Welcome to the SEC SPORTS FAN 2011 SEC Baseball Tournament Preview. This looks to be another exciting SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover powered by three of the top five teams in the country. The power this season resides in the SEC Eastern division where nationally ranked teams #1 South Carolina, #2 Vanderbilt and #5 Florida are all primed to make a push for the tournament title. With the Southeastern conferences divisional alignment format the winners of each division get the top two spots in the SEC tournament. This means Arkansas, which finished the conference season with a .500 record, is seeded higher than both Florida and Vanderbilt, which had better conference records.
The top half of the bracket is stronger than the bottom with both the nations top ranked team South Carolina and second ranked Vanderbilt both in that half of the bracket along with upstart Georgia and Auburn. Nationally fifth ranked Florida and eighteenth ranked Arkansas lead the bottom half of the bracket along with SEC West members Alabama and Mississippi State. As we all witnessed last season, the SEC tournament can be as wide open as any other as the 8th seeded LSU Tigers defeated 7th seeded Alabama for the tournament title.
As for this season and the double elimination format the SEC uses, its tough to see teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt or Florida dropping two games, but someone has to lose as the league will crown only one champion. Top seeded South Carolina has to be the favorite with 2-1 series wins over both Vanderbilt and Florida to their credit. The Gamecocks have also swept the three games they played earlier this season against their opening round opponent, Auburn. The fourth seeded Vanderbilt Commodores will be a close second pick as they can throw out three top starting pitchers in Grayson Garvin, Sonny Gray and Taylor Hill that are all among the league leaders in pitching and have posted a combined 24-4 record from the mound for the season. The Commodores will have the tough task of having to face the same team they just played last weekend in the opening round game in Georgia. Vanderbilt won that series two games to one on the road and will need to beat the Dogs again or risk falling into the loser's bracket. If USC or Vanderbilt falter than third seeded Florida could be the team to beat although they will have to get past the best of the SEC West this season in Arkansas, Mississippi State and the team that knocked them out of last year's tournament, Alabama. Although the Gators won both series against Alabama and MSU, they dropped two of three games in Fayetteville against Arkansas.
With every single pitch of the tournament being televised including the tournament championship game, which will be on ESPN2 on May 29th at 2PM est. Even the fans that aren't able to make the trek to Hoover will be able to enjoy watching the entertaining play that is the SEC and if you have to pin me down to make a selection, I will say Vanderbilt brings it home this year. So, good luck to all eight teams that qualified and I hope every one of you gets to enjoy this season's SEC baseball tournament.
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