Posted: 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Bloggers -- or at least those of us who like to rely largely on statistics of whatever variety -- tend to be skeptical of intangibles when looking at how a team might do. And momentum is one of those intangibles that draws a derisive look or two.
But it does seem to matter from time to time in the SEC tournament. Just last year, the No. 5 and No. 7 seeds crashed through their sides of the brackets to play for the title, apparently thanks in part to the fact that both were playing for something until relatively late in the year. In 2010, it was seventh-seeded Alabama playing eighth-seeded LSU for the crown -- when the tournament field was eight teams.
It's no sure thing that momentum will make the difference, but we've mapped out each team's season here to try to get a sense of whether they have it or not. The answers are a little bit more complex than you might think.
[Note: All games are also available on satellite radio, XM 199/Sirius 158, and ESPN3.]
Record: 32-24, 14-15 SEC
First Game: (10) Auburn // Tuesday, After Ole Miss-Kentucky // FSN //
Both of these trends kind of tell the same story: A team that started off relatively hot and then faded down the stretch. Which is to say, an Alabama baseball team. There's no real momentum factor to take into account with Alabama.
Record: 35-19, 18-11 SEC
First Game: Winner of Ole Miss-Kentucky // Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. ET // CSS
Arkansas seemed to have some momentum, at least in terms of SEC play, a couple of weeks ago. But it's largely calmed down since then. Arkansas is a dangerous team because the Razorback are good, not because they've been playing with their hair on fire lately.
Record: 33-22, 13-17 SEC
First Game: (7) Alabama // Tuesday, After Ole Miss-Kentucky // FSN
The Tigers struggled early in SEC play, to put it mildly, which dragged down their overall winning percentage for a while. But they appear to have gotten things put together and are on a nice little run, including winning two of three from Arkansas at the end of the year. Auburn might not be the most talented or the most dangerous team in Hoover this week, but they shouldn't be overlooked.
Record: 29-27, 14-16 SEC
First Game: (9) Texas A&M; // Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. ET // CSS
Florida was disappointing in 2013 and looked a little bit mediocre -- which is exactly what their season suggests they are. The Gators did recover from the lows of earlier in the overall and SEC season, but appear to be going back into a slump right as they head into the tournament, which is less than ideal.
Record: 30-24, 11-19 SEC
First Game: (6) Ole Miss // Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. ET // FSN
This pretty much backs up the conventional wisdom about Kentucky this year: A team that was bopping along until it suddenly collapsed. The fall was a little more dramatic than last year's in terms of the depth of it, though last year's took the Wildcats from a sure-fire national seed to the No. 2 team in someone else's regional -- and it's interesting to note that last year's edition of the Bat Cats got to the SEC semifinals.
Record: 48-8, 23-7
First Game: Alabama-Auburn winner // Wednesday, After the Arkansas Game // CSS
If you think this one is boring, wait until you see Vanderbilt's. In any case, there's a bit of a slump toward the back half of the SEC season, which might be the only thing that would give pause about LSU. The Bayou Bengals are still a powerful team, momentum or no.
(6) Ole Miss
Record: 36-20, 15-15 SEC
First Game: (11) Kentucky // Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. ET // FSN
Ole Miss has managed to turn around the season right after the bottom seemed ready to fall out of it several weeks ago, but the Rebels are still doing more of the bump-around-.500 variety than generating any push going into Hoover. And it's pretty clear that the SEC is one of the major reasons that a once-promising season got a bit rockier.
(5) Mississippi State
Record: 40-16, 16-14
First Game: (12) Missouri // Tuesday, After Florida-Texas A&M; // CSS
When it comes to SEC play, the Mississippi State trend line looks a little like the kind of stock you would want to take a look at, steady upward progress. Whether that translates to momentum at tournament time is anyone's guess. But the Bulldogs did take two out of three in the final season series from a South Carolina team that was on the cusp of locking up a regional hosting gig.
Record: 18-31, 10-20 SEC
First Game: (5) Mississippi State // Tuesday, After Florida-Texas A&M; // CSS
The Tigers are sort of the odd men out in the SEC tournament, in part because they are the only team to finish the regular season below .500 overall. Their charts pretty much just illustrate that fact. Missouri was trying to lock up a bid in Hoover at the end of the season, but they didn't really get a full head of steam doing so and were largely aided by the fact that their competition consisted of Georgia and Tennessee.
(4) South Carolina
Record: 39-16, 17-12 SEC
First Game: Mississippi State-Missouri winner // Wednesday, After Vanderbilt Game // CSS
The Gamecocks had a rocky beginning in the SEC slate, recovered, but haven't really run away with much of anything since then. If this team wins in Hoover, it will be because of talent and experience gelling at the right time.
(9) Texas A&M;
Record: 30-25, 13-16 SEC
First Game: (8) Florida // Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. ET // CSS
It wasn't the easiest introduction to the SEC that's ever been recorded, though the Aggies did manage ot stablizie things and at least stay above .400 in the SEC for most of the year. Their fortunes got better in the last few weeks of the season, but it's probably a stretch to call that "momentum."
Record: 48-7, 26-3 SEC
First Game: Florida-Texas A&M; winner // Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. ET // CSS
Vanderbilt set a record for SEC wins in a single season and is almost certainly going to be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They don't need momentum; if the Commodores win, it will be because they're just that good.
It wouldn't be much of a preview if I didn't make picks on the Tuesday games, so give me Ole Miss, Auburn in a mild upset, Texas A&M; and Mississippi State.