What's at stake
Before the 2014 ACC Tournament, Maryland stood at 34-21 and were considered just on the inside of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Wins over Virginia and Florida State propelled the Terps to a #2 seed in the Columbia, SC Regional. A year later Maryland has an even better regular season record, 36-20. But the Terps have been struggling lately, winning only four of their last 11 games. Thus they're considered right on top, or perhaps just outside the NCAA bubble. They'll need a strong showing in the B1G Tournament to make it to the NCAA Regionals for the second consecutive year.
The good thing is that the way the tournament's schedule plays out gives Maryland a shot at doing just that. On Wednesday night the Terps face MSU (RPI #48), and if they can defeat the Spartans, the Terps next face the winner of the Illinois (RPI # 10) / Nebraska (RPI #39) game. Winning both games will not be easy, but doing so affords the Terps the kind of resume-repairing wins that they desperately need.
The schedule for the tournament can be found here.
Maryland's road ahead
At 14-10 in the B1G, Maryland ended up in a three-way tie for third place with Michigan and Michigan State. As a result of the B1G's tiebreaker algorithm, Michigan got the #3 seed, Maryland #4, and Michigan State #5. This means that Maryland will face Michigan State in Wednesday's last game, scheduled for 10 p.m. EDT.
The Spartans were not expected to be anywhere near the top of the B1G, but here they are with an overall record of 33-21. Notable wins include Coastal Carolina, Clemson, Ohio State, and most impressive of all, Illinois. In terms of the latter, that March 29th game was the last time that Illinois dropped a contest. The Spartans are batting .291 as a team, third in the B1G, and have the conference's second best slugging percentage (behind only Illinois). Their first three batters are a pitcher's nightmare. Leading off is LF Cam Gibson (.301 avg, 52 r, 5 hr, 16 sb), a consistent .300 hitter over his three years in East Lansing. He also happens to be the son of former MLB star Kirk Gibson. Following Gibson is 1B Ryan Krill, who's had a spectacular senior season: .363 avg., 12 hr, .627 slg%. If not for Illinois' David Kerian, a case could be made for Krill being named the B1G's MVP for position players. Krill is riding a 19-game hitting streak. Behind Krill is 3B Mark Weist (.335 avg, 17 2b, 6 hr, 10 sb).
Michigan State's pitching staff ranks 8th in the B1G in era, 6th in opponent's batting average. The Spartans lead the B1G in runners picked-off base, more than doubling anyone else in the conference. Getting picked off base is one of Maryland's weak spots, so Terp base runners will have to be especially careful against the Spartans' pitchers. Michigan State doesn't have a shut down ace, and their bullpen has been mediocre. The starting pitchers for Wednesday's game will be LHP Cam Vieaux (4-6, 3.64 era) vs. Maryland's Mike Shawaryn (11-2, 1.68 era).
If the Terps beat Michigan State, they will face either Nebraska or Illinois. Maryland faced Nebraska earlier this year at Shipley Field, and swept the Cornhuskers. The Terrapins did not face Illinois, the B1G regular-season champion and #5 ranked nationally. All Illinois has done is to go 45-6-1, currently riding a remarkable 26 game winning streak, and have a 21-1 record in the B1G. I'll have more on Nebraska and Illinois pending the results of Wednesday's games.
How to follow
The B1G Tournament Central can be found here. Check it out for all of the latest scores and subsequent pairings. This year the tournament will be played at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. (Remember, that is in the central time zone.)
Video/TV: All games will be on BTN Plus or BTN2GO ($$$). Games #3 & #4 (Terps in #4) on Wednesday, games #7 & #8 on Thursday (if Terps win Wednesday, they'll be in #8), as well as all games Friday, Saturday, and the championship on Sunday will be on BTN.
Audio: Whatever flavor of BTN is broadcasting the game will have audio. However, for the best content and play-by-play, check out the Maryland Baseball Network live broadcast for all of Maryland's games. There is a rumor that a certain Testudo Times writer might be adding some color commentary.
Twitter: @terpsbaseball & @mercator88 (I'll be on site and tweeting away)