Less than six weeks away... via www.hooveral.org
While Kentucky and Vanderbilt both faced off against Mississippi teams this week, that's about where their similarities ended. The streaking Wildcats and the sputtering Commodores continued their divergent paths in week four of SEC play. With a series win over #10 Ole Miss, Kentucky continued their improbable rise to the top of the conference. On the other end of the spectrum, the preseason #10 Commodores lost a pair of games to unranked Mississippi State and fell to 13-19 overall.
It has been a turbulent season in the SEC, and the juxtaposition of Vandy and Kentucky is one of the best examples of that. However, other results have shaken up the conference standings as we bowl through April. Auburn, who was one of just two teams to go 3-0 in series play against SEC opponents, fell apart in a three-game sweep at the hands of a 10-19 Alabama squad. LSU, 2-3 in the conference two weeks ago, has sprinted out to an 8-4 record behind big wins over Florida and Arkansas in the past two weeks.
As a result, the SEC is more volatile than ever before. While UK and LSU have acquitted themselves as the teams to beat in their respective divisions, a loaded conference is primed for more upsets and movement in the rankings as the season wears on. Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and Arkansas will all be battling for hosting slots when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. The rest of the conference - and with 'Bama's big wins this weekend, no one is excluded - will be looking to earn the victories they need to extend their season beyond a trip to Hoover.
So who made up the most ground in this week's rankings? Kentucky is still the top seed, but there's plenty of movement behind the Wildcats. Check out the full slate after the jump...
|The Old Guard (and Kentucky)|
|1)||1)||Kentucky||30-4 (9-3)||Things were going much better before they got stomped out 12-0 by Louisville on Tuesday. Still, two big wins over Ole Miss will keep them atop the SEC as the only team to be 4-0 in series play this season.|
|2)||3)||LSU||26-7 (8-4)||9-1 in their past 10 games, including wins over Arkansas (3), Florida (2), and Auburn (1) in that span. The Tigers are hitting their stride in March and bulldozing their way towards a national seed when the NCAA Tournament starts.|
|3)||2)||Florida||26-7 (7-5)||An early 7-2 lead in Sunday's rubber match against LSU seemed to put the Gators in control of second place. However, the Florida bullpen couldn't make that lead stick and their bats managed just one hit in the final six innings of play. Austin Maddox looked mortal once again, giving up five hits and the eventual game-winning run in 2.1 innings of relief.|
|Still Fighting to Host NCAA Tournament Baseball|
|4)||4)||Arkansas||24-8 (7-5)||Started and ended their week with losses to middling teams (Georgia, Oklahoma), leaving doubts about how this team will fare with a schedule that includes Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss, and South Carolina down the stretch. The Razorbacks are a good team, but they've still got lots to prove.|
|5)||7)||South Carolina||24-9 (5-7)||Rebounded from a Friday loss to limit Tennessee to just two runs over their next 18 innings. South Carolina is still rebuilding, but they've got the talent to push anyone to the limit and will be a force in tournament play.|
|6)||6)||Ole Miss||23-10 (6-6)||A pair of losses to the league's hottest team doesn't hurt the Rebels, but they missed an opportunity to follow up last week's wins over Florida with a big statement. Don't put that on first baseman Matt Synder, though - his eight RBI consisted of more than half his team's offensive output this weekend.|
|7)||5)||Auburn||18-14 (6-6)||Just when Auburn was charging towards the upper tier of the SEC, they got swept by an Alabama team that had won just one conference game through the first three weeks of the season. I guess the Iron Bowl rivalry can make teams do crazy things.|
|8)||8)||Georgia||19-13 (5-7)||Georgia can win on Fridays (4-0), but the the rest of their weekends have been rough (1-7).|
|9)||9)||Tennessee||20-12 (6-6)||Offense was a problem against South Carolina, as the Vols were held to just one run on Saturday and Sunday, leading to a series loss. Tennessee has the arms to compete with anyone in the SEC, but lack the firepower to scare the league's elite.|
|10)||11)||Mississippi St.||21-12 (5-7)||State picked up their first SEC series win of the season by squeezing past Vanderbilt in a tightly fought battle. Normally, that'd be a good sign of things to come, but against these Commodores? The Bulldogs will have to put together a big showing versus South Carolina this weekend if they want to turn some heads.|
|Bad, but Capable of Beating Good Teams|
|11)||10)||Vanderbilt||13-19 (4-8)||Vandy can't win on Fridays, and this young team doesn't have the firepower to be playing from behind every week. The 'Dores are running out of time to turn things around, but a favorable schedule will give them the chance to climb back up to .500 overall in the coming weeks.|
|12)||12)||Alabama||13-20 (4-8)||It's never a bad season if you can sweep Auburn, eh?|