Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Hoping Hoover doesn’t suck

Monday May 22, 2006

The SEC baseball tournament begins this Wednesday as always in Hoover, Ala. Georgia will open on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. (ET) against sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. Georgia will start Mickey Westphal, and Vandy will likely turn to their ace, 6’6″ fireballer David Price. Georgia beat Price 9-7 in Nashville earlier in the season.

Generally speaking, there aren’t many more useless things than a conference baseball tournament, particularly in the SEC. The season has determined the conference champion. Most of the NCAA positioning has been settled. An SEC team that qualifies for Hoover as one of the top eight teams in the league has usually wrapped up an NCAA bid. The sixteen teams across the nation who will host a first-round NCAA regional have stood out well enough by this point.

What makes baseball different than, say, a basketball tournament is pitching. Fatigue is a factor in other sports, but only in baseball could you see your best player available for only part of a game once every three to five days. In a conference tournament, teams that advance any distance, especially those who have to fight back from the loser’s bracket, will spend a lot of pitchers. The problem is that the NCAA Tournament begins the very next week with its own potential double-elmination marathon.

Georgia’s recent history provides a good illustration. En route to their CWS trips in 2001 and 2004, Georgia won a combined ONE game in the SEC tournaments. Did Georgia have a poor team? Of course not – they were regular season conference champions and advanced to Omaha. But they placed the right relative importance on Hoover and didn’t last long. In the subsequent NCAA regionals, they needed every bit of pitching they could find as they had to survive double-elimination and come from behind to advance.

Are there benefits to winning or even advancing deep in the SEC Tournament? Maybe. Georgia is definitely a candidate to be one of the eight national seeds who would potentially host a two-team Super Regional prior to the College World Series. A good showing in the conference tournament might help that bid, but I’m skeptical. I think it’s clear that the SEC tournament is an eight-team crap shoot with eight teams who all approach the tournament with the same conservative eye towards the NCAA regionals. Winning it is nice, but I think it’s about as meaningless as not winning a single game.

Do I hope the Dawgs perform well in Hoover? Sure. They’ve never won the conference tournament, and it would be the one missing crown to add to several regular season titles, CWS appearances, and the national title. Will I be broken up if they’re done by Friday? Not at all.

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