The SEC Tournament kicks off on Tuesday. Some teams have a lot on the line while others don't have much to play for. Here is a look at what each time is looking to accomplish in Hoover.
Auburn (33-22, 13-17)
After starting conference play 1-8, Auburn was left for dead when it came to any discussions about the NCAA Tournament. But the team got their act together and played solid baseball from that point forward, winning 12 of their last 21 SEC contests. They finished the regular season by taking two of three from Arkansas. And with that, Auburn may have just played their way into the tournament. They have a strong RPI at #32 and find themselves squarely on the bubble. Their game against Alabama on Tuesday is really important for them...for both teams really. If they beat the Tide, they guarantee themselves at least two more games in Hoover. If Auburn can manage to win two games at the SEC Tournament, I think it will be enough to land in the NCAA Tournament. If they don't, then they'll really be sweating on Sunday. It's uncanny how similar this Auburn team is to LSU's 2011 team, which did not receive a bid to the tournament. Comparisons between the two teams are discussed at length here. The guys at College and Magnolia have an in-depth preview of their game against Alabama right here and an excellent breakdown of Auburn's NCAA chances as well.
Alabama (32-24, 14-15)
Alabama started conference play wit ha 7-2 record but have cooled considerably as their level of competition picked up, going just 7-13 since. They benefited from a favorable conference schedule, getting Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri from the East and winning seven of those nine. However, their RPI is #28, and they're still in excellent shape to make the NCAA Tournament. But if they lose the opening game to Auburn, they'll be awfully nervous when the selections are made. With a win against Auburn, I think Alabama is safe, even if they drop the next two. Roll Bama Roll takes a look at Bama's post-season chances as they head to Hoover.
Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15)
Ole Miss enters the SEC Tournament as a team that is a lock to make the NCAA Tournament but has virtually zero chance to host a Regional. If they were to win the entire tournament, they could perhaps get into the discussion as a host team, but it would still be highly unlikely. They do have a nice RPI of #18, which gives them a chance but for the most part, Ole Miss doesn't have anything to gain, or to lose, in Hoover. They'll play Kentucky in the first round.
Kentucky (30-24, 11-19)
Kentucky was once flying high and ranked in the Top-10, but it was fools good. They crashed HARD once the calendar turned to April. Their only chance of making the NCAA Tournament is to win the whole thing but with the way they've been playing lately, that seems really far fetched. Kentucky's RPI is actually decent at #39 and they have a respectable 13-17 record against RPI Top-50 teams. But the rest of the resume just isn't there.
Florida (29-27, 14-16)
Florida really dorked up the last two weekends by losing series to Auburn and Georgia. And that comes after getting swept by LSU, which means they're 2-7 in the SEC over the last three weeks. Florida started this season off slowly but seemed to get their feet under them and settle in. They were playing good baseball for a while and even swept South Carolina. But they surprisingly crashed again late. Their overall record is not good and their 14-16 SEC mark isn't that impressive either, especially playing in the East. But the Gators' RPI is #26 and they are 14-17 against the RPI Top-50. They may want to go ahead and win their first game at the SEC Tournament just to make sure, but their spot in the NCAA Tournament is pretty secure right now.
Texas A&M (30-25, 13-16)
The Aggies are on the outside of the NCAA Tournament right now. Their record isn't impressive, their RPI is down at #44 and they're just 8-19 against the RPI Top 50. However, they have a fighting chance, but it's going to take a pretty serious run in the SEC Tournament to put themselves back in the discussion. They face Florida on Tuesday in the first round. Obviously, a loss there means that they're done. A win against the Gators earns then a matchup with Vanderbilt. So needless to say, the Aggies have their work cut out for them. SEBaseball.com has the Aggies in the list of the "Next 10 Out" in their latest projections, which indicates they're close to the bubble.
Mississippi State (40-16, 16-14)
State absolutely needed a series win against South Carolina last weekend in order to put themselves back in the discussion as a host team, and they got it. They play against Missouri on Tuesday and with a win there, I think they will have done enough to lock up a regional in Starkville. If they lose, it's possible they lose that spot, but I tend to think they're in good shape either way. State's RPI is #10, their strength of schedule is #7, and they're 19-14 against the RPI Top-50. I suspect they won't have too much trouble with Missouri. With a win, they'll face South Carolina who will be looking for some payback after losing the series last weekend. If Mississippi State were to win the SEC Tournament, they could enter the discussion as a national seed, depending on what else happens around the country.
Missouri (18-31, 10-20)
What can you say, really? Missouri made the SEC Tournament, so that's a minor accomplishment. But short of winning the entire thing, which is impossible, they have nothing to play for in Hoover. Odds are, they play the last game of their season on Tuesday against Mississippi State.
Arkansas (35-19, 18-11)
Arkansas is trying to play their win into a host team for the NCAA Tournament, and they have an uphill battle to get there. The Hogs probably feel a little disrespected. Everyone is penciling in Mississippi State and South Carolina as host sites, despite the fact that Arkansas finished third in the SEC standings with an 18-11 record. The Hogs have a RPI problem, though. Their ranking is #48. Losing the series to Auburn on the final weekend did not help their cause, either. Could a deep run in the SEC Tournament change things? Absolutely. And they have an excellent, deep pitching staff to make such a run. They could run into trouble in their second game though, which could be against LSU ace Aaron Nola. But if the Hogs can get to the finals of the SEC Tournament, then they may just have a chance to play some post-season ball at home.
LSU (48-8, 23-7)
LSU doesn't have a ton to play for in Hoover. Whether they win the entire thing or go 0-2, they're assured a national seed and someone will have to beat them at home to knock them out of a trip to Omaha. LSU's primary goals in the tournament are to get their pitching staff lined up for the Regional and to build some confidence and momentum heading towards the post-season. Of course, the best way to build confidence and momentum is to win the entire thing. LSU's last two national championship teams won the SEC Tournament en route to Omaha. LSU is throwing Cody Glenn in their first game against the winner of Alabama vs. Auburn and ace Aaron Nola in Game Two. So they could very well get off to a good start.
Vanderbilt (48-7, 26-3)
Vanderbilt just wrapped up a record setting regular season, and they now face some pretty steep expectations for the post-season. While the SEC Tournament isn't anywhere near the top of their goals, it would still be a nice feather in their cap. I suspect head coach Tim Corbin would love to see his team win the tournament to show that they can win in this kind of format. Vanderbilt will face the winner of Florida and Texas A&M. Obviously, Vandy is locked into a national seed, regardless of what happens in Hoover.
South Carolina (39-16, 17-12)
The Gamecocks are in a situation where they're practically assured a host spot, but I don't see much possibility of them securing a national seed. If they win the entire tournament, they could possibly land in the discussion for a national seed, depending on what else happens nationally. But it's not very likely. The Gamecocks RPI is #11, but they have just an 11-12 record against RPI Top-50. In their incredible run over the last three years, appearing in three straight College World Series Finals and winning two of them, they have not won the SEC Tournament.