There's no doubt that the SEC is the nation's toughest football conference, and I think it's also safe to say it's currently the toughest baseball conference as well. Competing in the SEC generally better prepares you for post-season play (should you have survived the season enough to earn a spot), but in the case of baseball this year, it could also hurt teams in the SEC. Well, it could at least hurt Mississippi State.
So far this season State has survived injuries to key players, stretches with horrible hitting, and a tough conference schedule to currently stand at 27-17, 10-11 in SEC play. This is great and all, but even with a solid finish in the final 3 series of the year and in the SEC Tournament, State will most likely be sent packing to attend a regional somewhere outside of Starkville. That's fine with most of us, as State traveled to a regional last year and ended up 2 outs away from Omaha. Hosting isn't a necessity, but it is a luxury, and one State fan's would love to have if possible. State has some work to do still this year to even be in consideration for hosting, but even if they do that work, there's a chance they won't get to host regardless.
Why? Well, because we're in the SEC.
Yesterday's latest and greatest Field of 64 projection from Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers shows State as a 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional (with the #1 overall seed Florida State, which worked out okay last time). Looking at other host sites as the records currently stand today, there are five (5!: Florida, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, and Arkansas) SEC teams projected to host, with 2 of those 5 projected as national Top 8 seeds. So how does this affect MSU, you might ask? It affects MSU because there's a good chance that few or none of those teams ahead of us in the SEC will falter down the stretch of the regular season, leaving no room for us to steal a hosting spot. There is no "set" number of teams that can host from one conference, per say, but I just couldn't see the NCAA allowing a 6th. They may, but we'd have to make a damn strong case for it, and anything short of 9 conference wins to end the regular season or winning the SEC Tournament may not be enough of a case made. The ACC got 5 host spots last year, and that seems to kind of be the cut off point for one conference.
I say all of this while assuming that State is even Regional Host worthy at the end of the season, and with Florida, Kentucky and the SEC Tournament still remaining on the schedule, that's a big assumption. If State finishes up well though, it would be nice to get a regional host - our fanbase could certainly use it to boost interest and attendance at Dudy Noble Field.
So, what potential solutions are there to the hosting the regional as an SEC member issue?
- Sweep our last 3 series, win the SEC Tournament (drinking (drunk) Cohen Kool-Aid option)
- Move to Conference USA, they're accepting everyone right now! - Doesn't solve anything until next year, though :(
- Hope that Arkansas, LSU, Kentucky, Florida, or South Carolina falter down the stretch, opening up a hosting spot for State
Outside of these 3 options, I guess State will just have to suck it up and win a few more close series next season in hopes of hosting in 2013.