Highlights include a home series vs Troy in March, a return to Victory Field in April, and former IU head coach Tracy Smith’s return to Bart Kaufman Field leading Michigan in May.
By Carl James @jovian34 November 29th, 2023
Indiana Baseball released their full 2024 schedule on Wednesday. It is a full 56 game slate which matches 2023 with 30 games set to be played at Bart Kaufman Field. The conference portion of the schedule is the typical 8 series/24 game slate which is very likely to change in 2025 as the league brings in four programs out of the Pac 12.
The Hoosiers will start the season on the beach at Coastal Carolina in a four-team event where they will start with Duke on Friday, March 16th, face the host on Saturday, and conclude against George Mason on Sunday. Indiana has scheduled two mid-weeks in February against Miami (Ohio) and Purdue Fort Wayne. The second weekend is a series in Texas at Baylor out of the Big 12. Baylor is coming off a 20-35 year and hasn’t seen NCAA post season play since 2019.
The first two weeks of March will provide multiple challenges for Indiana. In Frisco, Texas, Indiana will compete against Alabama, Dallas Baptist, and Arizona in the Frisco Classic. After a home midweek again Northern Kentucky, the Hoosiers will welcome in a Troy team that won 39 games in 2023, swept Indiana two years ago, and is getting some potential top-25 buzz from national media. then on March 12th, Indiana travels to Nashville for a mid week battle against SEC juggernaut Vanderbilt. The rest of March is a trio of home series against 2023 sub-.500 teams with a big midweek in Terre Haute at Indiana State on March 19th.
Half of the Big Ten (B1G) conference slate is in April with trips to reigning champs Maryland and Minnesota plus hosting Penn State and Rutgers. The midweek action in April is all in-state with Indiana State, Evansville. and Ball State coming to the Bart, plus a Hoosier return to Victory Field for a neutral site rematch against Ball State on April 23rd.
It’s an all Power-5 May for Indiana. Hoosier seniors will be out of town for graduation weekend (May 3-5) as Indiana faces rival Purdue at Alexander Field in West Lafayette. The historical three year schedule cycle was broken by playing Purdue a third straight year, likely indicating a conscious decision on the part of the B1G to protect the IU/Purdue series annually. This makes sense as it is also assumed the west coast additions in 2025 will likely get similar treatment to avoid some of the costly travel. Hoosiers will then host Cincinnati, now a member of the Big 12 Conference, for a midweek on May 7th.
The final seven will be a challenge as Indiana travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska, then concludes mid week action with a trip to ACC rival Louisville. The regular season then ends May 16th-18th with Michigan head coach Tracy Smith bringing his Wolverines into the Bart, the facility he fought so hard to build over a decade ago. Smith will be in the same dugout he was in the last time he coached a game at the Bart, when the “visiting” Hoosiers were walked-off on when Stanford’s Tommy Edman hit a ninth inning home run to clinch the 2014 Bloomington Regional for the Cardinal.
Using the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) tool, I ran a comparison of the 2024 schedule compared to the 2023 RPI results. I used 2023 records for both. In the past (with at least one notable exception) this is a good approximation. While teams will change year over year, there are enough different teams on a baseball schedule that the fluctuations tend to wash out. For example, it could be expected that Baylor coming off of a lousy year will perform a bit better, while Maryland, coming off a very good year, would perform a bit worse.
The analysis shows that the 2024 schedule is a tad weaker than 2023. I figure to achieve a comparable RPI, Indiana will need two more wins. Indiana was safely in the NCAA Tournament in 2023 with 40 regular season wins. I project Indiana will need 38 regular season wins to get into the at-large conversation and 40 total wins (including the B1G Tournament) to solidify an NCAA Berth. If the Hoosiers are looking to host a regional, 45 regular season wins will likely be needed.
The first four weeks of the schedule look ideal. Two highly competitive tournaments in weeks one and three with a winnable road series to a Power-5 program in-between. This stretch wraps up at home with a very tough Troy team. A lot of chances for marquee wins in this stretch, but nothing Indiana shouldn’t be capable of. The Hoosiers will be challenged, but shouldn’t find themselves over matched as they often have been in these early season series.
It will be great for the program to get back to Victory Field and Ball State is a great RPI building team, so playing them twice is almost assured to be helpful and challenging.
As clearly stated in a regional post game by head coach Jeff Mercer back in June, Kentucky is not on this schedule. For the past decade IU and Kentucky would alternate hosting a midweek game annually. In the end it’s not a loss from an RPI perspective as Vanderbilt will substitute for Kentucky and in most seasons that will be a clear upgrade. The other thing missing from this schedule is that the Hoosiers do not play the B1G favorite Iowa Hawkeyes.
Butler had the worst 2023 of any team on this schedule, and the Bulldogs are the one team that the Hoosiers will play four times. The only silver lining, RPI wise, is that the Thursday opener of that Easter weekend series will be in Indianapolis. The hope for Hoosier fans is that Butler makes a dramatic turn around year over year (except for that one weekend).