SDS Mailbag: SEC East rankings, Tennessee’s hot hoops recruiting and best SEC nonconference games
Now that March Madness is over, I’m diving fully into SEC baseball. It has been a great season so far, and this weekend, there are a couple of must-see series.
It’s rivalry weekend for a few SEC teams, with Vanderbilt playing Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama squaring off and Ole Miss taking on Mississippi State.
It’s going to be a fun weekend on the diamond, so if you haven’t been paying attention to baseball so far, now’s a great time to tune in. And, we’ll have a baseball question later in this column.
Now, let’s dive into your questions for this week’s Mailbag!
I’ve seen some people predict that Mizzou could finish third in the SEC East. How do you see that division playing out?
I do think that Mizzou is an intriguing team this year. The Tigers have their quarterback and several offensive weapons returning for Year 2 in Eli Drinkwitz’s offense. I think this will be a big year for the Mizzou offense.
However, there are plenty of question marks on defense. The defensive line should be steady after getting several key contributors to return, but the linebacking corps will need some help after losing a leader like Nick Bolton.
Most expect Georgia to be the SEC East champion, and I’m on board with that. So, here’s how I would rank the SEC East teams heading into 2021:
- South Carolina
Mizzou and Kentucky could go either way, in my opinion. But, it should be an interesting year in the East.
Tennessee just landed another 5-star commitment in Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, who is reclassifying from the 2022 class to 2021. Are the Vols the favorites to win the SEC in 2021-22?
They are certainly up there. I am a big fan of incoming 5-star freshman PG Kennedy Chandler. And, I love that the Vols landed former Auburn sharpshooter Justin Powell from the transfer portal.
Now, they’re red-hot on the recruiting trails and seem to be poised to have a loaded roster heading into next season. We’re also waiting on NBA Draft decisions from Yves Pons, John Fulkerson, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James, so we’ll see what happens there.
Coach Rick Barnes and the Vols fell short of lofty expectations this past season, leaving a bad taste in fans’ mouths. But, the Vols have reloaded on the fly and will once again be among the favorites to win the SEC regular-season title next season.
However, there are still plenty of open roster spots across the SEC, so I’ll see what other teams are able to do in the transfer portal and through recruiting before I make any major declarations about Tennessee’s 2021-22 potential.
What SEC baseball team should I become a fan of this year?
That depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a front-runner, Arkansas is the No. 1 team in the country right now. The Razorbacks are 28-5 and look dominant.
If you like pitching, Vanderbilt is your team, as the Commodores sport the best 1-2 pitching tandem in the country in Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker. That’s my go-to team, as I love watching those 2 pitch. Leiter already has a no-hitter this year.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee are all above .500 in SEC play, too. And, Alabama is lurking as a potential College World Series qualifier. (Just what the Tide need, another great team, right?)
If you’re looking for a team that could get hot at the right time and make a run, Florida is there. The Gators just had a walk-off winner against rival Florida State on Tuesday night. If they start hitting more consistently, they could be dangerous moving forward.
Once again, the SEC is loaded with baseball talent. Now, it’ll just be interesting to see how many teams get a chance to compete for a spot in Omaha.
Which 2021 SEC football nonconference are you most excited for? And which one would you most like to attend?
I’m on the record as saying I’d love to watch a game in the Rose Bowl, so the one I’d most like to attend is easy. I’ll take LSU’s season opener at UCLA as the game I most want to go to this coming season. LSU should win, but heading West isn’t easy for any squad.
As for the games I’m most excited for, the Week 1 opener between Georgia and Clemson is an easy choice. I’m also pumped for Texas’s Week 2 trip to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks. Both of those matchups should be incredible to watch.
Auburn at Penn State on Sept. 18 also catches my eye. I’m not high on the Tigers this year, but I’m also not sure Penn State is going to be able to quickly rebound from last year’s disaster. Whichever team wins that game will set the tone for a good season. The loser will perhaps end up with another disappointing campaign.
The stakes are high in all of those nonconference matchups, though!
Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.