Mississippi State is your SEC Baseball Tournament Champions. Hail State, and such.
The Bulldogs dispatched Vanderbilt in a battle of the country's two hottest teams to earn their seventh SEC tournament title on Sunday. The 3-0 win capped off a 8-1 stretch that saw the Bulldogs beat Kentucky four times, LSU twice, and ranked squads Arkansas and Vandy along the way. That was an amazing run for a team that had struggled to beat the conference's elite all season, and it earned State a #2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional this Friday.
Getting rewarded with a spot alongside the third-ranked team in the country in the first round of postseason play doesn't seem necessarily fair, but those are the shakes of a NCAA Tournament that can value location more than matchup. Three SEC teams ended up with national seeds, including top-ranked Florida. Putting the Gators at #1 was a bit curious after they failed to reach the SEC Tournament final, but their win over South Carolina on Friday must have held some extra cache with the selection committee. SC (#8) and LSU (#7) were the conference's other teams to be guaranteed home field advantage all the way to Omaha.
2012-2013 SEC member Texas A&M was the only other school affiliated with the conference to earn a hosting gig this year. Kentucky, State, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas were all two seeds in the bracket. Ole Miss, the last SEC team selected for the tournament, is a three seed in A&M's region. Missouri, who won the Big 12 in their final year in the conference, was a four seed.
The SEC showed off their strength by putting eight of its 12 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Two more teams, Auburn and Georgia, fell just short of getting in. Let's see how that shook this week's conference baseball power rankings. The full list is after the jump...
|Hot and/or Talented Enough to Run to a Super Regional|
|1)||4)||Mississippi St.||39-22 (16-14)||All the talk about Vandy's run allowed the Bulldogs to sneak under the radar with their own hot streak, and they rode that all the way to a tournament title in Hoover. If Chris Stratton can give the Bulldogs 10 good innings in their Regional then Mississippi State will have an advantage over anyone else in their bracket.|
|2)||5)||Vanderbilt||33-26 (16-14)||Vanderbilt has become the master of getting eliminated with one loss in a double elimination format. In 2011 and 2012 they fell in the SEC title game despite an undefeated run to the finale. Of course, last year that led to a first-ever Omaha berth. Can the 'Dores do it again?|
|3)||2)||Florida||42-18 (18-12)||Actually finished the season 2-3 but still earned the national #1 seed thanks to their overwhelming resume through 2012 (overall SOS? #1). Florida's overloaded roster no doubt helped as well, since it's tough to find a weak link on this team (other than, of course, preventing the triple steal.|
|4)||1)||LSU||43-16 (19-11)||Two tight losses to red hot MSU dropped the Tigers all the way down to the seventh seed amongst the national rankings, but that shouldn't matter much for LSU. They'll get at least one solid series at Alex Box Stadium, and the combination of bayou heat and rabid fans might just make that the toughest Regional in the country.|
|5)||3)||South Carolina||40-17 (18-11)||All signs point to a Clemson and South Carolina showdown in Columbia this weekend, putting one of the NCAA's better rivalries in the spotlight. The Gamecocks took two of three from an underperforming Tiger team this spring, but it wasn't easy. Can SC retain their dominant spot at the top of the Palmetto State totem pole?|
|Tough Outs, but Tough Teams to Get Behind|
|6)||6)||Kentucky||43-16 (18-12||Reversed their late-season skid with wins over Ole Miss and MSU this weekend before getting caught in the single-elimination trap of the new SEC Tournament format. In past years, the Bulldogs would have had to have beaten UK twice on Saturday to get to the SEC final. Thanks to the new, 10-team setup, the Wildcats split their series with State and got send home for their trouble.|
|7)||8)||Ole Miss||35-24 (14-16)||1-6 over their last seven games and limping into a tough matchup with TCU to start their NCAA Tournament. Things look grim for the Rebels right now, but they've pulled off their share of surprises in 2012.|
|8)||7)||Arkansas||39-19 (16-14)||Bombed out of the SEC Tournament faster than most would have expected. The offensive woes that they seemed to have exorcised in the last week of the season against Tennessee came back to haunt them when they totalled just one run in two SECT games.|
|Done for the Summer|
|9)||10)||Auburn||31-28 (13-17)||At least the Tigers' predictable collapse at the end of the season kept Georgia from sliding to the happy side of the bubble. That's something, right?|
|10)||9)||Georgia||31-26 (14-15)||Georgia started the season as BaseballAmerica's 11th ranked team, and now will miss the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs had the juice to hang with anyone in the SEC, but lacked some missing element that could have propelled them to series wins.|
|11)||11)||Tennessee||24-31 (8-22)||You know what I haven't had in a while? Big League Chew.|
|12)||12)||Alabama||21-34 (9-21)||This year was bad. Next year could be even worse.|