SEC Baseball Power Rankings: Week Nine

Yeah, these guys are back on top. via www.deseretnews.com

South Carolina reclaimed sole possession of the top spot this week, thanks to Florida's series win at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks came back to win a tight series with the league's #4 team Arkansas, while the Gators matched this output by way of a 12-inning, come-from-behind win on Sunday afternoon that shocked the Commodores and dropped the 'Dores out of sole possession of first place. This left the top of the SEC standings in a three-way tie once again at 20-7, but created a clear pecking order between the teams thanks to what we've seen in series play.

South Carolina, with wins over Florida and Vanderbilt, gets the top spot. Florida, based on last week's triumph in Nashville, earns #2. Vandy, after crapping the bed on Sunday against both teams, gets the bronze medal of shame and lots to think about as the conference tournament draws near.

Despite Vandy's series defeats, they'll still have a chance to earn at least a share of the SEC regular season title with a strong showing this weekend against Georgia. However, they'll have to do it against a team that is already facing a playoff situation. Dropping two games to Kentucky has the Bulldogs hovering dangerously close to .500 at 27-26, and they'll have to maintain a winning record to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With the Commodores coming to town and the SEC Tournament looming, UGA has run out of easy games, and they'll be fighting for their postseason lives from here on out.

A similar situation will be unfolding in the West, where six teams are vying both for the divisional title, but also for four conference tournament seeds. Arkansas, Mississippi State, Alabama, and Auburn are all tied atop the standings at 13-14, and Ole Miss and LSU both sit within two games of the leaders. Pivotal matchups, like LSU-Mississippi State and Mississippi-Arkansas will decide the final outlook of both the division and the SEC Tournament. If LSU can rally their way into the conference tournament, they will make a strong case for inclusion at the NCAA Tournament. If not, it would cap a disastrous season that saw the Tigers fall from a consensus top ten squad and out of the postseason altogether.

It's a big slate of games on the docket in the SEC, and every seed in the conference tournament will be decided in the final weekend of play. Before we get to judgement week, let's take a look at how the teams have shaken out heading into week 10.

Rank LW Team Record Analysis
The Elite
1) 1a) South Carolina 41-11 (20-7) As soon as we bring up Michael Roth and South Carolina's perfect record in SEC series openers, the Gamecocks lose a Friday game to Arkansas and Roth gives up 10 hits in 5.1 innings. It wasn't a concern for the league's top team though, as they rebounded to win the next two - and the series - in Columbia.
2) 3) Florida  39-14 (20-7) The Gators perservered through last week's battle with Vanderbilt, shutting down the 'Dores bats at key times and extending the series just long enough to eventually win it. With two wins in Nashville, Florida kept themselves alive for the regular season SEC crown, but more importantly, they may have rattled the Commodores with their trash-talking, come-from-behind win last Sunday.
3) 1b) Vanderbilt 42-8 (20-7) The Commodores led both South Carolina and Florida in the late innings of a series-deciding game and fell victim to bullpen implosions in each situation. Other trends, such as Sonny Gray earning a hard-luck loss in Game 1 and Grayson Garvin pitching the team to an easy victory in Game 2, have emerged in the team's playoff-like matchups so far this season. What does it mean for Vanderbilt? That fans might not get many chances to relax in the postseason.
A Wing and a Prayer for a Hosting Gig, or Even a NCAA Tournament Invite
4) 5) Arkansas 34-17 (13-14) They couldn't pull the trigger on Saturday or Sunday, but one win against a very good South Carolina team was enough to keep them in fourth place in the power rankings and in first place in the SEC West. Thanks to a hearty slate of tough games throughout the division in the final week, the Razorbacks will have a great opportunity to earn the title with a big showing against inconsistent Ole Miss.
5) 4) Georgia 27-26 (15-12) Georgia's regression continued against lowly Kentucky, dropping the Bulldogs to .500 and putting their NCAA Tournament chances in serious doubt. UGA will have to either impress against Vanderbilt or make a deep, deep run in the conference tournament to secure a winning record - a prerequisite for an invitation to the big dance.
The Winner of the SEC West Won't Be More Than 2 Games Over .500 in Conference Play…
6) 7) Mississippi State 33-19 (13-14) Mississippi State is 9-1 over their last 10 games and the team is rounding into shape just at the right time to make a major impact in the SEC/NCAA Tournaments. However, they'll have to get past a desperate LSU squad at home before being able to book their tickets for either trip.
7) 9) Auburn 28-25 (13-14) Like Georgia, Auburn is bordering dangerously close to the .500 mark and might disqualify themselves from the postseason altogether with a season-ending slump. Fortunately for the Tigers, they close out the regular season at Tennessee, a team that hasn't won a conference game in nearly a month.
8) 6) Alabama 31-22 (13-14) Battled tooth and nail against Auburn in baseball's Iron Bowl, but couldn't come up with the wins they needed to climb atop the West. A season-ending series with South Carolina doesn't bode well for their chances to remain tied for first in the division.
9) 8) Ole Miss 29-23 (12-15) The Rebels won the aggregate scoring game in the Egg Bowl series, but lost two of three against their in-state rivals to fall dangerously close to the cutoff line for the SEC Tournament. They'll have to root for State to take care of LSU this weekend just in case they can't handle their own business against a very strong Arkansas team.
10) 10) LSU 34-19 (11-16) The Tigers got the sweep they needed against Tennessee (aggregate score: 32-6) and kept themselves alive in the hunt for the SEC West title and more importantly, a SEC Tournament berth. Just two games separate LSU from fifth place in the conference, despite having locked down a losing record in league play.
Pretty Bad…Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty…Pretty Bad.
11) 11) Kentucky 24-28 (7-20) After a stretch where the Wildcats were swept by four straight SEC opponents, the team has gone 5-7 in conference play. While that's not lighting the world on fire by any stretch, it would put them in decent shape in the West if Kentucky had been able to keep up that pace all season.
12) 12) Tennessee 23-28 (5-22) Tennessee 69, the rest of the SEC 188. Over their recent 11 game conference losing streak, that boils down to Volunteers 30, Georgia/Vanderbilt/Mississippi State/LSU 110.
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