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What Michigan baseball must do to make the postseason

After a bad start to the season, the Wolverines have turned it around and could sneak into their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 05 Shriners Children’s College Classic - Michigan vs Louisville Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the Michigan Wolverines baseball team started the year 4-8, fresh off a six-game skid that had head coach Tracy Smith “embarrassed”, you’d be forgiven if you wrote this season off as a rebuilding year.

Flash forward six weeks, however, and the Wolverines are sneakily on the doorstep for a regular season Big Ten crown, and potentially their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.

As of press time, the Big Ten standings sit like this:

With three games in hand over No. 1 Indiana and No. 2 Maryland, the Wolverines are just a game and a half behind the leaders. While Michigan is taking this upcoming weekend off from facing conference opponents, the Hoosiers and Terrapins aren’t — in fact, they’re playing each other.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, no combination of outcomes in that series puts them on top of the leaderboard. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not one that makes it a whole lot easier. Michigan fans should cheer for the Terrapins to take the series — but not the sweep this weekend. With that outcome, the Big Ten standings look like this come Monday morning:

Big Ten Standings after UMD-IU (UMD wins 2)

School Conf W-L Games Back
School Conf W-L Games Back
Maryland 10-5 0
Indiana 9-5 0.5
Michigan 9-6 1

From there, it’s simply a matter of winning the games for the Wolverines. In a stroke of incredible luck, Michigan’s final three series of the conference season are against the bottom three teams in the standings — at No. 11 Minnesota, vs. No. 13 Northwestern, and finally at No. 14 Ohio State.

The odds of the Wolverines going 9-0 in those three series are remarkably slim — this is baseball after all — but with Indiana and Maryland both having at least one series against the top six in the conference in their final three weekends, it’s unlikely either team will emerge unscathed.

Of course, winning the Big Ten regular season and making the NCAA Tournament aren’t necessarily the same thing. Last season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights infamously did not receive an invite to the big dance, despite finishing second in the conference and boasting an overall record of 44-15. The reason? Michigan stole the auto-bid in the Big Ten Tournament, and the committee picked just one additional Big Ten team.

With the Wolverines’ out-of-conference record being decidedly poor, it’s very possible winning the regular season crown won’t be enough to ensure an invite. To squash any doubts about making the NCAA Tournament, Michigan is gonna have to take a page out of their 2022 playbook — go into Omaha and take the Big Ten Tournament crown.