The SEC Tournament finally cleared up the logjam at the top of the conference, and Florida took the top spot by virtue of a 5-0 win over Vanderbilt in the league finals Sunday afternoon. That result, coupled with Vanderbilt's victory over South Carolina two nights earlier, created a clear 1-2-3 atop the standings. Unfortunately, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee didn't fully agree with this sentiment.
South Carolina earned the fourth overall seed in the tournament, while Vandy was relegated to sixth (Florida earned the #2 spot). Whether or not the Gamecocks deserved a higher ranking than the Commodores is up for debate. The two teams split their season matchup at two games apiece, and Vanderbilt finished the season with four fewer losses than their SEC East rivals and posted a higher RPI. However, the Gamecocks' regular season resume, along with their status as defending champions, helped them lock down a slightly easier path to Omaha.
Four other SEC teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament as well. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama each earned Regional bids, though none of these teams was granted a hosting gig. Georgia's run to the tournament was inspirational, as the Bulldogs came back from a 10-0 starching at the hands of Vanderbilt to win three straight games and push their overall record above .500. Georgia impressively beat Auburn, South Carolina, and Florida before falling to the Gators in the second game of the conference semifinals. Their reward is a trip to Corvallis, Oregon to play in Oregon State's regional.
LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss all were left on the doorstep as tournament play took off. Auburn killed their own chances by failing to win a game in the SEC Tournament and falling to 29-29 on the season. Their .500 record disqualified them from an at-large bid. LSU and Ole Miss, the SEC West's bottom two teams, seemed to be in line to benefit from this vacated bid, but both sat through Monday's selection show without hearing their names get called. LSU's fall out of the postseason altogether is especially disappointing after a top five national ranking to start the season.
After three months of build-up, the real season is finally upon us. The SEC will have three teams with exceptional chances to earn a trip to Omaha, and four more that have proven to be capable of pulling off big upsets. Take a look at how the Southeastern Conference looks headed into the NCAA Tournament after the jump as we unveil our SEC Power Rankings for the playoffs.
|Unleash the Hogs of War|
|1)||2)||Florida||41-15 (22-8)||The Gators shut the door on the Commodores with some late inning insurance runs to clinch the SEC Tournament title and bring some order amongst the league's elite. Florida's pitching depth and pop in their batting order (or, in Austin Maddox's case both) will make them a safe bet to get to Omaha. Their toughest test in the Gainesville Regional will be Miami - a team they swept earlier in the season.|
|2)||3)||Vanderbilt||44-9 (22-8)||The 'Dores ran out of gas against Florida, but a 3-1 record with wins over Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina is still pretty solid. They didn't deserve to fall to the #6 national seed, but if there's a coach who can turn that perceived slight into motivation, it's Tim Corbin. Fans should be thrilled to see playoff baseball back at the Hawk this year.|
|3)||1)||South Carolina||44-12 (22-8)||A surprising outcome in the SEC Tourney kept them from clinching the #1 National Seed, but the Gamecocks are still the defending champions and therefore the team to beat.|
|Whatever Fam Animal of War, Lana. Shut Up.|
|4)||5)||Georgia||28-28 (16-14)||This team looked cooked after a 10-0 mercy ruling against Vanderbilt in their SEC Tournament opener. They then rebounded to post wins over Auburn, South Carolina, and Florida to fall one game over .500 and earn a NCAA Tournament bid. The Bulldogs played their best with their backs against the wall, and their most formidable opponent in their Regional is a Oregon State team that's currently in a five-game losing streak. Opportunities abound for UGA.|
|5)||4)||Arkansas||36-18 (15-15)||Not only do the 'Hogs not get to host their opening round, but they'll have to travel out to Tempe and face a likely showdown with the always-tough Arizona State Sun Devils. Arkansas hasn't looked like an elite team for much of the season, and they'll have a tough road to prove they belong in the coming week.|
|That's Because I Cut the Brakes. Wild Card, Bitches!|
|6)||6)||Alabama||32-24 (14-16)||Alabama's Regional contains two teams that went a combined 5-1 against Florida (UCF and Florida State). The Tide, on the other hand, went 0-3. The transitive property doesn't necessarily apply in college baseball, but 'Bama fans can't feel good about those numbers.|
|7)||7)||Mississippi State||34-21 (14-16)||Our darkhorse pick to win the SEC Tournament went 0-2 and were home by the weekend. I'll do the Bulldog fans a favor and refrain from discussing their Regional chances against Georgia Tech, Southern Miss, and Austin Peay.|
|As We Say at the NCAA Tournament, Get the F*ck out of the NCAA Tournament|
|8)||8)||LSU||36-20 (13-17)||I mean, I thought you guys were in. Sorry to see you go, Mikie Mahtook; you were one of the most fun players to watch in the SEC.|
|9)||9)||Ole Miss||30-25 (13-17)||Ole Miss had one good series win this season - against South Carolina. Their inability to pad their resume beyond that will keep them at home this June.|
|10)||7)||Auburn||29-27 (14-16)||You only had to win one game, Tigers. Hell, Georgia won three to punch their dance ticket. Worst of all, your vacated tournament spot didn't even stay in the SEC - and now the conference only gets seven bids as a result.|
|Pretty Bad…Pretty, Pretty, Pretty, Pretty…Pretty Bad.|
|11)||11)||Kentucky||25-30 (8-22)||Alex Meyer won't be back, and their top four hitters are either juniors or seniors. If Kapeytn, McCarthy, and Wright come back, the Wildcats will have a legitimate shot to make it to Hoover, but if they declare for the draft then April, May, and June will be just another three months to talk about basketball in Lexington.|
|12)||12)||Tennessee||25-29 (7-23)||Snapped a 10 game SEC losing streak to beat Auburn twice in the last week of the regular season. These losses were enough to keep the Tigers out of the NCAA Tournament. So that's something positive, I suppose.|