Tennessee baseball’s early departure from the SEC tournament was slightly deflating for those wishing for better seeding. The Volunteers dropped their opener against the Auburn Tigers in a hard fought 5-3 affair, meaning Tennessee will have to wait until Monday, May 27th, when the selections are made for the NCAA baseball tournament.
Thanks to series victories over Florida and Ole Miss at the end of the season, the team is sitting somewhat comfortably where they are. They delivered in the absolute most crucial time. Tennessee now looks poised to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade.
Where are they projected to go? There seems to be some sort of consensus.
D1Baseball.com previously had Tennessee in the “First Five In” category, and placed the Vols as a 3-seed in the Chapel Hill regional. They’ve now upgraded Tennessee from the “First Five In” group and awarded them a 2-seed in the Greenville regional. That would mean an initial matchup against the Duke Blue Devils, with the other two teams being nationally seeded East Carolina and lowest seed Campbell. However, this does not take into account Tennessee’s latest defeat to Auburn.
Baseball America released their updated Field of 64 after the first round of the SEC tournament. In their projections, Tennessee grabs a 3-seed in the Raleigh regional, with a slightly different draw. NC State is the national seed and would face off against Campbell, who is still the 4-seed. Tennessee would go against the 2-seed West Virginia Mountaineers to start.
Not surprisingly, the scenario where Tennessee gets a 2-seed in Chapel Hill is much more favorable than the other. Duke is a typically good-to-great team that has faltered as the season went on. They ended the regular season on a 3-7 skid that included series losses to Miami and Georgia Tech, while also dropping two games to Liberty and another to VCU.
West Virginia has no such disappointment. The Mountaineers play in a tough conference and have grabbed nice series wins over the traditional powers. For comparison, they are 7-3 in their final 10 regular season games. They are also ranked 15th in RPI.
The second round is (obviously) where it would get tougher. In the Greenville regional, ECU is a tough draw. They are ranked 5th in RPI and have compiled an impressive 43-14 overall record. NC State is a bit more manageable at 20th in the RPI, but a nearly identical 41-15 record.
Campbell comes in at 69th in the RPI and a 32-19 overall record.