LSU's Absence a Surprise

None of the experts were surprised at Alabama's draw of Troy, Jacksonville State and Southern Miss in the NCAA baseball tournament announced on Monday. Alabama is familiar with two of its regional foes, as the Crimson Tide beat Southern Miss 13-3 on March 15, and lost an 8-5 contest to Troy on March 22.

Eight Southeastern Conference teams made the field of 64, including five host teams, but the eight league teams in the NCAA tourney weren't the eight best teams in SEC play.

In fact, the biggest wave of the tournament selection was probably the exclusion of LSU from the tourney for the first time since 1988, coupled with the inclusion of Mississippi State into the field.

"It doesn't surprise me with Mississippi State getting in," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "They seem to get in every year. That probably has something to do with (Mississippi State athletics director) Larry Templeton being on the selection committee. I'm surprised LSU didn't get in. They made the (SEC) tournament as the eight-seed and played well at the end. What you would like to see for the league is for both of them to make it, but I think LSU should have gotten in."

LSU (35-24) beat out Mississippi State (35-21) for the final spot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and won a game in Hoover before being eliminated. LSU was No. 37 in the RPI while Mississippi State was 33.

"I was definitely surprised about LSU not getting in but I wasn't surprised that Mississippi State got in," Alabama junior Emeel Salem said. "It's hard for me to believe LSU didn't get in."

Alabama lost two of three from LSU in Baton Rouge, and split a pair of games again to LSU in the SEC tournament. Alabama beat Mississippi State in two out of three during the regular season.

Templeton, who chaired the selection committee, said he was out of the room for much of the final debate, since it is protocol for a selection committee member not to be involved in the discussions about his own team.

On the ESPNews selection show broadcast, Templeton said that from his understanding, "LSU and Mississippi State were not head-to-head at the end."

It sounded a bit different on the post-show teleconference, however.

UNLV Athletics Director Mike Hamrick, who chaired the committee in Templeton's absences, said, "Mississippi State did take two out of three and sometimes it gets to the point where teams are so equally grouped you have to look at head to head. Mississippi State and LSU weren't totally compared to one another. They were being compared to five teams and one point and then 12 at another."

Hamrick also laughably refused to identify the final teams vying for tournament entry, saying the committee chose to handle that confidentially. South Alabama, with its No. 40 RPI (Warren Nolan) and Missouri are prime suspects for last-in honors, however.

Clemson (47-14), Rice (50-10) and Texas (40-19) are the only teams seeded ahead of the Crimson Tide (41-19). The other national seeds, in order from five through eight, were Cal State Fullerton (43-13), Nebraska (42-15), Georgia (41-19) and Georgia Tech (45-16)

As for Alabama's region, the word hot doesn't begin to describe Troy's squad. After starting out 3-6, the Trojans reeled off wins in 42 of their last 50 games, and are on an eight-game winning streak currently. Three of those eight losses in the last 50 games, however, came in a sweep by Southern Miss on March 17-19.

Southern Miss lost to SEC opponents Alabama and Ole Miss in the regular season, but beat Mississippi State twice.


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