Baseball Tigers Play The Waiting Game

Auburn's regular season is done. Now the Tigers must wait to see how things shake out at conference tournaments around the country.

Auburn, Ala.--While the top eight teams in the Southeastern Conference are playing in the SEC Tournament this week in Hoover, the Auburn Tigers will be forced to sit back and wait until next Monday when the NCAA Regionals are announced to see if their season will continue.

Despite winning two of three from Alabama over the weekend, Auburn didn't make it to the SEC Tournament and will have its fate decided by the selection committee.

If the Tigers had made the SEC Tournament field, in recent years teams that have done that have been almost a sure thing for making the NCAA 64-team field.

At 31-25 overall and 11-19 in SEC play, Auburn doesn't have a strong record, but you could easily state a case for the Tigers being in the mix for a tournament berth.

With the regular season complete, all the Tigers can do is wait and see how the conference tournaments shake out around the country.

"There's nothing we can do," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "You can sit there and watch the scores come in and see what happens. We're going to keep moving forward and see what happens."

Perhaps Auburn's strongest case comes from the SEC and the Tigers' strength of schedule in general. According to WarrenNolan.com, Auburn played the seventh-toughest schedule in the country and when looking at the teams on the list it comes as no surprise. The Tigers faced Florida, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, FSU, Elon, South Carolina and Alabama this season, all ranked in the Top 30 in the country in RPI.

In fact, Auburn is well ahead of SEC counterpart Vanderbilt in terms of RPI in both Warren Nolan and Boyds World. The Tigers check in at 31 at BW and 29 in WN while the Commdores are 38 and 40 respectively. Vanderbilt's record of 32-24 is almost identical to Auburn's this season and the Tigers took two of three from the Commodores head to head, but Vandy helped its cause with a win over LSU in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

Something else that could play into Auburn's chances is the fact the Tigers played without top offensive weapon Joseph Sanders for an extended period of time late in the season. Without the junior third baseman Auburn was 4-9 overall and just 1-8 in SEC games. Four of those games were losses by two runs or less and three by just one run.

All of those things point to Auburn having a serious chance to get an at-large bid when they are announced next week. There is precedent in the SEC for getting both nine teams into the field of 64 and also getting eight teams with one of them not coming from the conference tournament field.

In 2005 Auburn failed to make the SEC Tournament at 32-24, but was selected to play in the Tallahassee Regional. The Tigers made it to the final day, but lost to host Florida State. That season Auburn was one of nine teams from the Southeastern Conference to make the field. It happened again last season as the league got nine bids to the field of 64.

Even though the numbers may warrant a discussion for the Tigers, ultimately it will come down to a numbers game from teams all around the country. Teams such as Auburn, Oklahoma State (30-22, 25 RPI) and Baylor (27-22, 30) from the Big 12, Washington State (27-22, 54) and Stanford (29-23, 56) from the Pac 10, Illinois (34-18, 62) from the Big 10, and Boston College (31-24, 33) from the ACC all will be in the discussion as well, but it may depend on lower profile conferences to determine just how many "bubble" teams get the call as at-large teams.

The conference tournaments have already yielded some help for teams as the Baylor Bears (28-23) defeated Texas in the opener of the Big 12 Tournament to help its cause. The same goes for Vanderbilt as the Commodores took out LSU to earn their 32nd victory on Wednesday.

Perhaps the biggest early winner is San Diego State. Likely a bubble team coming into the week, the Aztecs are 2-0 in the MWC Tournament and should be in the field now.


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