Predicting how far will every SEC team will go in the NCAA Tournament
Ten teams in the field, 8 teams hosting Regionals, it’s a great time to be the SEC.
But how will it all shake down? Will anybody make it to Omaha? Could the league win the College World Series for the 4th consecutive time? Obviously, the crystal ball is a bit cloudy this early, but here’s an early guess at exactly how the NCAA Tournament shakes down for the squads of the SEC.
Out at the Regional Level
South Carolina (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Gamecocks nabbed a Regional hosting gig, but don’t tell Campbell that they earned it. USC did kind of back into the spot after going 3-7 in their past 10 games. Meanwhile, a fired-up Campbell squad is an offensive dynamo. The projection here is that Campbell outslugs the Gamecocks and sends them to a disappointing exit.
Texas A&M (No. 2 seed in Stanford Regional)
Yes, the Aggies had a nice week in Hoover, but it’s worth remembering that there are real issues with this team. The Aggies are 13th in the SEC in batting average and are tied for last in slugging percentage. On the mound, they allowed the next to most walks in the SEC. Stanford is a very solid team and the Cardinal are too strong at the plate for A&M.
Tennessee (No. 2 seed in Clemson Regional)
The Vols hit a scheduling buzzsaw, as they will go to Clemson — the hottest team in college baseball with a 16-game winning streak to prove it. UT, meanwhile, went 4-12 on the road this year, and those two factors point to a pretty awful matchup. It looks to be a short postseason for the Vols.
Down in Super Regionals
Alabama (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Tide have pitching and positive momentum, and that will carry them through their Regional field (Boston College, Troy and Nicholls), but having to potentially face No. 1 overall seed Wake Forrest in the Super Regionals is a game-changer. Give the Tide virtually any other Super Regional foe and they might get the nod for Omaha. But the Demon Deacons are a little much to bite off, even for Alabama.
Auburn (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Tigers are an intriguing squad, as their 8-2 mark in their past 10 games is best in the SEC. Auburn’s pitching has steadily improved, and the Tigers should survive their Regional grouping with Southern Miss, Samford and Penn. That said, if the seeds hold, a date at No. 4 overall seed Clemson lurks in the Super Regionals, and the Tigers have to be one of the favorites for Omaha, given their outstanding recent play and 2-way star Caden Grice. Auburn will be a tough out, but at the end of the day, Clemson survives the series in a three-game battle.
LSU (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
This is the second most controversial choice here, and it’s tied directly to the first. Yes, LSU has enough mojo to handle their Regional field without much challenge. But this team isn’t the team it was 6 weeks ago, when it wouldn’t only have been a pick for Omaha, it would have been the pick for Omaha. LSU is 5-5 in its past 10 games.
The talent is unquestioned. Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews could become the first set of teammates to be selected 1-2 in MLB Draft history. There could be as many as 5 or 6 eventual first-rounders on the roster.
But … even Skenes and Crews have even looked human at times, and the pitching beyond Skenes continues to be problematic. The Tigers most definitely have the ammunition to win the title, but the chemistry feels a bit off … which could hurt in the Super Regional and leave the Tigers as merely the latest super team to fall short of a CWS title.
Heading to Omaha
Arkansas (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Hogs got a solid draw for their Regional (TCU, Arizona, Santa Clara), and their Super Regional draw looks destined to be some manner of also-ran. Indiana State got swept by Kentucky early in the season, and they’re the No. 1 seed. Iowa and North Carolina are two of the most disappointing squads in the field. Arkansas’ path to Omaha could hardly be smoother — in fact, it’s probably an easier road than overall No. 1 seed Wake Forrest.
Florida (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Gators might be the most explosive team in real contention for the CWS title. Yes, the lows could be lower than Vandy or Arkansas, but UF could be the most dangerous team in the field. Florida is 8-6 against top-10 teams on the year, and neither Texas Tech or UConn look very threatening in Regional play. South Carolina might have the pitching depth to make things interesting, but the slumping Gamecocks may not make it to Gainesville. Florida’s excellent starting pitching and dangerous power bats (and not just Jac Caglianone) have us putting them in Omaha, taking the Jactani Hype to a new level.
Kentucky (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
Yes, the most controversial choice of this column has arrived. Kentucky, despite the outrage over accommodations for the other 3 teams in their Regional, should have an advantage in their first weekend. If seeds hold, their reward would be a trip to Baton Rouge to face LSU. The Wildcats gave LSU all they could handle in their regular-season series, and the Tigers look increasingly like a team that’s capable of getting small-balled into a premature exit. Kentucky has a real chance to be the SEC’s upset squad for Omaha, and that’s the pick.
Vanderbilt (No. 1 seed, hosting Regional)
The Vandy Boys not only won the SEC Tournament but they enter the NCAA Tournament with an astonishing 14-7 record against top-10 opponents. Vandy shouldn’t have much trouble with a mediocre Oregon team far from home or from a Xavier squad that dove into the field late. A Super Regional showdown with Oklahoma State looks good for Vandy, as the OSU pitching staff seems ill-equipped to slow the Dores. Vandy returns to Omaha pretty easily.
Our hypothetical Omaha field is complete with 4 SEC teams and if a very, very premature pick can be allowed, Florida is the choice to win the CWS. Jac Caglianone, Wyatt Langford, BT Riopelle, Josh Rivera, Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep just give the Gators a little too much strength at the plate and on the mound to be denied. UF gets a very friendly path to Omaha, and they’ll capitalize on the momentum built along the way.