Illinois baseball and the NCAA tournament

May 25—Dan Hartleb's team has likely done enough already at the Big Ten tournament to secure a spot in an NCAA regional. Even after Illinois' Big Ten tournament run ended on Friday night in an elimination game loss to Michigan in Omaha, Neb. Staff writer

Scott Richey examines the Illini's chances at an extended postseason:Postseason résuméHas the Big Ten tournament gone as planned for the regular-season conference champions? Not so much. Losing to eighth-seeded — and clearly upset-minded — Penn State on Wednesday put Illinois' back against the wall. But extending the stay in Omaha has come with a much-needed RPI boost. The Illini were up to No. 40 ahead of Friday night's game against Michigan, which bolsters their at-large chances if they don't leave Omaha with a title. But Illinois could still be just bubble adjacent with a résumé that includes a 12-13 record against top-100 teams and just a 2-9 mark against those in the top 50.

Bracketology breakdownIllinois was projected to receive a No. 2 seed and land in the Lexington Regional, by D1Baseball's trio of Mark Etheridge, Kendall Rogers and Aaron Fitt heading into conference tournament week. Losing in the first round in Omaha, though, wasn't consequence free. An updated bracket projection from Baseball America's Teddy Cahill now has the Illini as a No. 3 seed in the Terre Haute Regional along with top-seeded host Indiana State, Vanderbilt and Bryant. Getting paired with the perennial powerhouse Commodores, who have a pair of top-60 draft prospects in their rotation, is less than ideal.

Other tourneys to watchThe worst thing for Illinois the rest of this weekend would be bid stealers in other conference tournaments. That includes the Big Ten where Penn State would certainly qualify. Another conference tournament where a bid stealer could emerge is the Sun Belt given Coastal Carolina and Louisiana — both locks to land in an NCAA regional — both bowed out Thursday. Illini fans should probably root for second-seeded Southern Miss to avoid its own upset just in case. The Big 12 also has multiple bubble teams that could complicate Illinois' path should upsets happen in Arlington, Texas.