The Iron Bat Cats are on hiatus this week - LSU has ascended to the top spot in the SEC rankings this week.
The Tigers rebounded from last week's series loss to Kentucky to take two-of-three from Georgia and rise to #1 in a turbulent week of conference play. LSU has recovered strongly from a 2-3 start to their SEC schedule to win series against teams like Florida and Arkansas, giving them a narrow edge at the top of a crowded top tier of teams. Currently, only five teams are over .500 in the SEC standings, but four of those five make up BaseballAmerica's top seven teams in the nation.
LSU's rise comes at the expense of the Wildcats, who went 1-3 against #22 Louisville and Vanderbilt this week. Kentucky stumbled in their last tough road tests of the season, allowing the Commodores to temporarily salvage their disappointing season so far. Things won't get much easier for UK this week either - they'll host #7 Florida in a nationally televised series.
Meanwhile, South Carolina continued their run to the top with their 11th straight SEC win, but fell short of the top spot due to their level of competition over that span. The Gamecocks are 1-5 against teams in the top half of the league rankings but 13-2 against the lower half. While their recent streak is impressive, their best series win of the season came against a middling Clemson team.
This was a problem that Arkansas had until this week. The Razorbacks had fallen into some lofty rankings thanks to a wealth of talent, but were unable to translate those skills into big wins over the first two months of the season. That changed this week as the 'Hogs traveled to Florida and out-scrapped the fifth-ranked Gators in one of the best series in SEC play so far this season. After losing Friday's opener, Arkansas rallied for wins on Saturday and Sunday and may have gotten the boost they need to make a run at Omaha this year.
Things are slightly less optimistic for the Gators, but Florida remains solid in their quest for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. They're currently two games behind the conference leaders (a three-way tie between Kentucky, LSU, and South Carolina) but have also played what is arguably the toughest SEC schedule of any team this season. After this week's trip to UK, they'll get a bit of a reprieve against Mississippi State and Auburn on their way to Hoover.
So how do this week's rankings shake out? Check out the full slate after the jump...
|The Old Guard (and Kentucky)|
|1)||2)||LSU||36-10 (14-7)||LSU just keeps winning, whether it's behind a big offense or stingy pitching.|
|2)||1)||Kentucky||36-9 (14-7)||That run had to end sometime. UK dropped their first series of the season to a better-than-advertised Vanderbilt team on the road, but played well in their two losses. Kentucky will be back, and the Iron Bat Cats banner could be risen again next week if they roll through Florida.|
|3)||3)||South Carolina||33-11 (14-7)||The Gamecocks beat Alabama in a pair of games that they probably should have lost. South Carolina is resilient, but lacks meaningful wins. Of course, with a strong national profile, a strong run in the SEC Tournament could be all it takes to keep college baseball in Columbia through the Super Regionals.|
|4)||4)||Florida||33-12 (12-9)||They may have lost to Arkansas this week, but wins over top-ranked Florida State (2), #8 Cal State-Fullerton (2), and #5 South Carolina (2) give them the edge over the Razorbacks for now.|
|5)||7)||Arkansas||32-13 (11-10)||Arkansas finally got the marquee series win they needed to legitimize their season. The Razorbacks had the talent, but had underperformed in the SEC until taking two-of-three from Florida in the Swamp. This team still won't blow you away with their offense, but they've got the pitching and the depth to grind out low-scoring wins against high-powered teams.|
|Still Fighting to Host NCAA Tournament Baseball|
|6)||5)||Ole Miss||29-16 (10-11)||A rough week (1-3) pushes the Rebels even farther from the top tier while Arkansas takes their place. Ole Miss will have to come up big this week against LSU if they want to host NCAA Tournament baseball this year, because the rest of their regular season schedule (UT, Vandy) is underwhelming.|
|The Middle Ground of the SEC, the Upper Tier of Other Conferences|
|7)||8)||Mississippi St.||27-17 (10-11)||State was able to carry last week's momentum into their Egg Bowl showdown and came out with two wins over a good Ole Miss team. After a 5-10 start to conference play, the Bulldogs are amassing some momentum. They'll need it, too - after traveling to Alabama this weekend, they'll get Florida and Kentucky in the final two weeks of the regular season.|
|8)||6)||Georgia||25-20 (9-12)||Georgia is just good enough to hang with the league's best teams, but not good enough to be a consistent threat in the SEC. So far they've won games against LSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Kentucky - but were only able to claim a series victory against the Rebels in that span. Even so, they've proven that they'll be dangerous in a tournament setting.|
|9)||11)||Vanderbilt||21-23 (9-12)||Lose to the SEC's worst team, then beat its best one. That was the Commodores past two weeks, and this unlikely turn of events has them still scrapping for their postseason lives. Vandy will have to finish strong to get over .500 for the season, but series wins against Kentucky and Georgia - along with a killer strength of schedule - could be enough to get them into the NCAA Tourament.|
|10)||9)||Auburn||25-19 (10-11)||The Tigers swept Tennessee to ensure that they wouldn't go all of April without winning a series. That might not sound like much when it comes against a fading Volunteer squad, but keep in mind that Auburn also got swept by Alabama this year, so expectations for these guys are all over the map.|
|The Alabama Zone.|
|11)||10)||Tennessee||22-22 (7-14)||Didn't just get swept by a mediocre Auburn team, but got kicked around, too. The Tigers hung an aggregate 35-9 whooping on the Volunteers to extend UT's losing streak to seven games.|
|12)||12)||Alabama||17-28 (6-15)||Want a hard luck loss? About about Alabama one-hitting South Carolina on Friday…and losing 1-0 because that one hit was a home run? How about Spencer Turnbull's no-hit bid getting cut short due to a weather postponement in the 8th inning? Things didn't get much better for the Tide on Saturday, losing a 11-9 lead in the ninth inning to cede the series loss.|