2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament Bracketology: Where Will the SEC Teams End Up?

So where is your team headed (or not headed) when the NCAA baseball tournament gets started this weekend? Here are some guesses based on what we've seen over the last couple of weeks and the regional hosts that were announced Sunday. I consulted the mock RPIs at Boyd's World as well as the brackets put together by Perfect Game and Baseball America to get a sense of what people who do this a lot more than I do are thinking. But I'm just an amateur bracketologist, so take this with a grain of salt. The real brackets are unveiled Monday at noon ET on ESPNU.

FLORIDA: NATIONAL SEED
RPI: 2
Florida has been one of the better teams in the country for most of the season, despite some uneven performances here and there. The Gators are going to be a national seed -- I don't think there's any real debate about that -- and probably a high one at that. That means that the Gainesville regional will feature one of the weaker fields and should give Florida a relatively easy run through the bracket. The one possible catch on that is if a hot team like Mississippi State or Vanderbilt gets into the field as a "low" No. 2 -- which would be a terrible draw, as I expect the Commodores and the Bulldogs to wreak havoc wherever they end up.

LSU: NATIONAL SEED
RPI: 8
Much of what I said about Florida could go here as well. The Tigers didn't finish well in the SEC tournament, but they played well enough before that to lock up the national seed despite being on "the bubble" under the pseudo-RPIs if you just go by the numbers. (The selection committee never just goes by the numbers, which makes bracketology more like Kremlinology than anything else.) But LSU is likely to end up more toward the middle or even the lower half of the national seeds, which means they could face a regional that will still be relatively easy -- but not a pushover.

SOUTH CAROLINA: LIKELY NATIONAL SEED
RPI: 12
Here's a case where the committee is likely to bypass the numbers and give the Gamecocks a national seed despite their being "outside" the Top 8. With the exception of the SEC tournament, South Carolina turned things on at the end of the year, and the Gamecocks are pretty clearly a different team than they were when they got off to a 1-5 start. Having some momentum is what's likely to get them over the finish line. It's not a sure thing, but most of the games that people I respect were watching with respect to South Carolina seemed to break the right way, so they'll get in and face a middling regional field as the last or next-to-last national seed.

KENTUCKY: LOW NO. 1, HIGH NO. 2 SEED
RPI: 17
While the NCAA doesn't like to say the profitability of sites matter -- it does. That and the fact that Kentucky was just outside the Top 16 is why the Wildcats won't host a regional, to the amazement of everyone who's watched college football this year. However, the NCAA does get itself an out in this respect: A team can be the No. 1 seed in someone else's regional. (No, this makes no sense and takes away all the value of being a No. 1 seed, but it has happened before.) If that happens with Kentucky, my guess is that the Wildcats end up as No. 1 at Rice's Houston regional -- the Owls are a spot behind the Wildcats in the RPIs -- or perhaps the Purdue regional in Gary, Ind., just because of its proximity, though the selection committee might not want to become the next target of Jim Delany's acerbic tongue. Perfect Game puts the Wildcats as the No. 1 in Miami's Coral Gables regional, which might pacify those who were outraged that Miami beat out Kentucky for hosting honors. If they get into a No. 1 seed away from home, then the regional is likely to be one of the tougher ones. If they get a No. 2 seed, that's going to be a tough draw for the home team -- which means it might also be a tough regional. Baseball America has them No. 2 in the Gary regional

MISSISSIPPI STATE: NO. 2 SEED
RPI: 21
I think the Bulldogs are a lock for a No. 2 seed, but where they end up could be a key questions. Because they're going to be a pretty high No. 2 seed with the way they've played the last few weeks, it probably won't be too far away from home. It might actually get them out of one of the national seeds' brackets, which could put them in a place like Houston. Perfect Game and Baseball America both have them going to Tallahassee, which would be a tough draw for the Seminoles but would at least allow your humble correspondent to see the Bulldogs in action. The selection committee tends to avoid conference teams in the same regional, so my guess would be that Mississippi State won't end up in Gainesville, Baton Rouge or Columbia.

VANDERBILT: LOW NO. 2, HIGH NO. 3 SEED
RPI: 24
A lot of where Vanderbilt ends up depends on which side of the 2/3 divide they land on. If they land as a No. 2 seed, it's again going to be nearby and a lower regional host -- Gary and Raleigh stand out. Perfect Game has them as the No. 2 seed in Charlottesville, which also seems reasonable in terms of proximity and Virginia's place as seventh in the RPIs. That's tough for the Cavaliers, but it's part of the alchemy that goes into place a team like Vanderbilt, which was mediocre for a lot of the year but comes into the postseason with a lot of momentum. Baseball America has them going all the way to Eugene, which I think is unlikely.

ARKANSAS: LOW NO. 2, HIGH NO. 3 SEED
RPI: 19
My read on Arkansas is that the Razorbacks are a team that did well enough over the course of the season -- as their RPI of 19 would indicate -- but kind of slowed down at the end of the season. They were not a memorable presence in Hoover; they scored one run and were out of the double-elimination tournament in two games. Still, I think the high RPI gets them a No. 2 seed somewhere -- maybe in College Station or Tallahassee if the Bulldogs don't go there. Perfect Game puts them as the No. 2 in College Station and Baseball America sends them to Charlottesville instead of the Commodores.

OLE MISS: NO. 3 SEED
RPI: 25
Again, this seems like a team whose best days are behind it. The Rebels have lost six of their last seven games, including losing at Arkansas and getting swept by Vanderbilt at the end of the regular season. And they got waxed 11-2 by LSU to knock them out of the tournament. I might be a bit hard on the Rebel Black Bears here -- that's a high RPI -- but I don't think so. Where do they end up? Perfect Game puts them in Chapel Hill, which seems a long way from where a relatively high No. 3 would go. Baseball America puts Ole Miss in Chapel Hill but as a No. 2 -- which makes more sense to me if the Rebels manage to get a No. 2 seed. Mississippi is kind of betwixt and between -- I'm not sure that one of the Texas sites would be that much closer than Chapel Hill, and another SEC team seems likely to go to Tallahassee as a No. 2.

AUBURN: OUT
RPI: 56
Even before a string of conference tournament results that cost a lot of bubble teams their spots, the Tigers needed a deep run in Hoover. It didn't happen, and the only team they beat was Georgia ...

GEORGIA: OUT
RPI: 57
... which also isn't going to the NCAAs this year.

TENNESSEE: INELIGIBLE
RPI: 118
The Vols didn't have the winning record required to even be considered.

ALABAMA: INELIGIBLE
RPI: 129
Nor did the Tide, who were likely the worst team in the SEC this year.

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