MSU baseball thrown scheduling curveball by Bush 41

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Jake Boss Jr.

The Michigan State baseball team gathered for some lunch Monday, and watched the NCAA Tournament Selection Show together.

The Spartans already sensed their fate, however.

Their RPI was too low, their strength of schedule too unimpressive, their finish to the regular season too poor.

"With three weeks to go in the season, I thought we were in a really good place," coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "And I got some feedback that kind of echoed that. We just didn't finish well.

"Had we finished well, we'd be practicing today and ready to get on a plane. We have nobody to blame but ourselves."

Scheduling for all college sports can be tricky, but it's especially so for a baseball team in the often-cold Midwest, trying to schedule some powerhouses from the South and West -- all while working within the confines of a budget.

MSU also schedules baseball two years out, so you also have to hope the good teams you schedule two years ago are still good when you actually play them.

The Spartans got dinged a couple times this year, with Auburn and Oregon -- NCAA Tournament participants a year ago -- having down years, and even then, two of the three games against Oregon were snowed out in East Lansing.

UM has ‘no excuses’ for NCAA snub; MSU also left out

The former president of the United States also threw Michigan State a curveball.

Here's what went down: MSU had a three-game series scheduled at Texas A&M, which is No. 4 in the nation in RPI and is hosting a regional. But around this time last year, Boss got a call from Aggies coach Rob Childress, who explained how the university president was friends with George H.W. Bush.

"I said, 'OK,'" Boss said, sensing bad news coming.

Childress then explained how Bush went to Yale.

"'OK,'" Boss said, knowing bad news was coming.

Texas A&M wanted to bring Yale into town for a series, and the only weekend that worked for Bush was March 4-6, when MSU was scheduled to play there.

So the Spartans were out, and left scrambling to play a tournament in Pensacola, Florida, where the field wasn't terrible -- Southern Miss made the NCAA Tournament this year, and Auburn was supposed to be good, and then there was Troy -- but it didn't have the impact of a three-game set at A&M. A couple wins there could've been huge for Michigan State.

"We lost those three games against a very, very good opponent," Boss said. "What are you gonna do?

"All of a sudden, our nonconference RPI takes a big hit."

Boss, by the way, did check back with A&M's schedule, just to make sure he wasn't getting the runaround -- and sure enough, A&M played Yale three times, with Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for one of the games.

In the end, MSU finished with an RPI of 77, way too low to get an at-large bid -- despite an 18-3 start to the season, and a couple early rankings in Baseball America's top 25. Losing five of six to close the regular season, plus back-to-back games to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament, proved the pivotal and final blow.

"You just gotta win," Boss said.

And in the end, MSU, at 36-20, didn't win enough.

Boss was pleased with the overall scheduling at the time the games were signed, and he believes there is promise on next year's docket, too.

Among the highlights: A game at Clemson (RPI No. 6) and a three-game series at South Carolina (No. 8).