NCAA Baseball Tournament 2022: Reacting to the SEC's draws
Nine SEC squads found spots in the NCAA Tournament when the bracket was announced on Monday afternoon. Ole Miss squeaked its way into the field and Alabama and Kentucky were left on the outside.
That said, there was much more going on in this NCAA draw. Here are a few quick thoughts:
We already knew that 4 SEC squads had earned hosting nods, although the overall seeds weren’t announced until Monday. There weren’t a ton of surprises there — Tennessee was the No. 1 overall seed and Texas A&M at No. 5 should be in line to host a super-regional.
Florida (13) and Auburn (14) barely made the cut for hosting and will need some upsets to get to host a super-regional round.
Some Odd Traveling Arrangements
Before the bracket, we noted that 4 more SEC teams were understood to be safe for NCAA Tournament purposes — LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Georgia. All 4 squads made the field, but a couple of odd travel arrangements snuck in.
Instead of sending Vanderbilt to Louisville or Chapel Hill, the Commodores are a No. 2 seed in Corvallis, Oregon. Oregon instead ended up in Louisville. Granted, Oregon and Oregon State couldn’t be in the same region as teams from the same conference. But Vandy got sent about as far away as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, Georgia did end up in Chapel Hill in North Carolina, which isn’t a horrible draw, but is not as friendly as going to Statesboro in Georgia Southern’s region. Arkansas did get sent to Stillwater and LSU is headed to Hattiesburg, so we weren’t entirely off base on our location predictions, but there were some odd moves in the bunch.
The Bubble Squads
Again, the big story of the day was Ole Miss sneaking in, knocking NC State and Rutgers from the field. Ole Miss’s 32-22 season and No. 38 RPI ended up getting it into the field. That looks much more impressive than the Rebels’ 14-16 mark in SEC play or their first-round exit in Hoover. The Rebels are 8-13 against teams in the RPI’s top 50.
On the other hand, Alabama and Kentucky each had just 12 regular season SEC wins, but Alabama won 2 games in Hoover and Kentucky won 3. Kentucky was 15-18 against teams in the RPI’s top 50 and the Tide were 13-18 against those squads.
It’d be objectively difficult to not say that the Rebels have a more talented team than Kentucky or Alabama — after all, they were ranked No. 1 in the nation at one point in the season. But it’s also tough to value an underachieving team over a pair of squads that came down the SEC stretch playing their best baseball of the season and each made a valiant effort in Hoover.
Ole Miss’s 12-8 record on the road is an improvement over Alabama’s 7-14 mark in those games and Kentucky’s 7-13 record. It probably accounts for the RPI jump the Rebels had over their fellow SEC bubble squads.
But was it enough? The committee says yes, but the eyeball test might beg to differ. Neither Alabama nor Kentucky were even in the NCAA’s first four teams out. If there’s a haggle to be had, it’s not that Ole Miss gets in, it’s that Alabama and Kentucky don’t.
More on this later, but Tennessee and Texas A&M both got the nice brackets they earned. The path to Omaha is pretty clean for both. Florida and Auburn both have considerably tougher paths, of course. Of the non-hosting seeds, Arkansas is the one whose initial matchups seem ripest for upsetting the favorites and making a run for Omaha.
But, good seed or bad seed, any fate was better than that of the Tide and Wildcats, who are left waiting until next year.