team.
Whether the Sycamores will be at the station bound for the NCAA baseball tournament is still an open question.
It’s just as possible that the Sycamores’ bubble could get shot down too.
The full 64-team tournament field will be announced at noon today. The pairings will be broadcast on ESPNU.
ISU coach Rick Heller will gather the team at Bob Warn Field to watch the pairings. Unlike 2011, when the ISU men’s basketball team had a public party knowing their NCAA Tournament fate was assured, the baseball team will watch the selection show in private.
The Sycamores themselves have been stewing since last Wednesday when ISU was eliminated from the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament without winning a game.
Some of the players have been engaged in watching results from other conferences, tracking the Ratings Percentage Index’s bubble teams and even Tweeting national experts as to the Sycamores’ fate.
Other players have tried to put the bubble chaos out of their minds.
“My M.O. has been to get away from it. I want to clear my head. I don’t want to dwell on what happened or what’s going to happen. I’m just looking positive right now,” ISU pitcher Dakota Bacus said Sunday.
The Sycamores still rued the fact that they left their NCAA fate in the committee’s hands after going 0-2 in the MVC Tournament.
“It’s very suspenseful. It sucks that we put it in someone else’s hands when we had it in ours,” Bacus said.
“There’s really nothing we can do about it. We could have done something about it in conference, but that’s just baseball. Creighton was a scary eight [seed] and everybody else was good too. That’s just the MVC right there.”
The players felt the MVC’s strength is one of the selling points ISU has to make to the selection committee. On Saturday, the MVC squeezed past Conference USA as the fifth-best conference in the nation.
It is not known whether a top 5 regular season conference champion has ever been left out of the field. ISU’s RPI entering Sunday was 49th or 45th, respectively, depending on the service used to tabulate the ranking. A RPI rating in that range is atypical for a regular season champion in a top five conference.
“I thought we had a great season. I don’t know how our body of work and season wasn’t impressive. An eight-seed winning the championship game shows how tough it is. With us coming out on top, there’s something to be said for it,” ISU catcher Jeremy Lucas said.
The weekend proved to be a roller-coaster ride on the NCAA Tournament bubble. ISU received some good news in that some of its nonconference opponents made deep runs in their conference tournaments and the conference’s RPI went up.
Bad news came in the form of multiple conference tournament upsets. The last came Sunday when Missouri — a team ISU beat 15-1 in March — won the Big 12 Tournament and took an at-large bid out of the pool.
It was announced Sunday that Purdue would host a regional at Gary’s U.S. Steel Yard ballpark. That’s thought to be good news for the Sycamores’ tournament prospects as they would almost certainly be assigned there.
If ISU is chosen, it’ll be the first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament a Sycamores’ team has received in any sport since 2000, when the men’s basketball team qualified as the MVC regular season champions.
One of the members of the 10-person selection committee is former ISU athletic director Larry Gallo, now associate athletic director at North Carolina. Gallo was the Sycamores’ athletic director from 1995-97.
While the NCAA Tournament ramifications transpired out of the Sycamores’ control, practice resumed Saturday after a two-day break with scrimmages played on both Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re treating this week like we know we’re going to make it. You can’t just sit back and play like you hope you’re going to make it. Hopefully things go our way,” Lucas said.
High noon can’t come soon enough for the Sycamores who are ready for their five-day wait to finally end.
“I’m sure we’re all going to have our nerves wracked. I’m sure I will. But we’re going to stay positive, hope we get in, and think we’re going to get in,” ISU shortstop Tyler Wampler said.
TERRE HAUTE —
At high noon today, the train arrives for the Indiana State baseball team.
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