College Baseball: SEC East Is Clearly Toughest Division

Jim FolsomContributorApril 17, 2011

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29:  Whit Merrifield #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after hitting the game winning RBI to defeat the UCLA Bruins in game 2 of the men's 2010 NCAA College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 29, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Gamecocks defeated the Bruins 2-1 in eleven innings to win the National Championship.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The SEC East is one dominant division. They have three of the top four ranked teams as of the latest poll with No. 1 Vanderbilt, the defending national champions and No. 3 ranked South Carolina, and pre-season No. 1 and current No. 4, Florida.

Then there is also a very tough Georgia team giving the "Big Three" all they want. Going into Saturday's action, there were only two games separating the top four teams in the division. This weekend, they all are playing each other.

Vanderbilt is at South Carolina. Gamecock lefty Michael Roth ran his record to 8-1 with a 3-1 victory over the Commodores. The win gave South Carolina sole possession of first place in the East at 11-2. Vandy and Florida sat at 10-3 after Friday's action when the Gators held off a late Georgia rally to win 5-4. Hudson Randall picked up his sixth win of the season for Florida.

On Saturday, Georgia struck back with a six-run bottom of the eighth to break open a 1-1 tie and cruise to a 7-1 win. The win gives UGA a 9-5 record in the SEC. Vandy also evened its series with the Gamecocks with a 6-4 victory. So going into Sunday's action, which will mark the halfway point in SEC play, Vandy and South Carolina are 11-3, Florida is 10-4 and Georgia is 9-5.

Lurking is Tennessee, who has a paltry 4-11 SEC mark but is 21-15 overall. Should UT start to win a few games down the stretch of the SEC schedule, they could slip in and get a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The SEC East got five teams into the NCAA tournament in basketball and may do the same in baseball. Here is where the problem lies however. The top eight national seeds in baseball are assured home field until the College World Series. The Selection Committee might be a bit hesitant to award three to the same conference. So even though the third place team in the East is a possible top-five team, they may find themselves on the road in the NCAA tournament.

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So the last 15 games of the regular season will be very intriguing. There will be a lot at stake. South Carolina can really pick up a huge win against Vanderbilt on Sunday. Not only will it give them first place, but it is also the last game they will play against a team from the East this year. The 'Cocks took two of three from Georgia and Florida. And with a win on Sunday, would do the same to Vandy. They would own the tiebreakers against all three teams and also can play the weaker West while Vandy plays Florida and Georgia.

At least, once the NCAA tournament starts, the SEC East teams will be battle-tested. None of them will likely face a tougher team in the regional or Super Regionals than the ones they face on many SEC Weekends.