The SEC is unquestionably the best conference in college baseball this year.

No argument here.

Greg Sankey’s boys didn’t need the kind of favors they got from the selection committee and ESPN in football to set a new tournament record with 11 teams in the field, including the top 3 overall seeds.

But it’s just as clear that the ACC, with 8 selections and 5 regional hosts, is unquestionably the 2nd-best league.

The only question is how the 2 conferences stack up against each other.

We won’t have to wait long to get a tangible answer.

If the ACC is going to extend its streak of sending at least 1 team to the College World Series to 18 consecutive years, its road to Omaha will run directly through the SEC.

Fourth-seeded North Carolina, No. 6 Clemson, No. 8 Florida State, No. 10 NC State and No. 12 Virginia all have SEC teams in their regional brackets, which were announced Monday. So does Georgia Tech, which made it into the 64-team field with much more ease than expected.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the potential for a super regional matchup for the ages if things break just right and both Tennessee and Wake Forest take care of business and advance beyond the opening week.

It should make for some interesting baseball. And even more interesting banter on social media.
Before the 1st pitch is thrown on Friday, let’s take a closer look at some of the key takeaways from Monday’s bracket reveal.

Tigers will have to earn their stripes

Clemson fans have spent the past few weeks grousing over bracket projections that had South Carolina seeded into their regional. So in that respect, they should be happy that the Gamecocks are headed 1 state up to Raleigh instead of to the Upstate.

But be careful what you wish for.

The Tigers would have liked their chances against the rival Gamecocks more than the SEC opponent they did draw. Not only is Vanderbilt a much more seasoned NCAA Tournament team with 5 CWS appearances and 2 national titles since 2011, but the fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium will have to spend the weekend putting up with the annoyance of the Commodores’ notorious whistler.

This is the 2nd straight year in which Clemson has hosted a regional. A season ago, the committee sent Tennessee to play there. This time it’s Vandy. Not only that, but the Tigers’ bracket also includes in-state rival Coastal Carolina, another team with a national championship pedigree.

Someone on the selection committee must not like Erik Bakich very much.

Twisted logic sends Duke on the road

Duke already had reason to be disappointed and upset about being snubbed as a regional host, despite winning the ACC Tournament championship Sunday.

But the Blue Devils got even more of a reason thanks to the lame explanation Coastal Carolina athletic director Matt Hogue gave after the bracket was announced.

“We looked at common opponents, we looked how successful teams have been in their conference,” he told ESPN. “At the end of the day, the committee felt that East Carolina deserved that final spot.”

Never mind that Duke beat East Carolina head-to-head this season. In Greenville. Or that the Blue Devils, who finished 6 spots higher in the RPI and had a significantly stronger strength of schedule, won their conference while the Pirates did not.

Hogue’s twisted logic makes Boo Corrigan’s weak sauce in explaining the Alabama-Florida State football switcheroo sound coherent.

Oh well.

While ECU gets to stay at home, where it will likely be an underdog to 2nd-seeded Wake Forest, the Blue Devils will have to travel to Norman, Okla., where they’ll open against UConn on Friday before taking on either host Oklahoma, the No. 9 overall seed, or Oral Roberts.

Tommy Tanks’ return. Sort of …

The atmosphere at North Carolina’s Boshamer Stadium should be electric this weekend, especially if the host Tar Heels end up playing LSU in the winner’s bracket on Saturday. But just imagine what it would have been like a few miles down Interstate 40 if the NCAA had chosen to send Tommy White and the Tigers to NC State’s regional instead of Chapel Hill?

The legend of Tommy Tanks was born in Raleigh 2 seasons ago when the hard-hitting 3rd baseman launched 3 home runs in his first college game. He went on to break a 32-year-old NCAA record by hitting 27 bombs as a freshman before transferring and leading LSU to last year’s national championship. He has since become the first D-I player to hit 20 home runs 3 times in a career.

Talk about electricity?

Having him come back to play his old team with a trip to the super regionals on the line would have provided enough juice to light the entire city of Raleigh for a month.

‘Chasing’ a reunion

The committee might have whiffed on a potential Tommy Tanks-NC State regional, but it left the door open for an even juicer reunion.

Imagine the emotion that would be on display, on the field and in the stands, if Wake Forest ace Chase Burns returns to the mound in Knoxville — which was his home for the past 2 seasons — and gets an opportunity to start pumping his 100 MPH heaters and nasty sliders in on his former teammates at Tennessee?

It would take the Deacons surviving their regional as the No. 2 seed in Greenville and the No. 1 national seed Volunteers taking care of business in their portion of the bracket for it to happen. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

No bubble trouble

Georgia Tech spent several nervous days sweating out its NCAA chances after going 2-and-BBQ in pool play at the ACC Tournament last week.

As it turns out, the Yellow Jackets had nothing to worry about.

Not only did they get into the field as the No. 3 seed in the regional hosted by neighboring rival Georgia. But they weren’t even 1 of the last 4 teams in.

Tech’s 31-23 record might not be all that impressive, but its 16-6 nonconference mark along with the strength of the ACC was enough to put it safely in with an RPI of 42. The Yellow Jackets’ first game is Friday against UNCW.

Looking ahead

We’ve already touched on the possibility of a Wake-Tennessee super regional. But that’s not the only interesting 2nd week possibility.

If Florida State holds serve in its bracket against Alabama, UCF and Stetson, and Duke pulls through in Oklahoma, it would set up a best-of-3 rematch of Sunday’s ACC Tournament championship game between the Seminoles and Blue Devils.

Other super regional pairings with ACC implications have the Virginia regional matched against the Arkansas regional, the UNC regional against the Arizona regional, the NC State regional against the Georgia regional and the Clemson regional against the Oklahoma State regional.

Featured photo courtesy of the ACC