Scanning the bubble: Where the SEC's teams stand ahead of Monday's NCAA Tournament announcement
Sunday had plenty of good news for the SEC. Four SEC host schools not only know they’re in the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll be hosting a regional pod. To no one’s surprise, Tennessee nabbed that honor. With Florida playing its way to the SEC Tournament final, the Gators also got a regional hosting gig. Texas A&M and Auburn grabbed the other 2 SEC hosting slots.
So who else is securely in the NCAA field? LSU has been sometimes singled out as a surprise omission from the regional hosts. A bad SEC Tournament dropped the Tigers far enough back in the RPI standings that they didn’t get the call to host. But they’re definitely in the big dance. Likewise for Arkansas and Georgia, schools that could have gotten the hosting nod with good performances in Hoover but instead fell off the map.
Vanderbilt is safely in the NCAA field despite a poor performance in Hoover and a sub-.500 conference mark. All 4 of those squads will probably be No. 2 seeds in their particular regions. Where could they end up? UGA figures to head to Statesboro, where Georgia Southern got a hosting nod. LSU might end up in Hattiesburg, where Southern Miss is hosting, or perhaps in Austin. Vandy could well be headed to Louisville, a short jaunt up Interstate 65. Arkansas would logically fit best in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where Oklahoma State will be hosting.
On the outside, of course non-SEC Tournament squads Missouri and Mississippi State are out. Likewise, South Carolina, which had a poor nonconference record and dropped their opening game in the conference tourney, won’t be getting an NCAA invite. But with 8 teams solidly in the field and 3 teams definitely out, the wild cards are the remaining 3 squads. There’s an arguable case for Ole Miss, Alabama and Kentucky, although any or all might be just off the NCAA’s list of at-large squads.
The Rebels are 32-22 on the season, headed to Hoover 14-16 in conference play and dropped their opening game of the SEC Tournament 3-1 to Vanderbilt. Ole Miss hit conference play at 13-3 and was the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. But Ole Miss fell off the radar, failing to 8-14 in the SEC on May 1. They did sweep Missouri and LSU, D1Baseball has the Rebels at 38th in the RPI standings.
Alabama is 31-27, went to Hoover carrying a 12-17 conference record, but did add 2 more SEC wins in the tourney, taking down Georgia and Arkansas in Hoover. The Tide’s best sales point is one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with D1Baseball putting their strength of schedule at 3rd overall, albeit with an RPI ranking of 50th.
Kentucky was 33-25 heading into Hoover and was just 12-18 in conference play, but the Wildcats knocked off Auburn, Vandy, and LSU before falling to Tennessee in the semifinals. UK’s 12 wins over RPI top 25 foes dwarves the totals of Bama or Ole Miss (each with 7), but UK’s RPI ranking is 51st.
Any of those 3 teams were another regular-season win or 2 from an easy path into the NCAA Tournament. But at the moment, the bubble projections have them all on the outside looking in. D1Baseball has Alabama as the 3rd team out of the field, Ole Miss as the 4th team out, and Kentucky not even on that radar. Baseball America’s most recent projections have Ole Miss as the 5th team out, Alabama as the 7th team out, and Kentucky as the 8th team out.
As things stand, it should be a fairly easygoing day for the SEC’s big 8, and the league’s bottom 3 have given up hope. Lots of finger-crossing and tracking down rabbits’ feet is likely going on in Tuscaloosa, Oxford and Lexington. It’ll be interesting to see if any of those cities are suitably happy come Monday afternoon.
We’ll find out soon enough. Selection Monday is here. The big reveal is just hours away (12 p.m., ET, ESPN2).