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HOOVER, Alabama – Florida may have lost the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament championship game on Sunday, but the Gators were winners on Sunday night.
No. 7 seed Florida (39-22) fell to No. 1 Tennessee, 8-5, but its rise from No. 21 to No. 11 over the last week in the Ratings Percentage Index landed it an NCAA Regional host site in Gainesville this weekend.
The Gators went 4-2 in the SEC Tournament since Tuesday and are 13-5 overall since getting swept at Tennessee in late April.
RPI takes into account the strength of schedule and wins over teams with high RPIs.
“I like where we are right now as a team, and I’m looking forward to playing next weekend,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the Tennessee game.
GATORS REVERSE 6-12 START TO REACH TITLE GAME
The Gators will host one of 16, four-team, double-elimination NCAA Regionals across the country beginning Friday.
Three other SEC teams received host sites — Tennessee (53-7, No. 1 RPI), Texas A&M (37-18, No. 20 RPI) and Auburn (37-19, No. 14 RPI), which maintained a high RPI despite a weak finish. Auburn finished 5-6 to over its four SEC series and lost its first SEC Tournament game, 3-1, to Kentucky on Wednesday after losing two of three at No. 12 seed Kentucky over the previous weekend.
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LSU (38-20), which dropped from No. 22 in RPI to No. 25 over the past week, was hopeful of getting a host site after sweeping No. 7 RPI Vanderbilt on the road over the last weekend of the regular season. The Tigers defeated Kentucky, 11-6, in the SEC Tournament on Thursday before losing to Tennessee, 5-2, on Friday. A 7-2 loss to Kentucky on Saturday hurt the Tigers’ chances.
The other 12 host teams with their RPI are No. 2 Oregon State in Corvallis, No. 3 Stanford in Stanford, No. 4 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, No. 5 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, No. 8 Georgia Southern in Statesboro, No. 9 Maryland in College Park, No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, No. 12 Texas in Austin, No. 15 East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., No. 16 Miami in Coral Gables, No. 17 Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and No. 19 Louisville in Louisville.
LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Georgia are expected to be invited to an NCAA Regional when the 64-team selection show airs at noon eastern time Monday on ESPN2. The top eight national seeds will also be announced in that show with Tennessee expected to be the No. 1 overall seed. Texas A&M is also expected to receive a national seed.
Among the SEC teams on the bubble for an NCAA invite with their RPI rankings are No. 40 Ole Miss (32-22), No. 49 Alabama (31-27) and No. 52 Kentucky (33-26). Arkansas may also be on the bubble at No. 41 in RPI, but the Hogs have remained in the field by several listings, largely because of its 18-12 finish in the SEC for a No. 3 seed in the tournament.
If Ole Miss does not receive a bid, there is the possibility that Rebels’ coach Mike Bianco could resign after 22 seasons in Oxford or be terminated.
National seeds get to host the best-of-three Super Regional in two weeks if they advance out of the NCAA Regional round. The eight Super Regional winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.