By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Well, here we are again. Mississippi State’s baseball team finds itself in a tangled ball of mathematical possibilities regarding next week’s SEC Tournament.
This time last year, the Bulldogs were in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC Western Division with a 13-14 record, and I calculated that, entering the final weekend of the regular season, there were 24 possible tie-break scenarios State could’ve wound up in.
MSU finished the 2011 season tied for second in the West and earned a No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Entering this weekend’s series with No. 4-ranked Kentucky, MSU is again 13-14 in league play, although this time it’s tied with Arkansas for third. As for overall seeding, it’s a three-way tie between those two and Vanderbilt for the No. 7 tourney seed.
I have not tried to determine the number of different scenarios that could play out, because frankly, I don’t want to. But I will try to set the table for you as far as how high or how low MSU could go and what sides Bulldog fans need to take in the other series.
We are mainly concerned here with tournament seeding, not division finish.
* LSU has clinched the West and thus a No. 2 seed at worst, while the top two teams in the East – Kentucky and South Carolina – are guaranteed at least a No. 3 seed. Florida should be seeded no worse than fourth, but a bad weekend could drop it to down into the teeming masses of mediocrity.
The highest MSU can be seeded is fifth. Ole Miss is currently in that spot with a 14-13 SEC mark. The Rebels visit Vanderbilt this weekend, and the Commodores are coming off a 2-1 series victory over LSU.
So does State need Ole Miss or Vandy to win the series? It doesn’t really matter so long as MSU ends the weekend with at least as good a mark as those teams. State would win any tie-breakers by virtue of series wins over both the Rebs and Commodores.
* Arkansas travels to woeful Tennessee, so the Bulldogs will hope the Volunteers can protect home turf.
* MSU could wind up the No. 10 seed, which is where Auburn (12-15) currently resides. The Tigers host Florida (16-11) this weekend, so MSU will pull for the Gators.
* Then there’s Georgia, which is 13-13 and in the No. 6 position after Sunday’s game with South Carolina was rained out (it won’t be made up). Those Bulldogs are at Alabama this weekend, so MSU needs the lowly Tide (7-20) to win at least a couple.
* LSU at South Carolina might seem like an inconsequential series for MSU, but it’s not. If MSU is still in a three-way tie following this weekend, then one possible tie-breaker is each of the three teams’ record against the No. 1 seed.
LSU and South Carolina both have a shot at No. 1. MSU lost two of three to each of those teams, and of course has current SEC leader Kentucky coming in Thursday.
Got all that? Good.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.