Many of the nation's best schools are in Hoover, Alabama, for the 2015 SEC baseball tournament, but Tuesday's opening-round action is for those who may slip under the radar come NCAA regionals time.
With the top four seeds owning a first-round bye, seeds Nos. 5-12 will be facing off in four single-elimination contests throughout Tuesday. The winners will enter the conventional eight-team double-elimination format, but four teams will be sent packing on the opening day.
Although the elite teams aren't in action Tuesday, plenty of NCAA hopefuls will be, as a record 10 SEC schools made the tournament last year. Let's go ahead and take a look at everything to know for Day 1.
Tuesday, May 19 SEC Tournament Schedule and Predictions
|10:30 a.m.||Ole Miss (6) vs. Alabama (11)||SEC Network||Ole Miss|
|TBD*||Missouri (7) vs. South Carolina (10)||SEC Network||Missouri|
|5:30 p.m.||Kentucky (8) vs. Auburn (9)||SEC Network||Kentucky|
|TBD*||Arkansas (5) vs. Tennessee (12)||SEC Network||Tennessee|
|SECSports.com (TBD games will begin following previous game)|
Full schedule available at the tournament's official site.
Game to Watch: Arkansas vs. Tennessee
Two of the hottest teams in the conference entering the tournament will face off in Tuesday's nightcap, but Arkansas and Tennessee took very different roads to get here.
The Razorbacks have been nationally ranked for much of the season and narrowly missed out on a top-four finish in the conference. The opposing Volunteers had to scrape out a sweep of Mississippi State in their season finale just to get into the tournament field with the 12th and final seed.
Preseason expectations in Knoxville involved fighting for an NCAA berth in May, not a SEC one, and the Volunteers undoubtedly fell short thus far. But they earned the chance to change that in Hoover, and they aren't scoffing at the opportunity, as the team's Twitter noted:
The bracket didn't do the Vols any favors in Round 1, pitting them against a Razorbacks team that has been among the SEC's best since being swept by Vanderbilt in their conference opener.
To make matters tougher, Arkansas boasts recently crowned SEC Player of the Year Andrew Benintendi, who has already caught Tennessee's eye, as Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported:
With two surging teams facing off in an elimination game, superior talent can make way for superior desperation at times.
That's exactly what happened when these two teams met May 8-10, when the Vols split a two-game series with the Razorbacks. Tennessee jumped on the Arkansas bullpen to take a 5-4 victory, which proved to be crucial to the Vols' SEC hopes.
In fact, Tennessee is the first SEC team since LSU in March to prevent the Razorbacks' potent offense from scoring more than five runs per game in a weekend series. The Vols will flex their defensive muscle again with everything on the line.
Prediction: Tennessee 4, Arkansas 3