It wasn't quite as simple as we all thought at the beginning of the season -- it wound through Arkansas' brief stint as division leader and ended up the result of a tiebreaker -- but LSU did what everyone thought it would Saturday by clinching the SEC West and the regular-season conference title in a 15-4 clobbering of Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt gets the final spot at Hoover because of Kentucky's inability to win against Florida.
There were few surprises this weekend, except maybe South Carolina passing Georgia for No. 2 in the SEC East. After all, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Gamecocks. Instead, they now enter postseason play on a 10-1 run over their last 11 games and having won five of their last six SEC series. (The exception? A sweep against Florida to end April.)
The upshot of all this? LSU takes the No. 1 seed in Hoover because of the head-to-head against Ole Miss and Florida goes into the tournament as the No. 2 seed by virtue of winning the East. The rest: No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 South Carolina, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Arkansas and No.8 Vanderbilt.
Your first-day match-ups for the tournament, which begins Wednesday:
Game 1: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 Arkansas, 10 a.m., CSS
Arkansas got fat on easy opponents early, then collapsed down the stretch, losing eight of its last 10. The Hogs won just one of their last six SEC series, including being swept by Vanderbilt (two games) and Alabama. Florida rallied over the last several weeks of the season to win the SEC East. PREDICTION: FLORIDA
Game 2: No. 3 Ole Miss vs. No. 6 Georgia, 1:30 p.m., CSS
Things looked grim for the Rebels over the final two weekends, as ace Scott Bittle went down and the Bengals already had the lead in the West. But Ole Miss reeled off eight wins in its last 10 games to tie for the division and conference championship. The rules of the tournament drop them to No. 3, though, where they face on a Georgia team that has gone from East favorite to .500 in SEC play. PREDICTION: OLE MISS
Game 3: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt, 5 p.m., CSS
Vanderbilt gets into the tournament because the rules say eight teams go. The interesting part about the Commodores is that they might have stayed home had it not been for a rained-out game against Arkansas. If Vanderbilt loses that game, they end up in a tie with Kentucky -- who beat the Dores in an early-season series and would have held the tiebreaker. Not that either team really deserves to be there. LSU, on the other hand, does deserve to be there. PREDICTION: LSU
Game 4: No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 5 South Carolina, 8:30 p.m., CSS
Both of these teams are red-hot coming into the postseason, with Alabama 8-2 over its last ten games and won five of its last seven SEC series. But those series include sweeps against Arkansas, Mississippi State (two games), Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The Tide have the highest batting average and slugging percentage and second highest on-base percentage in conference games and scored one fewer run that Florida in SEC play despite playing one fewer game. They also have 30 more total bases than any other team in the league and face their co-HR champion in South Carolina. (And, again, the Gamecocks had a full slate of 30 games.) Meanwhile, South Carolina comes in with a 6.26 ERA in conference games. A narrow win in a high-scoring game. PREDICTION: ALABAMA
TOURNAMENT WINNER PREDICTION: LSU