SEC Conference Tournament Preview (May 20-24)

Austin Ross and the Tigers take on Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament. (LSU Media Relations Photo)
Austin Ross and the Tigers take on Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament. (LSU Media Relations Photo)

The top 8 SEC teams collide in Hoover this week with a conference tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.  The LSU Tigers find themselves as the top overall seed, posting a 20-10 record in SEC play and winning the tie-breaker over co-champion Ole Miss.  Florida,  the SEC East champs, earned the two seed.  Ole Miss, who finished tied with LSU for the league’s best record, will be the 3 seed.  Alabama will meet South Carolina in the 4/5 matchup.  Georgia comes in as the SEC’s 6 seed, followed by Arkansas and Vanderbilt respectively at 7 and 8.

Below is the tournament schedule and probable pitching matchups:

Game 1

5/20 11:00 AM

Arkansas (#7)

Florida (#2)

Game 2

5/20 2:30 PM

Georgia (#6)

Ole Miss (#3)

Game 3

5/20 6:00 PM

Vanderbilt (#8)

LSU (#1)

Game 4

5/20 9:30 PM

South Carolina (#5)

Alabama (#4)

Game 5

5/21 11:00 AM

Loser, Game 1

Loser, Game 2

Game 6

5/21 2:30 PM

Loser, Game 3

Loser, Game 4

Game 7

5/21 6:00 PM

Winner, Game 1

Winner, Game 2

Game 8

5/21 9:30 PM

Winner, Game 3

Winner, Game 4

Game 9

5/22 4:00 PM

Winner, Game 5

Loser, Game 7

Game 10

5/22 7:30 PM

Winner, Game 6

Loser, Game 8

Game 11

5/23 11:00 AM

Winner, Game 8

Winner, Game 9

Game 12

5/23 2:30 PM

Winner, Game 7

Winner, Game 10

Game 13

5/23 6:00 PM

Winner, Game 8

Winner, Game 9

Game 14

5/23 9:30 PM

Winner, Game 7

Winner, Game 10

Game 15

5/24 4:00 PM

Winner, Bracket 1

Winner, Bracket 2

Game 1:  #7 Arkansas – Dallas Keuchel (Jr., LHP, 7-3, 3.89) v.  #2 Florida – Stephen Locke (Sr., LHP, 4-1, 4.88 ERA)

Game 2:  #6 Georgia – Justin Grimm (So., RHP, 2-4, 4.39 ERA) v.  #3 Ole Miss – Drew Pomeranz (So, LHP, 6-3, 3.95 ERA)

Game 3: #8 Vanderbilt – TBA  v. #1 LSU – Austin Ross (So., RHP, 5-6, 5.07 ERA)

Game 4:  #5 South Carolina – TBA v.  #4 Alabama - TBA

Who needs what?

(1) LSU – The Tigers are likely a top national seed no matter what happens this weekend.  It’s just a matter of which national seed they will take.  With a conference tournament championship, the Bayou Bengals just might lock up the top overall national seed.  An early exit wouldn’t be good, but it’s hard to see LSU being dropped lower than the 5th or 6th national seed after their impressive run through the SEC regular season.

(2) Florida – The Gators still have a shot at a national seed and will need to do their part with a deep run into the conference tournament.  They would benefit from Ole Miss taking an early exit, since it’s likely between Florida and Ole Miss for a second SEC national seed.  It would be hard to deny the Gators a national seed with a top 5 RPI and conference tournament championship.

(3) Ole Miss – The Rebels got some terrible news today when they got word Scott Bittle would be out for the SEC tournament and possibly the rest of the season.  The Rebels will have to rally without him because they probably have an inside track on one of the last national seeds.  Winning the regular season series at Florida gives them the edge over the Gators, so they should be in good shape if they can avoid an early tournament exit.

(4) Alabama – Alabama let their host spot start to slip away with a loss to rival Auburn, but all is not lost yet.  The Tide need to capitalize on the friendly confines of Hoover and make a run at a conference tournament championship to get back into the NCAA hosting discussion.

(5) South Carolina – South Carolina’s seven game winning streak has placed them right back into the hosting discussion.  The Gamecocks need to keep the momentum rolling and make a deep run into the SEC tournament to solidify a home regional at the brand new Carolina Stadium.

(6) Georgia – The Bulldogs have really been on a skid over the last month, and their NCAA hosting hopes have gone by the wayside in the process.  Georgia now needs to avoid an early elimination so they can stay close to home for a regional.  The Dawgs need to use the tournament to get back to playing solid baseball in time for post-season play.

(7) Arkansas – The Razorbacks had a disappointing finish to the season, losing a home series to LSU and being swept by Alabama and Ole Miss.  Arkansas is going to be hitting the road for a regional, so the SEC tournament provides an opportunity for the team to hopefully find their groove again before regional play.

(8) Vanderbilt -  If there’s one team in this week’s tournament that would benefit the most from a strong tournament showing, it is Vandy.  The Commodores are coming off a weekend sweep by Tennessee, and they find themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble.  A quick two and out could result in Vanderbilt watching the NCAA tournament from home, but a couple wins could solidify their bid and make Selection Monday a little less stressful.