Now that is a great picture.
Week eight of the SEC schedule helped to sort things out in the top two tiers, as Vanderbilt and Arkansas both moved up by virtue of series wins against LSU and Ole Miss, respectively. Florida also moved up thanks to two dominant wins against Alabama paired with South Carolina's problems closing out Kentucky. The league seems set to have at least eight NCAA Tournament teams as a surprising Tennessee squad has gone 7-2 in their last three series to put their team on the brink of at-large lock status. However, Kentucky and Alabama - both candidates to miss the SEC Tournament this year - could also sneak in based on their strength early in the season and the relative weakness of the college baseball field as a whole in 2010. Could this be the year that the SEC sends 10 teams to the tournament? It's probably unlikely, but eight or nine seems like a realistic possibility.
|The League's Elite|
||33-12 (17-7)||The Gators rise to the top spot after defeating Alabama with 31 runs over three games. Austin Maddox (2 HR against 'bama, 16 HR, 57 RBI in 46 games) is making a major case for SEC Player of the Year.|
|2)||Arkansas||38-11 (16-8)||Made a big statement in Sunday's rubber game with Ole Miss, as starter Mike Bolsinger destroyed the Rebels, spinning 8 innings of 2-hit ball with 11 strikeouts.|
|3)||South Carolina||37-11 (17-7)||Couldn't close out bubble team Kentucky on the road, but it shouldn't make too much of an impact on their season. The 'Cocks depth at the plate make them a tough matchup against any team's starting pitching.|
|4)||Ole Miss||34-15 (15-9)||The Rebels slip after getting beat by Arkansas, but remain in great shape to host a Regional this June. However, question marks on the mound (a team ERA of 7.17 over their last six SEC games) could spell trouble for Ole Miss in tournament play.|
|Solid Resumes, NCAA Tourney-Bound|
|5)||Vanderbilt||36-13 (12-10)||Vandy is playing gritty ball and winning close games at the right time of the season. The 'Dores are short on superstars but have great depth and the pitching to hang with anyone in the league.|
|6)||Auburn||33-16 (15-9)||Shot into 2nd in the SEC West and made a case for a hosting gig in June with a sweep, but it came at the hands of lowly MSU, which keeps them below the 'Dores this week.|
|7)||LSU||34-15 (12-12)||Their slide continued after they couldn't capitalize on a Game One win against Vandy, dropping to 1-8 in the SEC over the last three weeks. Kentucky will give them another stiff test before a reprieve with Mississippi State before the SEC Tournament.|
|NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams|
|8)||Tennessee||27-21 (11-13)||Last weekend's sweep was great, but three wins against 3-19 Georgia isn't enough to move them off the bubble yet. A solid showing next week at Auburn could move them up a tier.|
|9)||Kentucky||26-22 (9-15)||Proved their mettle with a big comeback series win over last week's #1 South Carolina. The 'Cats are only 2 games behind UT for the 4th spot in the SEC East and has a chance to catch them this week against struggling LSU.|
|10)||Alabama||29-19 (10-14)||Snuck out a win against Florida, but two big losses kept the Tide spinning their wheels for another week. They'll have to come up big against Ole Miss this week to have a chance to catch LSU for a spot in the SEC Tournament.|
|There's Always Next Year…|
|11)||Mississippi State||20-28 (5-19)||Surprise! MSU got swept by a team that needed some big wins this week (Auburn).|
|12)||Georgia||14-33 (3-19)||Surprise! Georgia got swept by a team that needed some big wins this week (Tennessee).|
Week nine will present plenty of opportunities for bubble teams to make statements with big wins, as Kentucky will get a chance to send LSU to the bubble, Alabama will try to topple Ole Miss, and Tennessee will put their three-series win streak up against Auburn's. Should all three underdogs come out with series wins, expect the chatter of a 10-bid conference to pick up a bit. On top of that, Arkansas and South Carolina will square off in a battle that will help determine the league's pecking order at the top of the standings. Only two weeks remain before the SEC Tournament, and a playoff atmosphere will take over in many series as teams fight for conference relevancy and resume-boosting wins. Expect some big time performances as the race to Hoover sorts itself out with six games to go.