SEC baseball, man.
As wild a season as it’s been, with the predicted dregs of the conference spending a good chunk of the year at the top and some typical powers falling, things had a way of reverting. Regressing to the mean, it’s called.
Florida and LSU spent most of the year hovering middle of the pack, perhaps a touch higher. Mostly, Auburn, Kentucky and Arkansas had their way. All three were picked below the middle of the SEC in the preseason. Kentucky and Arkansas are still among the league’s best, but at this point, LSU and Florida have overtaken both.
The league still has eight NCAA Tournament locks and perhaps a ninth team will make it, too. The league champion hasn’t been decided. Nor have the division title-holders. Five teams still are fighting to host a regional, too.
The SEC — yep, still a baseball conference.
14. Alabama (previously 14th)
Overall: 5-22, 19-32
Last week: 1-3 (beat Grambling, swept by Florida)
Alabama will always have Auburn, at least. The Crimson Tide were officially eliminated from SEC Baseball Tournament consideration with a sweep at the hands of the Gators. It’s been a long year in Tuscaloosa, but there a few signs things won’t be miserable for long. Plus, Alabama can play spoiler this weekend against Vanderbilt.
13. Tennessee (11)
Overall: 7-18, 26-22
Last week: 2-3 (beat Belmont, beat Eastern Kentucky, swept by Kentucky)
Oh, boy. The Volunteers were looking OK the last couple weeks. But being broomed by the Wildcats combined with Georgia’s series win against Mississippi State has left the Vols with some work to do. Right now, they won’t make the SEC Baseball Tournament. And while that isn’t a huge shock given that’s what Tennessee baseball has become the last decade or so, it’s still disappointing.
12. Georgia (13)
Overall: 9-18, 22-30
Last week: 3-1 (beat Georgia Tech, won series against Mississippi State)
Where did that come from? Georgia has suddenly won two straight SEC series. Not only that, but those series have come against SEC powers Kentucky and Mississippi State, easy 2-seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have played themselves into the SEC Tournament, anyway, and that’s something.
11. South Carolina (10)
Overall: 12-15, 30-21
Last week: 3-2 (beat Presbyterian, beat Liberty, lost series to Missouri)
Well, that’ll do it in Columbia. South Carolina would need an absolute miracle to make the NCAA Tournament now. A disappointing hitting season and pitching injuries have left the Gamecocks in disarray. Next weekend can go one of two ways: South Carolina fights off Georgia in a rivalry series or it folds and waits for next year. Neither would surprise.
10. Missouri (12)
Overall: 11-16, 31-21
Last week: 2-1 (won series against South Carolina)
Mizzou had to take advantage of a struggling South Carolina to feel good about itself. The Tigers did it and will have a postseason. In fact, with Tennessee on the schedule next weekend, Missouri could look like a wholly respectable SEC team soon.
9. Auburn (6)
Overall: 14-13, 32-21
Last week: 0-4 (lost to UAB, swept by LSU)
You know that Ron White joke about the tires? Yeah. That’s Auburn. From first-place in the SEC and the country’s best “who’d have thunk it?” story to out of the NCAA Tournament — that’s Auburn baseball in a two-week span. The Tigers were playing with fire at the end of April, losing to Troy. But now, seven losses in a row have sent them into a spiral. One win is required against Ole Miss to keep hope afloat.
8. Vanderbilt (9)
Overall: 13-13, 30-21
Last week: 1-3 (lost to Louisville, lost series to Arkansas)
This past weekend in Fayetteville was the epitome of Vanderbilt baseball this year. The Commodores are a decent baseball team. Just not good enough. With two studs in Kyle Wright and Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt has star power. There just isn’t a lot of depth in hitting or pitching. The Commodores will make the NCAAs and could do some damage in the SEC Tournament, but they have the makings of a quickly done team.
7. Ole Miss (8)
Overall: 13-14, 31-21
Last week: 2-1 (won series against Texas A&M)
You have to think the Rebels are in the NCAA Tournament now. Texas A&M isn’t on an upswing, but Ole Miss still had to take advantage of that. Taking care of business against a suddenly falling Auburn team would leave no doubt, though. Best be safe.
6. Texas A&M (7)
Overall: 15-12, 35-17
Last week: 1-2 (lost series to Ole Miss)
Texas A&M has one win in its last five games. This after reeling off 14 wins in 16 games before that. Go figure. The Aggies are good, not great. If they want to be a 2-seed instead of a 3 (does that even matter?), they need a series win at Arkansas this weekend. At this point, who knows how likely that is.
5. Arkansas (5)
Overall: 16-10, 37-14
Last week: 2-1 (won series against Vanderbilt)
The weekend was well-rounded for the Razorbacks. Nothing was spectacular. It was just a workmanlike, solid series win against Vanderbilt. For weeks that’s been all that’s required. Arkansas still can technically win the SEC West, but simply beating Texas A&M this weekend and earning a top-four SEC finish would be enough to (probably) secure a hosting spot for regionals.
4. Mississippi State (2)
Overall: 17-10, 33-19
Last week: 1-2 (lost series to Georgia)
Things have been middling in Starkville for a few weeks. A series loss, then a win, then a loss. Mississippi State is playing its way out of a national seed. If the Bulldogs don’t watch it, they won’t host at all. Long way to that, though. And, really, a series win in the finale against LSU would do wonders. They’re still scary, just struggling.
3. Kentucky (3)
Overall: 18-9, 36-16
Last week: 4-0 (beat Indiana, swept Tennessee)
Kentucky did exactly what it should have against poor major-conference competition. Indiana is basically the Tennessee of the Big Ten. The Wildcats are the surprise team of the SEC (sorry, Auburn and Arkansas) and have worked their way into legitimate national-seed conversation. A showdown with Florida, for all the marbles, will be a joy to watch in Week 10.
2. LSU (4)
Overall: 18-9, 35-17
Last week: 3-1 (lost to South Alabama, swept Auburn)
Mark it down. LSU will host a regional for the sixth consecutive season. Paul Mainieri’s bunch just kept plugging away this year. Always given some national attention — because, hey, it’s LSU — but never overwhelming anyone, the Tigers are where they’re used to being: near the top of the SEC. Surprise, surprise.
1. Florida (1)
Overall: 19-8, 38-14
Last week: 3-1 (lost to South Florida, swept Alabama)
Oregon State. That’s about it. When it comes to a combination of hottest and best teams in the nation, there are the Beavers and there is Florida. The Gators have lost only three times since April 9. Their lineup doesn’t terrify, but it’s good. The pitching rotation is one of the nation’s best. Coaching is a given. No matter what happens this weekend, barring the negative miracle, Florida will head into the postseason as one of the favorites for the national title.