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Auburn starting pitcher Tanner Burns (32) pitches against LSU, Saturday, May 18, 2018, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

College baseball season has arrived. Before the games start Friday night, we broke down the Southeastern Conference divisions into contenders, dark horses and teams that may not contended until next season.

Every school's 2019 record sits in parentheses next to the team name.

SEC EAST

CONTENDERS

Vanderbilt (59-12, 23-7)

The defending national champions have all the pieces to repeat. Vanderbilt brought back some of the best players in the country while signing the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

Georgia (46-17, 21-9)

Georgia lost in the NCAA regionals the last two seasons, but it has one of the best pitching staffs in the country, led by Emerson Hancock. The lineup won’t scare opponents.

Florida (34-26, 13-17)

Florida struggled last season, missing the College World Series for the first time in four years. But the Gators started a handful of freshmen. They may have improved with experience.

DARK HORSE

Tennessee (40-21, 14-16)

The Volunteers returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 last season. Tennessee has talented players like left-hander Garrett Crochet and outfielder Alerick Soularie, but can it surpass the heavyweights?

MAYBE NEXT YEAR

South Carolina (28-28, 8-22)

South Carolina regressed during its second season under coach Mark Kingston, finishing last in the conference in batting average (.236) and ERA (5.51). The Gamecocks need drastic improvement to contend.

Kentucky (26-29, 7-23)

Kentucky was the only SEC team last year to finish with a losing record as it relied on 22 first-year players. Now its best player, All-American pitcher Zack Thompson, has moved onto professional baseball.

Missouri (34-22-1, 13-16-1)

Missouri has not surpassed .500 in conference play since joining the SEC in 2013. And after the NCAA denied an appeal of sanctions for academic misconduct, Missouri is ineligible for the postseason.

SEC WEST

CONTENDERS

Mississippi State (52-15, 20-10)

Mississippi State must replace its Friday night starter and the all-time SEC hits leader, but this group has more than enough talent to compete for a third-straight trip to Omaha.

Arkansas (46-20, 20-10)

The Razorbacks lost three star pitchers, creating a hole on the mound. However, the offense will not lack production with four preseason first-team All-SEC selections, the most in the conference.

LSU (40-26, 17-13)

Led by one of the deepest pitching staffs in college baseball, LSU will try to reach the College World Series for the first time since 2017. The Tigers must find their lineup.

Auburn (38-28, 14-16)

Despite struggling during the regular season, Auburn last year advanced to the College World Series for the first time since 1997. It returned seven starters and its three top pitchers.

DARK HORSES

Ole Miss (41-27, 16-14)

Though Ole Miss signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country, it lost seven key players from its NCAA Super Regional squad. This young team may need a season.

Texas A&M (39-23-1, 16-13-1)

The Aggies have one of the best pitching staffs in the conference with junior Asa Lacy at the front of the rotation. They must improve an offense that batted .251 last year.

MAYBE NEXT YEAR

Alabama (30-26, 7-23)

Alabama seems close to a breakthrough entering its third season under coach Brad Bohannon, but the Crimson Tide have not won a series against an SEC West team in two years.

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Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com