Maryland has five games left between now and the start of the Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is currently 14th in the conference standings — last place.
There are 12 seeds in the tournament. But, with only one fewer win than Rutgers, whom the Terps face on Wednesday, not all hope is lost for the underdog team — especially since they are within five wins of six different teams,
There are a number of ways that the Terps could make it to Ann Arbor, and some are more feasible than others.
If they sweep Rutgers:
Rutgers has one more win than Maryland and their matchup Wednesday will determine which team might still have a shot at the 12th seed. If Maryland sweeps Rutgers, the Wisconsin series this upcoming weekend takes on much greater significance.
The Scarlet Knights have one of the better fielding percentages in the Big Ten, attesting to the consistency of both their infield and outfield. Rutgers’ team leaders in fielding categories are from a variety of defensive positions, giving the team a cohesive defensive front with the ability to make quick work against Maryland’s lineup.
However, Maryland’s lineup is one of its strongest points. Against Penn State last weekend, the Terps’ smart hitting decisions caused the Nittany Lions’ infield and outfield to struggle, allowing a cumulative nine errors over the series.
And… If they win the Wisconsin series:
If the Terps take down Rutgers, their next hurdle will be Wisconsin. If Nebraska sweeps Purdue (17-35, 6-14 Big Ten) this weekend, then Maryland needs two wins against the Badgers to clinch a spot — assuming Rutgers goes down against Michigan.
Michigan is currently ranked No. 19 in the NCAA. Although the Wolverines surrendered a win to Maryland earlier in the season, they are a tough team to beat with one of the best pitchers in the country.
If Northwestern drops the rest of its season:
Maryland’s other route to the tournament depends on Northwestern’s upcoming week. The Wildcats sit at 6-12 in the Big Ten with five games remaining. Like Maryland, they have a doubleheader Wednesday and a three-game series against Illinois and Iowa, respectively.
If Northwestern were to lose all five of those games with Maryland sweeping Rutgers and winning the Wisconsin series, the Terps could also clinch a spot. Although technically possible, this is relatively unlikely.
Although Illinois is one of the top teams in the Big Ten with a 13-4 conference record, Iowa is a middling squad presenting Northwestern with one of its better opportunities for a conference win this season.
If they win them all:
Last, but not least, the Terps could hypothetically sweep both series, tacking on five wins. If they were to do so, defying the odds, and Purdue and Northwestern both won only one more game (or lost all pre-tournament games), Maryland could clinch the 12th spot.
These opportunities present a lot of ifs. With only three conference wins so far, Maryland will have to depend on other teams dropping their final series in order to have a shot at a tournament run.
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