Riley Zayas @ZayasRiley
Predictions are hard to make, especially in a season in which rosters have been expanded and there is much more seniority across the nation than ever before. I’d even go as far as to say that every conference is stronger heading into the 2021 season. But you have to give respect where respect is due, and in 2021, the SEC looks to be the nation’s best conference.
Take a look at the rankings. In College Baseball Nation’s Fall Top 25, SEC teams made up 50 percent of the top 10, with Florida leading the way at No. 1. Show me another conference where five, maybe six teams, all have significant odds to be playing in Omaha come summer. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have phenomenal pitching staffs, Arkansas is led by its middle infield, and Mississippi State . . . well, the Bulldogs bring a little bit of everything to the table.
Who plays in the conference affects how the conference plays. In the SEC, every weekend results in a battle, as the standings are often extremely close. In 2021, we will see pitching matchups that we’re likely to see again in the MLB very soon; Vandy’s Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter against LSU’s Jaden Hill, Florida’s Jack Leftwich against Texas A&M’s Johnathan Childress, the list goes on. Throw in that the SEC is playing a normal schedule, meaning the coaches and players alike should feel more comfortable.
2021 is looking to be a season to remember in the southeast.
Kyle McKelvey @kylemckelv
I agree, the SEC will be the best conference in 2021. I do not think this guarantees that an SEC team will win the national championship (although it is likely), but I think the depth of talented teams is what puts the SEC on top. The SEC teams in College Baseball Nation's top ten are #1 Florida, #4 Vanderbilt, #5 Ole Miss, #6 Arkansas, and #8 Mississippi State. Those teams consistently recruit and develop talent at an elite level and will continue to push each other throughout the year. The other conference that has a chance to dethrone the SEC is the ACC. For comparison, the SEC has seven teams in the Top 25 and the ACC has eight. Five of the SEC’s eight teams in the Top 25 are in the top 10, compared to the ACC’s two in the top 10. The SEC is more top heavy than the ACC with four of the first six teams, all of which appear before the highest ranked ACC team.
This story also appears in the recruiting rankings. Using Perfect Games’s Top 25 team recruiting rankings for 2021, it is clear that the SEC and ACC are getting the top talent, with 10 teams in that top 25, as well as all five of the top five, for the SEC and nine teams for the ACC. The arms race between the two conferences will continue to be close in the coming years because the same story has played out in the previous few classes and in 2022. In short, yes, the SEC will be the best conference due to its high levels of competition and depth at the top, but teams like Louisville, Virginia, and Florida State look to push the top tier SEC teams for title contention.
John Peters @johnny_omaha_
The SEC has earned its spot atop college baseball. Receiving ten NCAA Tournament bids in back-to-back seasons is a testament to the depth of the conference. Riley and Kyle have already made good arguments for why the SEC is the best conference, so I'll leave it at that.
However, I do want to bring up two conferences that will be really good in 2021. The Big 12 is poised for a banner year. Looking ahead to College Baseball Nation's Preseason Top 50 (to be released Monday, Jan 8), there are good odds that eight out of nine Big 12 baseball programs will be ranked, with just Kansas on the outside looking in. Kansas State, one of the teams predicted to finish towards the bottom of the conference, has ace Jordan Wicks, #23 on our College Top 50 Prospects and a likely first or second rounder. There will be no weekends off in the Big 12.
Another conference to keep an eye on is the American. ECU, UCF, Tulane, Houston, and Wichita State all are legitimate NCAA Tournament contenders. It wouldn't be unreasonable to see two or more Regional hosts out of the American in 2021.