Welcome Back to Hoover, Bulldogs

I had a Mississippi State fan hit me up on Twitter the other day with a question about the SEC Tournament bracket. “Is that an error in the tourney bracket? Winner of games 7 & 8 should be swapped?” he asked.

When I looked, I noticed the apparent error as well. Turns out the bracket was exactly right. Following the 2008 tournament, the SEC decided it would flip the bracket, so to speak, for Saturday’s games in order to avoid repeat matchups. The confusion was understandable, seeing as how MSU fans haven’t had a reason to study a tourney bracket since 2007. And I’ve never covered the event, thus my confusion.

We’re not alone. Even fans whose teams have been in the tournament recently get mixed up about it.

“We always get people who call and say, ‘Hey, the bracket’s messed up.’ Once you know the reason, you’ll understand why that is,” said Chuck Dunlap, the SEC’s associate director for baseball. “It is confusing to look at, I agree.”

As I write in today’s Journal, it’s one of many changes Bulldog fans will encounter in Hoover, Ala., this week. MSU (34-21, 14-16 SEC) faces Florida (41-15, 22-8) in Wednesday’s first round.

Other changes noted in the story include the big HD video board and the ubiquitous SEC signage that Dunlap believes gives the league a greater sense of ownership of the tournament. Those upgrades are among many reasons the SEC recently decided to extend its contract with Hoover through 2016.

Dunlap thinks a big reason the tournament has grown so much is because it’s found a home in Hoover, the annual host since 1998. That’s led to strong local fan support.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s in the actual game,” Dunlap said. “I think you could see that in State’s first game on Wednesday afternoon. You’re going to have a pretty good base crowd, not just State and Florida fans, but local people that have decided they’re going to come out every year and help build it.”

Several coaches were asked on a teleconference Monday about the tournament remaining in Hoover, and not a dissenting word was uttered.

“I’m really happy for Hoover to extend that contract; we’re all big fans,” MSU’s John Cohen said.

• So here’s my plan of action for today: Finish writing my MSU-Florida advance, wash our vehicles (time permitting), give my new 9-year-old a birthday spankin’, address other to-do items, and then head to Hoover right after lunch. I might take in a practice or two if I have time; I’ll miss Florida’s, because that one’s scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

As has been mentioned, MSU is practicing in Starkville today before hitting the road at about 4 p.m. For those wondering, the team will be staying at the Wynfrey Hotel, the same place the SEC holds its football media days every year.

Also, look for the All-SEC baseball team to be revealed later today.