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Hoover Preview: Rebels Face Tough Tests in SEC Tournament Field

Ole Miss is just one of 12 teams participating in the SEC Tournament this week in Hoover. What do all of the teams bring to the table?

The SEC Tournament begins on Tuesday in Hoover, and 12 conference teams are hoping to take home the trophy and put up solid performances ahead of the NCAA Tournament.

The eight teams with the lower seeds will face off in four single-elimination games on Tuesday. The winners will then be paired up against the SEC’s top four teams—Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU—to begin the double-elimination portion of the tournament. The winner will ultimately be crowned on Sunday afternoon.

Here are the 12 teams who made the 2022 SEC Tournament and what they each bring to the table.

No. 1 Tennessee

Tennessee has easily been the most dominant team in the country all season. Led by head coach Tony Vitello, the Volunteers have a heavy-hitting offense and an incredible group of pitchers that make them nearly impossible to beat. 

The team won nine SEC series and finished the regular season with a 49-7 overall record. The Vols are favored to win both the SEC Tournament and the overall College World Series, but being the favorites can sometimes come with a curse.

No. 2 Texas A&M

The growth that the Aggies have had this season is tremendous. 

Texas A&M went from missing the SEC Tournament in 2021 to winning the SEC West in 2022. Much of that success comes from the hiring of baseball mastermind Jim Schlossnagle as the program’s head coach. 

The team prides itself on its offense, which scored an average of 7.44 runs per game. Texas A&M has been especially hot over the last month of action, posting a 12-4 record that dates back to April 22.

No. 3 Arkansas

Unlike Texas A&M, Arkansas has slipped some with each passing week. The Razorbacks dropped their last two series of the year to Vanderbilt and Alabama and seem to have lost some of the magic that carried them through much of last season. 

If they want to win, the Hogs will need to strike first and fast as the team has a 25-4 overall record when scoring the first run of the game. Will the defending SEC Tournament champions have the chance to go back-to-back?

No. 4 LSU

No other team in the SEC is as inconsistent as LSU. 

Take the last two weekends of the season, for example, when the Tigers were swept by Ole Miss at their home stadium, then traveled to face a ranked Vanderbilt team and picked up three easy wins. They are spearheaded by a talented offense in which every starter has a batting average of .270 or above. 

What hurts LSU the most is its defense, which has totaled 76 errors and a .961 fielding percentage on the season.

No. 5 Auburn

Auburn can compete with the best-of-the-best, but the Tigers also tend to struggle against much weaker opponents. 

The team has picked up series wins against higher seeded teams such as Texas A&M and LSU to go along with series losses at the hands of Mississippi State and Kentucky. First baseman Sonny DiChiara is the SEC Conference Co-Player of the year and has given opponents all they can handle, but the rest of the team will have to perform consistently to make it far in Hoover.

No. 6 Georgia

The Bulldogs had high expectations coming into the season...until they started falling as the year went on. Georgia has lost its last four SEC series to LSU, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Missouri. 

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They have an ace pitcher in Jonathan Cannon— who has a 9-3 record and a 3.62 ERA— and a few talented batters scattered throughout the lineup. However, their success in the conference tournament completely depends on if they can get back to being the team they were just a few months ago.

No. 7 Florida

The Gators have been on a rampage in the SEC as of late, capping off a rollercoaster of a regular season. 

They started the year as a highly-ranked team with big plans for the future, then dropped four of their first six SEC series. The turnaround came at the end of April against Kentucky. Since then, Florida has averaged 7.8 runs per game and outscored opponents by roughly 2.44 runs per contest. They will be a tough opponent to face in the tournament and should not be taken lightly despite being a lower seed.

No. 8 Vanderbilt

A bad end to the 2022 season might have been just enough to completely throw Vanderbilt off its game. 

The Commodores were outscored 42-15 in three games as they were swept by LSU in front of their home crowd. Vandy has been an all-around average team throughout the year and lacks consistency. The team has stellar performances by just about everyone in one game, but then can’t string together hits or pitch out of a jam in the next. The Dores desperately need to find some rhythm ahead of the postseason it they want to make it back to Omaha.

No. 9 Ole Miss

Ole Miss headed into SEC play as the top-ranked team in the nation, then fell to last place in the SEC West halfway through conference play. Since then, the Rebels have gotten some of their fire back. 

Starting pitchers Dylan DeLucia and Hunter Elliott have had better performances on the mound, and a slew of veteran batters have found a rhythm offensively. Mike Bianco’s team can match just about anyone offensively, but the Rebs will need to have a more reliable bullpen to survive a tough week against some of the nation’s best teams.

No. 10 South Carolina

The Gamecocks made it through the 2022 season by winning quite a few games that they were not favored in to make up for bad losses against teams that they should’ve beaten. 

A perfect example of this came early in the season: South Carolina was swept by Clemson then pulled off a series victory against Texas the following weekend. With an underdog mentality, the team can possibly pull off at least one win in Hoover.

No. 11 Alabama

The amount of close games that Alabama has had this season is insane. The Crimson Tide have lost 12 games by just one run. 

Close doesn’t count in baseball, but at least the team managed to make the SEC Tournament and fight for a postseason spot. Alabama certainly has talent—they were ranked in the Top 25 near the middle of the season—but it must clean up a few mistakes to make a run in Hoover and have any shot at an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 12 Kentucky

Kentucky squeaked into the SEC Tournament with a victory at the last possible moment. 

The Wildcats took down Auburn by a score of 6-3 on Sunday afternoon to clinch the final tournament spot with a 12-18 conference record. Despite having the worst record of any tournament team, Kentucky has done what nobody else can: win a series against Tennessee.

That will certainly be the driving force for the Wildcats heading into the week, especially as they have to face Auburn once again in their first tournament game.

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