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Baseball is no longer an afterthought in Big Ten

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm •  Published: May 21, 2014
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The rationale, for both Anderson and Schreiber, was that long winters in Big Ten country make it extremely difficult to gain access to the NCAA tournament because conference teams must play nearly all February and March games on the road.

Those concerns were addressed last year when the NCAA began using a new formula for the RPI, which measures the relative strength of teams and conferences and helps determine at-large bids for the national tournament. There now is greater weight placed on road wins.

Traviolia said coaches agreed to put Schreiber's proposal on hold to see how the new RPI formula affects the conference. The Big Ten on Wednesday ranked 10th out of 32 conferences in RPI. Indiana (fourth in team RPI), Nebraska (27) and Illinois (50) all are in line for NCAA tournament berths.

Last year the Big Ten was sixth in RPI, with five teams among the top 65. Before that, the conference hadn't ranked higher than No. 11 since at least 2002.

"I think you'll see a renewed effort to have Schreiber's idea of counting fall games reconsidered," Traviolia said.

Most Big Ten teams have strengthened their schedules. There also have been some attention-grabbing hires. Rick Heller left a consistent winner at Indiana State last year to lead an Iowa program that hasn't won the conference since 1974. Erik Bakich left a rising Maryland program for Michigan in 2013.

Darin Erstad, an All-Star for the Anaheim Angels who had never been more than a volunteer coach at the college level, took over at his alma mater of Nebraska in 2012. Greg Beals went to Ohio State in 2011 after leading Ball State to unprecedented success.

While geography and climate will prevent the Big Ten from matching the top-to-bottom strength of the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12, the conference is showing it no longer is content with being an easy out.

"All of our teams, at the right time of year, can play with anybody," Beals said.