After sweeping their fourth home conference series of the season, the Arkansas Razorbacks’ baseball team (36-15, 17-10) will travel to Athens to play Georgia (35-16, 16-11) who is putting together a solid campaign of their own. Currently tied with Ole Miss for the third best record in the SEC, the Bulldogs will be a very tough opponent for Arkansas to try and win their first SEC road series against this season.
Arkansas will go to Athens a consensus top 7 team in the country with an RPI of 3 and strength of schedule at 4. They have no chance of being the number one seed in the SEC tournament since Florida locked up the conference championship last week. However, they will be playing to hang on to the SEC West championship, which comes with a number 2 seed. The top team from each division is automatically 1 or 2, and then record determines seeding after that. Being a top 4 seed assures a bye in the single elimination first round, guaranteeing the Hogs would play two games in Hoover, AL. There is still much to be played out in the last three days of the regular season.
Race for the West
Ole Miss (16-11) and LSU (14-13) are right on Arkansas’ heels in the race for the West crown. Unfortunately, both teams won series against the Hogs this year, giving them tie-breaking rights. Ole Miss is only a game behind and will travel to last place Alabama (7-20), while LSU needs a sweep at Auburn (13-14) to have a chance. Should Arkansas relinquish the number two seed, they would be dependent upon the afore mentioned teams and South Carolina (15-12) for their seeding. So Arkansas could finish anywhere from a 2 seed to a 6 seed in the conference tournament.
The NCAA Outlook
This is important to consider for their NCAA seeding hopes. While currently favored to receive a national seed (top 8) and home field advantage all the way to Omaha, being swept at Georgia and not winning a game in Hoover might hurt their chances. Although their record and rankings would still look very good, the committee will already have some hard decisions to make and may favor those teams with more recent success.
Projections have been coming in for the field of 64 and Arkansas looks to be on track for a top 3 or 4 seed. The SEC has four potential national seeds with Florida locking down the top overall seed, and Ole Miss and Georgia pacing for somewhere between 5 and 8. While Ole Miss looks poised to finish out their schedule strong, Georgia seemingly has the most to lose if they falter at home, even against a highly ranked team. Though it seems unlikely any conference would produce half of the NCAA national seeds, the current records and rankings and potential future games against top RPI ranked teams in the conference tournament improve the chances.
Outside the SEC
There are several teams that could still play their way into or out of national seeds. The Pac 12 does not play a conference championship and therefore Stanford and Oregon State still have 6 regular season games to play. While Stanford is the higher ranked team and has the seemingly easier remaining schedule, I do not expect them to fall out. However, Oregon State still has some work to do at Southern Cal and at home against UCLA.
Another major series to watch this weekend is in Tallahassee where North Carolina State will play Florida State. Both teams are in the hosting discussion but a sweep for the Seminoles or big road series win for the Pack could push them into the national seed discussion.
It is shaping up to be a fun push to the end of the season. Essentially, as long as Arkansas plays at least .500 baseball over the next two weeks, they will have beaten some very good teams and should earn a top 8 seed. It would be invaluable to play two regional tournaments in Baum Stadium where they have won 30 out of 33 games already this season.