Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Big Ten could land four teams in NCAA baseball tourney

Posted by: Joe Christensen under The Big 10, NCAA Updated: May 21, 2013 - 3:46 PM

The Big Ten has yet to land more than three teams in the NCAA baseball tournament since the field expanded to 64 in 1999. As recently as 2011 and 2012, the conference sent just one team into the NCAA field.

This year, that could change, especially if an underdog such as Minnesota wins this week's Big Ten Tournament at Target Field.

Here's a look at the latest Pseudo-RPI rankings on Boydsworld.com: Indiana (13), Illinois (30), Michigan State (39), Nebraska (44), Ohio State (60), Gophers (126), Michigan (151).

In his latest College Stock Report, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt projects the Big Ten to get four bids, and he makes a strong case for Michigan State to make it, even though the Spartans didn't qualify for the six-team Big Ten tourney.

The Big Ten coaches at Tuesday's press conference all agreed that the conference has improved.

"I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the conference for 23 years, and by far and away, this is the best this conference has ever been," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said.

Gophers coach John Anderson credits the commitment schools have made toward facilities, recruiting budgets and coaching hires, along with the Big Ten Network, which will televise this week's entire tournament, live.

First-year Michigan coach Erik Bakich said: "With the elite institutions that we’re a part of, it would be a travesty to think that the Big Ten in baseball would only be a one- or two-bid league. And from here on out, I know we would love to see this be a four- or five-plus-bid league. And it can do that."

The tournament starts Wednesday at noon, when Minnesota faces Illinois. Look for my story on Gophers ace Tom Windle in tonight's first editions, and I'll have coverage from Target Field throughout the week.

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