Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vanderbilt Gets the Sweep in Starkville; Resume to Host Regional Improves

Tim Corbin's squad took care of business this weekend, sweeping Mississippi State and improving their record to 39-13 overall, and 15-10 in the SEC. The Commodores have won 6 straight, including their marathon win over #8 Louisville last Tuesday. Heading into their final series of the regular season against Arkansas at Hawkins Field kicking off next Thursday, Vanderbilt's position in the SEC Tournament and in the NCAA's is far from certain. While the Commodores SEC tournament seeding prospects were hindered by the cancellation of their final two games against the cellar-dwelling Georgia Bulldogs, they very much have a say in their post-season destiny.

Vanderbilt cannot overtake either South Carolina or Florida for the SEC East crown. However, the Commodores are currently slated as a #4 seed, and can earn as high as a 3 seed in the SEC tournament, depending on next weekend's results. For the Commodores, the scoreboard watching will be out west, where Vanderbilt's seeding depends not only on the results of their games against the Razorbacks, but also the Ole Miss/Auburn series. Worst case scenario for the Commodores would seem to be a #6 seed, where their first-round opponent in the double-elimination tournament would likely be whoever doesn't win the SEC East (either South Carolina or Florida, who Vanderbilt has a combined record of 2-4 against). Anything higher would likely mean the Commodores face an SEC West opponent of either Ole Miss, Auburn or Arkansas.

While the Commodores haven't played the Razorbacks yet, and won't see the Rebels until the SEC Tournament, they are 2-1 against Auburn, and would need to be at least 2-1 against Arkansas to climb out of the 6-seed. Winning their final series at Hawkins is also critical to their regional hosting prospects given that Arkansas is likely to enter the series ranked ahead of the Commodores. Currently, the Commodores are ranked #17, but will their sweep of Mississippi State, and Arkansas being swept by South Carolina, the door is very much open for Hawkins field to host an NCAA regional.

Making things easier for Seamus and the rest of the O'Toole's, Vanderbilt should be rooting for Auburn over Ole Miss. If Ole Miss takes 2 of 3 from the Tigers, and Vanderbilt drops 2 of 3, Vanderbilt falls down to the 6th spot. If, however, Vanderbilt wins the series over the Razorbacks, then the Rebels would have to sweep Auburn to climb into the 4th spot. The key for Vanderbilt is winning at least as many games as Ole Miss to avoid playing either Florida or South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Finally, playing out all the scanarios I can think of right now, a Vanderbilt sweep, combined with an Auburn loss would catapult the Commodores into a 3 seed, and would probably be enough to guarantee hosting a regional.

After squandering the double-header in Knoxville, the Commodores have shown a lot of pluck and are playing as good as anyone in the country. With the bats seeming to come alive to compliment one of the best pitching staffs in the country, Vanderbilt has put themselves in a great position to challenge for the SEC Championship and potentially host on NCAA Regional. Let's see if they can keep it going into June.

NOTE: I misspoke, I don't think Vanderbilt can earn a 3 seed since the Commodores, even with a sweep of Arkansas, and either Florida or South Carolina getting swept, Vanderbilt's winning percentage won't surpass .666 (the worst-case scenario finish for the Gators or the Gamecocks).

No comments: