SEC Baseball Huge Disappointment

Year in and year out, the Southeastern Conference has the reputation as the premier conference in college baseball. Yet again, nine SEC teams received bids to the NCAA field of 64.

Some observers and coaches outside the league questioned the merits of 75 percent of a conference being selected while teams like two time national champion Oregon State were left on the outside looking in. The SEC better hope next year's committee doesn't have long memories, because their performance this postseason proved those critics correct.

Two SEC teams were selected as top eight national seeds. Only one lived up to its billing, as LSU continued its astounding winning streak and advanced easily. Georgia, though, stunned observers by losing to Lipscomb in their first game. They fought back through the losers bracket to reach an elimination game with Georgia Tech, making them the only SEC team other than LSU still alive on Monday.

When a team has to travel to a regional their advancement isn't expected, but it appeared several SEC teams got promising draws. Vanderbilt was sent as a two seed to Tempe, where the single most criticized selection of the field of 64 Oklahoma was sent as the three seed. The Commodores headed home after going 1-2 with both losses coming to that allegedly unworthy Sooners squad.

Many liked Alabama's chances in Conway, where the home Coastal Carolina squad had never advanced to the super regionals despite being a top seed multiple times. Alabama also was gone after a 1-2 trip. South Carolina was considered to have a great opportunity of advancing out of Raleigh, where an N.C. State team that has historically faltered in postseason play was considered a marginal one seed at best. The Gamecocks went 0-2 against the Wolfpack, although they did win two games against other opponents.

At least those teams mustered a win in their stay. That was more than Florida (as a two seed) or Arkansas were able to do. Other SEC teams put up a better fight, but had bad draws. Ole Miss was sent to a Coral Gables regional many thought was the tournament's deepest. While they won twice, Miami was too much for the Rebels to handle.

Kentucky eliminated Ann Arbor regional host Michigan, but getting through the losers bracket took too much out of them to survive top seeded Arizona. Overall, the SEC's seven teams who were not hosting won just three games over higher seeded teams before being eliminated, with none able to take even a single game from a top seed.

All through the SEC baseball season, people debated the question of whether the league was extraordinarily competitive or unusually mediocre. The three teams picked by the conference coaches in their preseason poll to be the best were Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Ole Miss. Those teams finished sixth through eighth in the final SEC standings.

The answer is now clear - with the failure of the expected elite to live up to expectations, other teams had their records artificially inflated. In the end, SEC baseball 2008 will be remembered as a year when the conference couldn't back up its press clippings.

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