NCAA Baseball Tournament: Predicting how far every SEC team goes
The SEC is sending 9 teams to baseball’s Big Dance. That ties the ACC for most teams in the NCAA Tournament field. That said, a repeat of last season, with an all-SEC final in Omaha seems a little unlikely. How do we think the teams of the SEC stack up? Here’s a very early prediction.
Out at the Regionals
A couple of SEC squads either snuck into the field or just got a lousy draw, which causes us to project them to not make it beyond the regional level.
Ole Miss was the last team in the NCAA field. While the Rebels have plenty of talent, they landed in Miami, where the Hurricanes and Arizona both have enough offense to take advantage of an inconsistent Rebels pitching staff. Ole Miss could have done some damage in a weaker bracket, but their matchup here is far from ideal.
Vanderbilt also reels into the NCAA Tournament and drew an even worse bracket, at least from a travel standpoint. Sending the Commodores to Corvallis, Oregon, can only mean that Nome, Alaska, didn’t get a hosting bid this year. San Diego and the host Oregon State Beavers have much shorter trips and will have enough hitting to outslug the ‘Dores and send them packing in a disappointing season.
Georgia seems unlikely to outlast North Carolina. The ACC champs are playing some of their best baseball, and the Bulldogs frankly aren’t. UGA’s 7.28 ERA in conference play should be a big red flag heading. While the Bulldogs can outlast VCU and Hofstra, they can’t get past UNC.
Out at the Super Regionals
These are the hard calls, because several of the SEC’s middle-of-the-pack teams are dangerous enough to make a trip to Omaha but will have an uphill climb to win a Super Regional. Here are the squads we think that get eliminated in the Super Regionals.
Arkansas is one of the hardest teams to read in the SEC. It doesn’t seem hard to fathom them putting together a run in the regionals to outlast Oklahoma State, although Cowboys ace Justin Campbell will be a handful (133 Ks in 94 1/3 innings pitched, 9-2, 3.43 ERA). That said, North Carolina potentially would lurk in the Super Regional. Mark Arkansas down to lose in the Super Regionals to the No. 10 seed Tar Heels.
Likewise, LSU probably has the fuel to get past Southern Miss in their regional. The Golden Eagles’ pitching staff is tough, but in many ways, Southern Miss has lived with homers and overachieving pitching … which is exactly what LSU does. But getting past Southern Miss could be the highlight for the Tigers. If seeds hold, Miami would wait in the Super Regionals, and LSU just hasn’t had the pitching consistency to outlast the Hurricanes.
Florida got a nice draw for its region, but then will likely collide with Virginia Tech at the Super Regional. The Hokies have one of the best offenses in college baseball, and if their pitching isn’t the equal of, say, Tennessee, it’s good enough to outlast UF. The Gators played well in Hoover and will make this Super Regional a best-of-3 struggle. Ultimately, they won’t quite have the pitching depth to survive.
This means we’re predicting 3 SEC teams will make it in Omaha, if you’re keeping score. That would be the same as last year’s SEC contingency … although it does require one fairly healthy upset.
We should know better than to pick Auburn, but its bracket is pretty reasonable. Outlast UCLA, and Auburn will head for the Super Regional likely against Oregon State. Sonny DiChiara versus Jacob Melton (.375, 15 homers, 77 RBIs) is the hitting duel we all need. Pitching-wise, the Beavers will lean heavily on Cooper Hjerpe (140 Ks in 89 innings, 10-2, 2.33 ERA), but that’s only 1 game. Auburn is our CWS sleeper, and we’ll put them in Omaha.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, feels like a pretty safe pick. Outlast TCU in the regional and the reward is a ho-hum Louisville team in the Super Regionals. We’ll put the Aggies in Omaha for their first visit since 2017, and in fact, in total guesswork, we’ll put them in the semifinals before they bow out.
Tennessee, well, is Tennessee. Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Notre Dame would do well to compete with the Vols with a combined all-star team.
Honestly, a bit of early struggle would probably do well for the Vols, because they’re the overwhelming favorites to win it all. Like the hoops NCAA Tournament, a little early adversity tests character, although there’s no reason to think the Vols wouldn’t pass that test. Or any other.
We’ve got UT taking home the hardware, in the least surprising finale we could imagine.