A 6-3 loss to Alabama in the single-elimination play-in round of SEC tournament blunted Auburn’s late-season surge and gave the Tigers and the NCAA selection committee six days to ponder them before Monday’s announcement of the field.
Not that Auburn coach John Pawlowski sounds worried. Asked if he thought Auburn had done enough to play beyond the SEC tourney, he said, “absolutely.”
Auburn (33-23) improved its standing greatly by winning its final three SEC series, taking two of three games against then-No. 18 Ole Miss, Florida on the road and then-No. 11 Arkansas. The Tigers entered the SEC tourney at No. 32 in the Boyd’s World pseudo RPI.
“To finish the way we did, winning three conference series, one at Florida on the road, I feel like we put ourselves in a position,” Pawlowski said. “Obviously, I feel like we’ve done enough to be in the NCAA tournament.”
Problem is, Auburn got way behind the curve. That strong SEC finish got the Tigers to a 13-17 SEC record. They won two out of three games at then-No. 18 Texas A&M but also suffered sweeps against second-ranked Vanderbilt and No. 3 LSU.
Auburn has done enough to say it has a resume worth considering. The Tigers have also left themselves vulnerable, depending on what happens in other conference tournaments.
“Obviously, they’ve got to make some decisions,” Pawlowski said. “But I do feel that we have done enough to be in the tournament.”
Perhaps the hardest thing for Auburn will be the wait before hearing the news. The Tigers will be back home in Auburn, waiting six days as the SEC tourney plays on in Hoover.
“It’s going to be tough, waiting to see if we made it in,” pitcher Conner Kendrick said. “We don’t know what the outcome will be, so I’m anxious about it.”
Auburn last played in an NCAA regional in 2010, when the Tigers lost at home to Clemson in their regional final. The Tigers finished 29-29 in 2011 and 31-28 in 2012 and had losing SEC records both years.
Auburn did made the 2005 NCAA field with a 13-17 SEC record, however, going 2-2 in Tallahassee.
With that in mind, Auburn has to chart a course for how to handle the next six days.
“We need to regroup and sort things out as a staff,” Pawlowski said. “We need to determine the best route for this team.
“Everyone’s disappointed, but I certainly hope we can continue to play.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.