Tennessee players watch from the dugout during a game in March (photo by Evan Woodbery)
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Twelve of fourteen SEC teams make the conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., so the accomplishment isn’t necessarily worth celebrating.
But given the competitiveness of the league this year (and every year), there’s a chance that a team with an NCAA-quality resume could be left out. And that team could be Tennessee.
The Vols took one of three from LSU over the weekend in Baton Rouge to improve to 8-13 in the conference. Missouri (6-15 in the SEC) continued to struggle, and will have to fight its way out of the No. 14 slot. That leaves a handful of teams trying to avoid being No. 13.
Tennessee has nine SEC games remaining against Kentucky, Mississippi State (at Starkville) and Florida. Here’s how the SEC tournament bracket would look if the tournament began right now:
1. Florida (East champ)
2. Alabama (West champ)
3. Ole Miss
5. South Carolina
6. Mississippi State
9. Texas A&M
13. Georgia (not qualified)
14. Missouri (not qualified)
* Arkansas-Texas A&M are currently tied and have not yet played head-to-head. For the sake of simplicity, I am pretending that Arkansas has won that series.
SINGLE ELIMINATION PORTION (loser is eliminated)
No. 6 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Auburn
No. 7 Vanderbilt vs. No. 10 Kentucky
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 12 Tennessee
DOUBLE ELIMINATION PORTION
MSU-Auburn winner vs. No. 3 Ole Miss
Vandy-UK winner vs. No. 2 Alabama
Arkansas-TAMU winner vs. No. 1 Florida
USC-UT winner vs. No. 4 LSU
You can follow the rest of the bracket here (.pdf file). As always, the great challenge of the SEC baseball tournament is that is has the least meaning for the best teams. That’s why taking only eight of 14 teams just wouldn’t work. There would be a good chance that all eight teams would have already secured NCAA berths and thus would be uninterested in depleting their pitching staffs for this tournament.
That said, the SEC tournament is still a lot of fun in good years. And Tennessee would really like to get back. The Vols won the tournament three years in a row (1993-1995). Incredibly, they haven’t made an appearance in Hoover since 2007, when they sneaked in as a No. 8 seed. The last time UT was a No. 4 seed or higher was 2005.