Team to beat: Vanderbilt
Outside of LSU, the Commodores have the biggest target on their backs. They’re the reigning national champs, and they have three pitchers ranked in the top 100 of college draft prospects.
Dark horse: Arkansas
The Hogs are on a roll. They’ve won their past seven three-game SEC series and have won 22 of 30 games since dropping a series at home to LSU in mid-March. They’re an awfully scary No. 5 seed.
Most to gain: Missouri, Kentucky and Auburn
All three teams are on the NCAA regional bubble and need wins. It’s likely that at least one of these teams — maybe the one that wins the fewest games in the SEC tourney — will be left out. UK and Auburn play each other.
Most to lose: LSU
All the SEC tournament can do is hurt LSU. I know, right? The Tigers are likely the No. 1 NCAA national seed — at this point. An 0-2 or even 1-2 showing in Hoover might give the committee pause.
Three burning questions for LSU
1. Is the mid-tier of the bullpen good enough?
Top relievers like Hunter Newman, Parker Bugg and Zac Person (above) have proved to be consistent and solid, but what about the mid-tier guys? The SEC tournament will test them.
2. Will Jared Poché bounce back?
The sophomore lefty has allowed 24 hits and 12 runs over his past three starts (18 innings). One lasted 3.2 innings. He’ll have a shot in LSU’s first game to do better.
3. Can the heavy-hitting lineup stay hot?
LSU’s offense, paced by Alex Bregman (above), is one of the best in the nation — and it’s been on a roll lately, compiling 41 hits in the past three games. An offensive outburst at the SEC tournament will only help heading into the NCAA postseason.
The big bats
Arkansas OF Andrew Benintendi
The SEC Player of the year, Benintendi (above) leads the SEC in batting average (.415). He is the national leader in slugging percentage with a .771 clip.
LSU 1B Chris Chinea
The junior from Miami carried a 13-game hitting streak into last week’s regular-season finale. He has 11 home runs in his past 29 games and is slugging over .570.
Florida OF Harrison Bader
The junior from New York has 12 home runs, sixth in the league, and boasts a perfect fielding percentage. He’s slugging .571 and has driven in 48.
The power arms
LSU RHP Alex Lange
The Missouri native was named SEC Freshman of the Year for a reason. Lange (above) has a 2.11 ERA and is 10-0 on the mound.
Vanderbilt RHP Carson Fulmer
The junior from Florida leads the league in wins (11) and strikeouts (132) and is second in innings pitched (95.2). He’s expected to be a first-round pick in June.
Texas A&M RHP Grayson Long
The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder has a top-five ERA (2.59) in the league with 90 strikeouts to just 36 walks. He’s 9-0 and has allowed just 10 extra-base hits in 14 starts.
The top 20 SEC prospects for the 2015 draft, as ranked by D1Baseball.com:
1. SS Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt
2. SS Alex Bregman, LSU
3. RHP Walker Buehler, Vanderbilt
4. RHP Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt
5. RHP Kyle Cody, Kentucky
6. SS Rickey Martin, Florida
7. OF Christian Steward, Tennessee
8. OF Andrew Stevenson, LSU
9. OF Harrison Bader, Florida
10. OF Rhett Wiseman, Vanderbilt
11. OF Andrew Benintendi, Arkansas
12. LHP AJ Minter, Texas A&M
13. SS Mikey White, Alabama
14. 3B Conner Hale, LSU
15. OF Casey Hughton, Alabama
16. RHP Breckin Williams, Mizzou
17. RHP Tyler Ferguson, Vanderbilt
18. RHP Eric Hanhold, Florida
19. 1B Chris Chinea, LSU
20. RHP Trey Wingenter, Auburn
All games televised by SEC Network
Game 1: No. 6 Ole Miss vs. No. 11 Alabama, 9:30 a.m.
Game 2: No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 South Carolina, 1 p.m.
Game 3: No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Auburn, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4: No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 12 Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Game 5: No. 3 Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss-Alabama winner, 9:30 a.m.
Game 6: No. 2 Vanderbilt vs. Missouri-South Carolina winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7: No. 1 LSU vs. Kentucky-Auburn winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8: No. 4 Florida vs. Arkansas-Tennessee winner, 8 p.m.
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 9:30 a.m.
Game 10: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, TBD
Game 11: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4:30 p.m.
Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, TBD
Game 13: Game 9 winner vs. Game 11 loser, 3 p.m.
Game 14: Game 10 winner vs. Game 12 loser, TBD
Game 15: Game 13 winner vs. Game 11 winner, noon
Game 16: Game 14 winner vs. Game 12 winner, TBD
Game 17: Championship, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)