Just in case you were wondering, the NCAA selection committee does have a baseline requirement that teams must be over .500 to be considered for an at-large berth to a Regional.
Nebraska’s right at .500 for the third time this year (once at the start of the season and again on Apri 21 before a four-game losing streak).
So throw out the computer rankings — despite how impressive they may be (WarrenNolan.com now has NU 28th in RPI and 17th in SOS while BoydsWorld.com listed Nebraska 38th in the RPI with the 27th-toughest schedule before Saturday’s two wins).
The Huskers’ season comes down to Sunday. That’s it. After three wins in two days, Nebraska will try for a fourth at 12:05 p.m. when it faces No. 1 seed Indiana. NU players have already had unreal pitching performances, made countless spectacular defensive plays, come through with multiple clutch hits — absorbing body blows only to punch back with momentum-altering surges of their own.
(Umm, is this a movie script or real life?)
Anyway, a win Sunday and it would be Nebraska’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2008. And its first conference championship of any kind since 2005 (the Huskers also won the tourney in ’05, losing their first game but taking five straight for the crown).
What’s this all mean for the program? For Darin Erstad? We can analyze that later on. For now, here are some things to watch in Sunday’s game.
>> Sophomore Kyle Kubat will start for the Huskers on three days rest (his reaction Saturday night on Twitter). The left-hander gave up two runs on five hits during 7 2/3 innings against Indiana earlier this year (he had six days rest before that one, though). You would assume that Kubat wouldn’t last longer than five innings Sunday after throwing 117 pitches Wednesday.
>> Indiana coach Tracy Smith laughed during his post-game press conference Saturday night when a reporter asked him about the possibility of facing Kubat. Said Smith: “I love that kid. I’m a big believer in fate, all those things come around. I just had this vision all the time: I said, it’s going to come down to facing him at some point. He is one of my favorite, if not favorite, pitchers in the conference. I love the way the kid competes. It’s a wonderful challenge for us as we head into postseason.”
>> The Hoosiers’ starter Sunday, lefty Will Coursen-Carr, is pretty good. In two combined midweek outings on the road against No. 10 Louisville and Kentucky (middle-of-the-pack SEC squad in 2013), the freshman gave up two earned runs and 11 hits while striking out nine over 12 2/3 innings earlier this month.
>> Nebraska might want to find a new way to pitch to IU sophomore Kyle Schwarber. The catcher has seven hits in 14 at-bats against NU this year, including three home runs. Every ball he put in play Saturday was smoked.
>> Can’t walk Schwarber, though. Because the guy behind him in the order, Sam Travis, is heating up. The sophomore first baseman has nine hits in his last 17 at-bats, homering twice, doubling twice more and driving in nine runs in that four-game stretch.
>> For Nebraska, Kash Kalkowski’s the one who’s had the best swings in the tournament, going 8-for-20 with six RBI. Three other guys — Michael Pritchard (.300 this weekend), Pat Kelly (.348) and Chad Christensen (.353) — have had at least one hit in every tourney game. Pritchard’s on an 18-game hitting streak.
>> We’ll end with a link to Tanner Lubach’s 11th-inning walk-off home run — because, well, that was pretty much awesome. The clip is up on YouTube.