FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dominoes is a fun game. Not the traditional one. The kids’ one. Stacking them on their sides, lining them up and flicking one at the end. Watch ’em fall. Arkansas baseball is one of those dominoes this weekend.
The only problem is the direction. Said dominoes haven’t been arranged in a clear pattern. They could fall one way or another. They could change paths midway through. Who knows.
As coaches love to say, a team can only control what it does. What other teams they’re not playing happen to do is no concern. At least, not unless business is taken care of first.
Arkansas has a multitude of outcomes by the end of the weekend. It’s Week 10, the final week, of SEC play. By late Saturday, all 14 teams in the league will know their fate. They’ll know their seeding for the SEC Tournament. The top four finishers will receive first-round byes. Everyone else will fight among themselves for the right to advance to the double-elimination portion.
The Razorbacks can be one of those lucky four. They also could face a dead end on Day 1. It all depends on those dominoes.
Arkansas’ best case
This one takes some mastery and some luck. But it’s possible.
If Arkansas sweeps Texas A&M, the Diamond Hogs will finish 19-10 in SEC play this year. The Razorbacks are a game shy of most of the rest of the league thanks to getting only two games in against Tennessee a few weekends ago. Mostly, that turns into a good thing.
Say Dave Van Horn’s team sweeps. If Mississippi State takes two of three from LSU, then the Bulldogs and Tigers will be 19-11. Do the math on that and it’s a .633 winning percentage. Arkansas’, on the other hand, would be .655. The winner of the SEC West in that case, your Arkansas Razorbacks.
An SEC West title, which comes with 2-seed for the SEC Tournament, would be the best possible outcome. Either Florida or Kentucky, which are 19-8 and 18-9, respectively, would be the league winner. Gators sweep, they win and Kentucky falls. Gators take two of three because no one could catch their 21 victories. Same if the Wildcats take two of three. No one is getting their 20. But if Florida wins one game, Arkansas would fall to third because the Gators would have 20 wins, as well.
If your head is spinning, here’s a simpler breakdown of what Arkansas needs to win the SEC West and finish second in the league.
- Razorbacks sweep Texas A&M
- Mississippi State takes two of three from LSU
- Florida sweeps Kentucky or Kentucky sweeps Florida (either one works)
Note: Arkansas finishes as the 2-seed regardless of what happens in the Florida/Kentucky series, though those teams would finish with a superior record in one of the above scenarios.
Arkansas’ worst case
Like above, this one would take some disaster and some luck.
The worst possible seed for Arkansas would be the 7. And though that’s not bad, it would match up the Razorbacks with a 10-seed. In theory, it’s not that far from the seventh spot. In actuality, it would mean the Diamond Hogs almost certainly get Missouri or South Carolina in the first game. The Tigers won one of the three games the teams played in March.
That only happens if Arkansas is swept by Texas A&M. The Aggies definitely would jump Arkansas in that case. And if Auburn were to take two or more from Ole Miss, the Tigers would overtake the Diamond Hogs, too. Neither Ole Miss nor Vanderbilt could catch Arkansas. Ole Miss would have 16 wins, same as the Razorbacks, but 11 losses to Arkansas’ 10. Vanderbilt and Arkansas would have the same record. And because of last weekend — Arkansas taking two of three — the Razorbacks would own the tiebreaker.
And, clearly, if any team ahead of Arkansas also lost all three, well, it wouldn’t fall behind the Razorbacks by virtue of them already being ahead.
The summary for the worst-case 7-seed:
- Arkansas swept by Texas A&M
- Auburn wins at least two against Ole Miss
The best bet for the Razorbacks is they finish where they are now: fifth.
Sweeping Texas A&M, a Top 25 team, in College Station would be difficult. That isn’t to say it’s impossible. We’re just talking “likely.” And it’s unlikely that would happen.
It’s also unlikely Mississippi State gets swept at home. Even though LSU could win the entire SEC and has plenty to play for, it’s not as though the Bulldogs are rolling over for anyone. They figure they need a series win to sew up a hosting spot for the NCAA regionals. Count on Mississippi State to win at least one. If that happens and Arkansas wins two, the Razorbacks take fourth. If that happens and Arkansas wins one, the Bulldogs take fourth.
Similar story with Kentucky. If the Razorbacks take two from Texas A&M and Florida takes at least two from Kentucky, Arkansas would leapfrog the Wildcats, too. And, of course, Kentucky and Mississippi State results are mutually exclusive.
The 5-seed is likeliest. The 4-seed would be next, then probably the 3. The 6- and 7- are tough because they require the Diamond Hogs being swept and Auburn sweeping. Probably not going to happen.
Long story short: Dominoes.
Gotta love games, huh?