Well, that was fun.
Several upsets after it began and following more time lost to rain delays during the championship game than one cares to calculate (take that, pitching clock rules!), the SEC tournament ended with the eighth-seeded LSU Tigers as the league's official champions. (Yes, this system works so very much better than the BCS.)
The hero on offense for LSU was Tyler Hanover, who followed a crucial Alabama error with a two-out, RBI single that gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead in the top of the 11th. But the overall hero has to be Anthony Ranaudo, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief to capture his second win of the tournament after a difficult regular season. He struck out five, walked two and allowed no hits.
Congratulations to the Bayou Bengals, whose 4-0 sweep through Hoover also brushed away any doubts about LSU's chances to go to the NCAA tournament. (They get an automatic bid with it.) Alabama also probably wrapped up its spot on the Road to Omaha with its showing in the tournament, running the table from the No. 7 place until LSU won the 10-inning thriller Sunday.
Selections will be announced today at 12:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. CT. We'll be here for a live-blog.
Meanwhile, we already know four SEC teams will host regionals in the first round of the tournament: Florida, South Carolina, Auburn and, in a slight surprise, Arkansas. Not that Arkansas isn't a very good team; it's just that their closing argument lacked -- what do we call them? -- wins.
Here are a few remaining questions to be resolved today:
- Will Florida be the only national seed? The Gators are set to be one of eight teams that will, if they win the regional, also host a super-regional. Those teams are national seeds in college baseball. But what about South Carolina or Auburn? The Gamecocks didn't help their argument by losing two in a row in the tournament after Florida defeated South Carolina two games to one in the final series of the year. But before that, they looked almost destined to be a national seed. Auburn, meanwhile, had a strong momentum swing building before it crashed and burned in short order in Hoover. As of Sunday, Auburn and South Carolina were sitting at No. 16 and No. 17 in the Boyd's World pseudo-RPIs -- which, if they match up with the real ones, could present a problem in national-seed jockeying. No fewer than 10 regional hosts have a higher PRPI than the Tigers and the Gamecocks.
- What about Kentucky? There's been some talk that Kentucky could find its way into the bracket, putting as many as nine SEC teams in the tournament, but I'm having trouble seeing it. Sure, they're 32nd in PRPI, but that doesn't account for the auto-bid teams that will get in by not doing things like losing two games they absolutely needed to the worst teams in their respective conferences on the season's last weekend. Apologies to Wildcat fans, but I just feel like Kentucky in baseball this year was kind of like Kentucky in football every year: Win a lot of nonconference games, then post a bad record in the SEC and hope you get to the postseason anyway. Besides, allowing more league teams into the NCAA than were in the conference's own tournament presents some credibility issues, no? (Although, given the results of the SEC tournament, one could plausibly say "no.")
- What happens to Vanderbilt? The Commodores were given an outside chance by some at hosting a regional -- now that that's out of the question, where do they end up? In Connecticut? That could be an issue for another SEC team. But Vanderbilt is well-positioned to understand Yankee-speak, given their emphasis on readin' and such, so they should do okay.
We'll know soon enough.