The Southeastern Conference has eight teams in the 64-team NCAA brackets with three of them being national seeds. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)
The strength of the Southeastern Conference in college baseball is evident once again across the board after Monday's selections for the NCAA Tournament were revealed.
With eight teams in the field, the most in the country, and three of the top national seeds, the SEC is flexing its muscles once again as the postseason kicks into high gear.
Florida, which wasn't even the SEC regular season or tournament champion, was awarded the No. 1 national seed. After being eliminated in the semifinals of the conference tournament, the Gators have an overall record of 42-18.
"That was a very close vote," NCAA committee chairman Kyle Kallander said during a teleconference Monday afternoon. "The committee discussed at length who deserved to be that No. 1 overall because there were several deserving teams. As you look at that overall body of work (for Florida) and especially the 21-10 (record) against top 25 teams, yeah they had a few bumps along the way, but overall we felt like that what pushed them over the top."
Along with the Gators, SEC regular season champion LSU (43-16) was the No. 6 national seed and two-time defending national champion South Carolina, which finished first in the SEC East, snuck in as the No. 8 national seed.
The Gamecocks (40-17) were only one game behind LSU for the overall SEC title.
"It was where they finished in the SEC," Kallander said about South Carolina's consideration as a national seed. "You look at their schedule and their outstanding results with top 25 and top 50. That was significant. Those were a couple of things that played a role. It was certainly a very close and very difficult decision, but ultimately felt they were deserving."
The other SEC teams to make the field were tournament champion Mississippi State, tournament finalist Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Eight of the 10 teams that made the SEC Tournament were included in the NCAA field.
With the early exit for the Rebels in Hoover, Ala., it was believed they were on the bubble. Ole Miss (35-24) ended up as the No. 3 seed in the College Station Regional hosted by Texas A&M.
Kallander said that regional rankings, non-conference strength of schedule against non-conference rating performance index, and other factors determine how teams get into the bracket of 64.
The committee also had to take in account some unexpected things happening, like MSU winning the SEC Tournament on Sunday, before finishing the selection process.
"It seems like there's more and more parity in college baseball every year and it certainly doesn't get any easier, but we feel very good about the process which is very involved and very detailed," Kallander said. "We feel very good about the field we ultimately came up with."
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