SEC Baseball Tournament 2016: Friday Schedule and Bracket Predictions

Brian Marron@@brianmarron398Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2016

Texas A&M starting pitcher Brigham Hill, delivers the ball against South Carolina during the first inning of a game at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament at the Hoover Met, Thursday, May 26, 2016, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Four heavyweights will meet Friday at the 2016 SEC Baseball Tournament, with each looking for a chance to advance to the semifinals.

All four teams playing Friday are in the Top 10 of USA Today's college baseball poll, with Florida being the top-ranked team in the country.

Here is a look at the schedule as well as predictions for both games.

2016 SEC Baseball Tournament Friday Schedule
DateTime (ET)MatchupNetwork
Friday, May 274 p.m.Texas A&M vs. VanderbiltSEC Network
Friday, May 27Approx. 30 Minutes Following Previous GameFlorida vs. Mississippi StateSEC Network
SECSports.com

Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt

Friday's first game features an early tournament rematch, but this time, it will be an elimination showdown.

Vanderbilt edged Texas A&M 6-5 on Wednesday thanks to some late-game heroics from freshman Walker Grisanti, per WSMV's Chris Harris:

The No. 3 seed Aggies enter Friday fresh off a win over second-seeded South Carolina, as they downed the Gamecocks 4-1 Thursday. 

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt lost to Mississippi 12-9 Thursday and now needs a win to stay alive.

Texas A&M and Vanderbilt split their four meetings this season, so this matchup has the potential to go either way.

Each school holds a distinct advantage in a major category. 

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Texas A&M is 15th nationally in batting average, hitting .314 as a team. Vanderbilt ranks a lowly 139th with a .274 team average.

Team ERA is also another critical factor when comparing these two squads. Vanderbilt is ninth nationally with a 2.91 mark, but Texas A&M is not too shabby with its 3.14 ERA, good for 16th in the country.

Vanderbilt may be able to keep Texas A&M off of the scoreboard for large parts of the game, but the Commodores really struggle at the plate. This was evident when they were shut out twice by the Aggies this season.

It is only one game, so anything can happen. Yet the safe bet is to go with the more compete team. Texas A&M will win in a low-scoring affair.

Florida vs. Mississippi State

The SEC will have another marquee matchup as Florida and Mississippi State close out the evening.

Mississippi State is coming off a historic season, as noted by SEC football communications director Chuck Dunlap:

Florida is an elite team as well, but the Gators struggled against the Bulldogs, dropping two of the programs' three outings during the regular season.

The Gators opened the SEC tournament with an epic 14-inning loss to LSU, but they rebounded Thursday with a 5-4 triumph over Alabama. Mississippi State dropped its only game to the Bayou Bengals Thursday, 6-2.

These two teams present an interesting matchup. The Gators are the superior pitching squad, coming in at No. 10 nationally in ERA and first overall with their strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, they struggle to hit, ranking 113th in team batting average and 81st in runs scored.

Mississippi State is 29th overall in on-base percentage at .394 and 14th in team batting average. Its pitching is also pretty formidable with a 3.29 ERA, good for 29th nationally.

Each team excels at taking away what its opponent does best, so who prevails in such a stalemate?

Mississippi State has had an excellent year, and it will be a legitimate College World Series contender, but Florida is the defending SEC tournament champion, so its roster has experience the Bulldogs cannot match.

Given its championship pedigree, Florida will find a way to come out victorious in a must-win situation. The Gators will go on to face LSU in the semifinal round.

All statistics are courtesy of NCAA.com.