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SEC West becomes SEC Best: Coach Bianco and players discuss strength of the league as the Rebels head to Omaha

by | Jun 15, 2022 | Baseball, Omaha | 0 comments

OXFORD, Miss. – There is little debate the best conference in college football is the Southeastern Conference. After all, two SEC teams played for the most recent national title in January.

Fast forward a few months, and the same statement could be made for the league’s baseball programs.

Four SEC teams – all from the western division – will be in Omaha, Neb., beginning Friday to take part in the College World Series. That is over half of the division’s teams that will have an opportunity to win a national title.

Ole Miss joins Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A&M in the battle for the national championship. One team that didn’t even make the SEC Tournament — Mississippi State won it all last year. Two other teams in the tournament, Texas and Oklahoma, will be members of the conference in the not-so-distant future.

Only Notre Dame and Stanford are teams in Omaha that do not have SEC ties.

“…We talk about the strength of the SEC and how difficult it is every year,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.

“We talk about parity, and it’s the question that everybody asks and I’m sure you’ve asked it in years past. I think when you’re going through it, you don’t you don’t look at it that way, you’re just looking at the next game and I know that sounds like coach speak, but that’s the only way you can get through it,” Coach Bianco added.

The Rebels did get through it, though it was a battle. Ole Miss is 37-22 heading into Omaha, but finished with a conference record of 14-16.

Conversely, Arkansas is 43-19 (18-12 in the SEC), Texas A&M is 42-18 (19-11) and Auburn 42-20 (16-13). Against that competition this year, the Rebels were 2-1 at Auburn and 1-2 against the other two teams.

“It’s that competitive almost every year,” senior captain Tim Elko said.

You know, it’s crazy. I think I saw a tweet that it’s like the first there’s been four teams from one conference in the College World Series, but just goes to show that the SEC is a gauntlet. I mean, week in and week out there’s a lot of really good teams in the SEC and I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m really not that surprised because the teams are really just that good.

Tim Elko on SEC competition

The SEC could have had a fifth team in the CWS, but No. 1-seed Tennessee was upset by Notre Dame in the Super Regionals.

“They’re a great team and this (is) crazy throughout,” second baseman Peyton Chatagnier said of the Vols. “I don’t think anybody would have thought they they’d be out.”

But the Vols are out, making it an SEC-West-only affair in Omaha.

Bianco was asked Tuesday if he thought the SEC has gotten the respect it deserves nationally.

“…The reason for your question this year is probably there’s some baseball pundits out there that talked about the SEC being down, or you know, the SEC West, and then you wake up at the end of the year and that’s really not the case.  I think that can happen in our league where you can get fooled.

Coach Bianco on the strength of the SEC 

You know the teams (in the SEC) are good, and the same teams may not be good every year or be the best teams, but the league is so, so good. When you look at the SEC West — and you know what a great year Auburn’s had… I think they have the most wins in our league (of anyone) that didn’t play Tennessee. And you know (they had) 16 wins…a really good year, (so) that’s why their RPI was so high, and then the others. Arkansas had a great year, and you know what (head) coach (Jim) Schloss(nagle) has done at A&M and their turnaround. Just a terrific year for the SEC.

Coach Bianco on the SEC West teams joining him in Omaha

The attention the league will get in Omaha should also attract players from around the country to want to play in the SEC. It is a reason Chatagnier left his native Texas to play in Oxford.

“That’s why you come to play in the SEC,” Chatagnier said.

I believe it’s the best conference there is out there, the best amateur baseball you could probably play. It’s really cool. It’s awesome for the SEC.

Peyton Chatagnier

Next Up in Omaha:

Ole Miss opens play Saturday, June 18, at 6 p.m. (CT) against Auburn. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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