Competition aplenty in SEC tourney

Published 12:00 pm Monday, May 23, 2016

The Southeastern Conference landscape can change drastically in a year, no matter the sport.

Just ask the Arkansas baseball team. A season ago, the Razorbacks were beginning their march towards Omaha at the SEC Tournament. This year, they were one of the bottom two teams to not even qualify.

It has been that kind of season in the SEC, and this week’s annual trip to Hoover, Alabama, plans to be no different.

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It is arguably the most competitive field of teams in recent memory if not ever. The top 7 seeds finished 18-12 or better in SEC play as well as all being inside the top 15 in multiple national polls with all of them within three games of the regular-season champion, No. 3 Mississippi State.

While the tournament does not truly start until Wednesday’s opening round of the double-elimination portion, there are exciting matchups taking place during Tuesday’s single-elimination round.
The top 4 seeds get the day off, having earned a bye into the double-elimination round, leaving the No. 5-12 seeds to duke it out in the first four games of the tournament.

LSU just missed out on being the No. 4 seed after winning 11 of its last 12 games and taking two of three from No. 1 Florida in the final weekend of the regular season, but the Tigers will end the first day playing the nightcap against No. 12 Tennessee, which just squeaked into the tournament after taking its final series against Georgia.

Odd man out?
There are many in the college baseball world that are not sure if the SEC will get the nod from the NCAA selection committee to host seven regionals, leaving people to wonder who might get slighted come selection Monday on Memorial Day.

No. 12-ranked Vanderbilt jumped ahead of No. 6 Ole Miss in the final standings after sweeping Auburn, which was also eliminated from tournament contention. The Commodores are the ones people feel could get slighted and become a very formidable 2 seed in someone else’s regional. They have their chance to earn it the hard way, but the task will not be easy.

Earning the No. 6 seed in tournament means the Commodores are stuck in the 9:30 a.m. slot the first two days and will face No. 11 Missouri on Tuesday and then No. 3 Texas A&M Wednesday morning if they are lucky enough to advance past the Tigers.

Worst to first
The No. 1-seeded Bulldogs earned the SEC regular-season championship after sweeping Arkansas and getting help from Ole Miss, which defeated Texas A&M on the final day of the regular season.

It is an improvement of 13 spots from a season ago when they were the worst team in the conference and did not even make the tournament.

Mississippi State can prove it is a team that will contend for a national championship, three seasons removed from being in the championship series against UCLA in 2013, if they can go 4-0 this week in Hoover.