Last weekend's basketball loss at the hands of Wisconsin likely diverted some of the attention from another humbling Vanderbilt loss - a road sweep against #1 Florida on the diamond.
The matchup was one that Tim Corbin and the Commodores had been waiting for since last summer. Florida had been the bane of this team's existence in 2011, eliminating them in both the SEC Tournament and the College World Series in tightly fought battles. Last weekend's series was a huge test for the Diamond 'Dores. Could Corbin's rebuilding squad hang with a Gator team that was returning most of its key players from a national runner-up run the season before?
Ultimately, Vanderbilt couldn't even keep things close. The 'Dores got outscored by an aggregate score of 23-5 as the Gators showed why they're the top-ranked team in the country. Florida boasts one of the strongest 3-4-5 lineups in the NCAA behind Mike Zunino, Preston Tucker, and Nolan Fontana. They compliment these stars with an above average lineup behind them and solid work from the mound. The Gators are batting .308 as a team and scoring an average of 7.65 runs per game. This offense carried them to the top spot of Anchor of Gold's first edition of the SEC Baseball Power Rankings.
Vanderbilt, at 7-13 on the season, dropped from a perpetual top-three ranking last season to the bottom two to begin conference play. However, their move may not be the most surprising story in the SEC so far. Kentucky has made waves with a 21-0 start to their season - a streak that most recently included a sweep over then-#3 South Carolina at home. While the Wildcats have otherwise faced lackluster competition on the field (including two home series against the strongest teams Buffalo, N.Y. has to offer), they made a huge statement with their wins over the highly regarded Gamecocks.
So who will that victory ultimately be more telling for? Is this the year that Kentucky rises to the top of the SEC? Was a partially rebuilding South Carolina team protected by out-of-conference play early in the year? Was UK's sweep just an early-season aberration?
It's tough to tell right now, but the next few weeks of conference play should clear things up in the NCAA's toughest baseball conference. Check out our complete rankings after the jump...
|Your Early Favorites|
|1)||n/a||Florida||19-1 (3-0)||The Gators have lost just once this year, to #13 Cal-State Fullerton. Mike Zunino (.403, 7 HR, 25 RBI) may just put together the finest season ever recorded by a SEC catcher. Along with Preston Tucker and Nolan Fontana, the junior makes up the country's toughest 3-4-5 at the plate.|
|2)||n/a||Arkansas||19-2 (3-0)||Did a relatively weak nonconference schedule prepare the Razorbacks for the gauntlet of SEC play? A sweep over Alabama didn't really tell us much, but the talent is there.|
|3)||n/a||Kentucky||21-0 (3-0)||They hadn't really played anyone until they squared off against South Carolina…and then they swept the Gamecocks. With 21 straight wins, Kentucky is getting impossible to ignore, as evidenced by their arrival in the national top 25 rankings this week.|
|4)||n/a||LSU||16-4 (2-1)||Their early season series loss to Appalachian State doesn't look so bad now that the Mountaineers are 17-3 overall. LSU posted big offensive runs early before using pitching to get past Mississippi State this weekend - the Tigers won a pair of one-run games to sneak past the Bulldogs and into our #4 spot.|
|Still Too Soon to Tell, but Things Look Good|
|5)||n/a||South Carolina||15-4 (0-3)||The Gamecocks lost several key players from last year's national champions, including Jackie Bradley Jr. That, combined with a relatively soft non-conference slate, left them ripe for upset against a surging Kentucky team last week. Things will get worse before they get any better for South Carolina - they face #1 Florida this weekend.|
|6)||n/a||Georgia||15-6 (2-1)||Georgia's steady climb back to relevancy continues in 2012. Careful scheduling has kept them protected so far this season, but we'll get a taste of just how good this team is when they travel to Vanderbilt this weekend.|
|7)||n/a||Ole Miss||15-5 (1-2)||The Rebels were in line for a higher ranking before dropping 2 of 3 to Auburn this past weekend. Still, Ole Miss currently has two regular players batting over .400 and a pair of starters with ERAs under 2.00. Expect this team to be a mainstay of the top 25 in 2012.|
|The SEC's Wildcards|
|8)||n/a||Mississippi St.||15-7 (1-2)||14-3 against teams from outside Louisiana; 1-4 against LSU and Southeastern Louisiana.The Bulldogs are untested and may not see the top 25 again this season as a result.|
|9)||n/a||Auburn||12-8 (2-1)||A tough early season schedule is making Auburn seem worse than they actually are. Expect the Tigers to have a shot at the SEC's 7th, 8th, or 9th bid for the NCAA Tournament.|
|Not Just a Bad Way to Start Off SEC Play, but Bad Altogether|
|10)||n/a||Tennessee||11-8 (1-2)||Now 4-8 after winning their first seven games of the season against northern schools. Dave Serrano's got an uphill climb in store at Knoxville, but the first-year coach from Fullerton certainly has the chops to get it done over time.|
|11)||n/a||Vanderbilt||7-13 (0-3)||Vandy has won only one weekend series so far this season - against Rhode Island. Behind shaky pitching and an often impotent offense, Tim Corbin's "reloading" year has quickly turned into a rebuilding one. Control on the mound and the defense behind their young pitchers have dropped the 'Dores precipitously in '12.|
|12)||n/a||Alabama||8-12 (0-3)||The SEC's least interesting team in 2012. Decent pitching is being undone by a lack of power and potency at the plate.|