As the Southeastern Conference’s regular season heads to its final day on Saturday, there are many storylines to watch. Chris Lee breaks them down in today’s SEC baseball snapshot.
Two for the title. We know that the SEC’s overall champion will be either LSU or Vanderbilt, we’re just not sure which. It’s this simple, though: If LSU wins, gets rained out, or if Vanderbilt loses, then the Tigers are the league’s overall champ. If LSU loses and VU wins, then the title belongs to VU, which was the preseason favorite to win it all.
Either way, LSU has won the West, and Vandy, the East, and those will be the top two seeds in next week’s conference tournament.
Four vying for national seeds. Everybody wants one of the eight coveted national seeds, which guarantee you two home weekends in the NCAA Tournament should you keep winning. LSU should be a slam-dunk to get one, and one would think that the SEC would get at least one more, if not two. But who will they be?
If Vanderbilt wins the overall title, the Commodores would be a near-lock to get one.
Texas A&M, which plays a pair of seven-inning games on Saturday vs. Ole Miss, seemed to be on the outside looking in coming into the weekend, but not by much. Two more wins by the Aggies, and it’s probably tough to deny them one of the coveted eight slots.
Florida, which took two of three from Vanderbilt last week, could be the tough-luck loser in this scenario by virtue of Vandy’s winning the East, anyway, but with a No. 7 RPI as of late Friday night, the Gators may not be out of it.
In any case, some of it may even be decided in next week’s tournament, too.
Bubble trouble. No question, all four of the above teams are not only in the NCAA Tournament field, but they’ll also host regionals, at a minimum. But what about the rest of the league? For sure, it’s a mess.
Arkansas, with 16 SEC wins and a 42 RPI as of late Friday, is a virtual lock to make the field of 64.
Ole Miss, with 14 conference wins and the toughest schedule in the country per the RPI, is almost assuredly in.
Auburn, should it win at Florida on Saturday, probably will also, since a victory in Gainesville would probably put UA’s RPI inside the top 20.
Fifteen SEC wins is just about always enough to get a team in the NCAAs. That’s what Missouri has, but the problem is that the Tigers are only 28-25 overall. Missouri needs to beat Kentucky on Saturday or else win a couple in Hoover to feel good about things.
As for Kentucky, a loss to Missouri on Saturday would probably eliminate the Wildcats without a deep tournament run.
The really interesting case is South Carolina. The Gamecocks, left for dead, already have series wins over A&M and Vandy and the potential to take one from LSU, also. It would be difficult to think Carolina would be left out if it finishes business this weekend, then again, the Gamecocks would be 14-16 with an RPI just under 50, at best.
The biggest storyline in Hoover probably centers around these half-dozen teams and how they perform there.
- LSU, 20-8
- Texas A&M, 18-9
- Vanderbilt, 20-9
- Florida, 18-11
- Arkansas, 16-12
- Auburn, 13-16
- Ole Miss, 14-14
- Missouri, 15-14
- South Carolina, 13-16
- Kentucky, 13-15
- Alabama, 11-18
- Georgia, 10-19
- Tennessee, 10-18
- Mississippi State, 8-21
Player of the Year (pitchers not included; estimated runs created per 27 outs made, fielding percentage in parenthesis, through Thursday’s games):
- Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas (14.8, .988)
- Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt (9.8, .971)
- Kyle Martin, 1B, South Carolina (11.4, .998)
- Alex Bregman, SS, LSU (9.3, .976)
- Mikey White, SS, Alabama (9.6, .968)
Pitcher of the Year (stats through Thursday):
- Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt (1.51 ERA, 95.2 IP, 132 Ks/37 BB)
- Alex Lange, LSU (2.13, 76, 82/32)
- Cole Lipscomb, Auburn (2.38, 79.1, 75/34)
- Grayson Long, Texas A&M (2.59, 80, 90/36)
- Logan Shore, Florida (2.83, 82.2, 60/19)