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SMITH COLUMN: SEC proves dominance in baseball

June 25, 2011

Florida's Daniel Pigott, left, Bryson Smith, front right, and Tyler Thompson, rear right, celebrate after beating Vanderbilt 6-4 on Friday. Florida advances to the championship series to play the South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina's logo is ironically visible at top right. (Photo by Ted Kirk, AP)

Sometimes debates arise in college athletics about which conference stands as the best and making a determination is not always so cut and dry.
Anytime Mississippi State's John Cohen or any of the other baseball coaches in the Southeastern Conference brag about playing in the greatest conference in the nation, you can believe them.
The best example of that is this season because there's no question that the SEC stands head and shoulders above any other league.
With the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Florida Gators playing in the College World Series finals beginning Monday in Omaha, Neb., the SEC is guaranteed to capture its third-straight national championship.
It's difficult to bring other conferences into the conversation of supremacy when you stop and consider what the SEC has done over the last 21 years.
Here are just a few points.
– Since 1990, there have been 145 SEC teams that have received NCAA Tournament bids to lead the nation.
– A nation-leading 43 SEC squads have made it to the College World Series since 1990 and once Florida and South Carolina have finished up the national title series, the league will have won nine of the last 22 NCAA crowns and will have finished as runners-up five times.
– SEC programs have appeared in 26 of the last 27 College World Series with the lone miss being in 1992.
– With an 8-2 mark this season in Omaha, the SEC has an 87-71 overall record in the CWS since 1990. That's a winning percentage of .551 and more than 20 wins more than the next conference as the Pacific 10 has a 60-52 mark.
– Again since 1990, 28 SEC squads have posted 50 or more wins in a season (Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt have done it this year), while 107 have won 40-plus in a season, including seven in 2010.
– There have been 10 different SEC schools (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) that have made CWS appearances since 1990, which is the most from a conference to appear in Omaha since that time.
Southeastern Conference teams are as prepared as it can be once the NCAA Tournament begins because of the grueling 30-game league schedule and conference tournament.
When you make the short trip over to Hoover, Ala., each May to watch the SEC Tournament, there's no doubt you are observing one of the most competitive events in sports.
It's only fitting that the Gators and Gamecocks play for the national championship. South Carolina is the defending champion and Florida was ranked No. 1 in the preseason. It should be a great series.
Virginia was given the tag of the No. 1 national seed when the NCAA Tournament began and deserved to be so, but the Cavaliers couldn't figure out how to knock off the Gamecocks.
The Gators are probably favored to capture the first baseball national championship, joining the football and basketball programs that have gotten NCAA titles recently.
However, don't be surprised to see South Carolina come out, play well and win its second-consecutive crown. The Gamecocks have been there, done that and know what it takes to get the job done.
This is the second time that two SEC squads have met for the baseball national championship. LSU defeated Alabama 13-6 to claim the College World Series in 1997.
The people in Omaha and those watching on ESPN can expect intense and close games between Florida and South Carolina.
That's what we've come to expect in the Southeastern Conference.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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