Let the games begin.
The NCAA Tournament has arrived, and a record-tying nine Southeastern Conference teams will be playing in the national championship event as part of the 64-team field. And that doesn’t even count Missouri and Texas A&M, two top-16 seeds who will be joining the SEC next season.
Here is a look at where the league’s team’s landed and what their path to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series will look like:
Seed: No. 2 overall
Regional opponents: Georgia Tech, the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament champion, joins Sun Belt Conference Tournament winner South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin, which won both the regular-season and tournament titles in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Outlook: Georgia Tech is a tougher opponent than one might expect for the national No. 2 seed, but playing at Rhoads Stadium – where UA clinched the SEC regular-season title by taking two of three from Florida to end the season before winning the SEC Tournament – should give Alabama an edge that the opposition cannot overcome.
Super Regional outlook: Alabama will host in the best-of-three round of 16 if it wins its regional against the winner of the Louisville Regional, where Michigan and Kentucky provide a serious challenge for the 15th-seeded Cardinals.
Alabama fact: The Crimson Tide is hosting an NCAA regional for the eighth straight year and has won its home regional for seven years in a row. UA has only failed to win one regional in Tuscaloosa, with that coming in 2001.
Seed: Second seed at its regional
Regional: Austin, Texas, Regional hosted by No. 6 overall seed Texas
Regional opponents: Auburn joins the Texas Longhorns, Houston and Northwestern in the regional field.
Outlook: Texas has had trouble winning home regionals in recent years, making this regional ripe for upsets. Houston is a respectable opponent with a roster of players who have postseason experience, while Northwestern with a .500 record is hardly a threat. Auburn cane make this interesting if it puts some hits together to support solid pitching.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of the Austin Regional will face the winner of the Eugene, Ore., Regional.
Auburn fact: This regional will be a homecoming for three Auburn players. Senior pitcher Jenee Loree was born in Austin, while junior Brooke Lathan is from Livingston and played at Houston before transferring to Auburn before this season. Sophomore Maris Medina is from San Antonio.
Seed: Second seed at its regional
Regional: Berkeley, Calif., Regional hosted by No. 1 overall seed Cal.
Regional opponents: Arkansas faces Boston University in the first round, with Iona playing Cal.
Outlook: This regional is hardly the toughest overall field of four, but the presence of Cal playing on its own turf makes Arkansas’ mission exceedingly difficult.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Seattle Regional, hosted by No. 16 seed Washington.
Arkansas fact: Arkansas is playing in a regional for the fifth time, and for the first time the Razorbacks haven’t been placed in Norman, Okla. Arkansas head coach Mike Larabee played with Boston U. assistant coach Bill McDonald on the U.S. National Men’s Fastpitch Team.
Seed: No. 5 overall
Regional opponents: Florida Gulf Coast joins Central Florida and South Florida in the four-team field.
Outlook: This is a tough draw for the Gators in a pitching-heavy regional. Both South Florida, the second seed, and Central Florida, the third seed, defeated Florida during the regular season, making this a daunting regional for the hosts. UF needs to find its offense quickly.
Super Regional outlook: Florida will host the winner of the Los Angeles Regional hosted by No. 12 overall seed UCLA if the Gators advance.
Florida fact: The Gators have hosted in the super regional round for four straight seasons, and eliminated defending national champion UCLA in Gainesville last year to advance.
Seed: No. 10 overall
Regional opponents: North Carolina, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina
Outlook: The Bulldogs drew one of the easiest groups of opponents in the field. Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina both have four-seed profiles, but North Carolina will present a respectable challenge. Even so, Georgia has the easiest path to the round of 16 of any SEC team.
Super Regional outlook: If Georgia wins its regional, it will play the winner of the Knoxville Regional, making a Georgia-Tennessee SEC showdown a strong possibility.
Georgia fact: The Bulldogs have made it to the postseason in each of the last 11 seasons, going 37-20. Georgia has won four straight regoinals, the last two at home at Jack Turner Stadium.
Seed: Third seed in its regional
Regional: Louisville, Ky., Regional hosted by the 15th-seeded Cardinals
Regional opponents: Michigan, which Kentucky faces in the first round, host Louisville and Valparaiso
Outlook: This regional looks wide open, with three teams good enough to win it and advance. Kentucky rode into the SEC Tournament on a hot streak and will need to regain that form to advance.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of this regional faces the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional, presenting the possibility of another all-SEC matchup if Kentucky advances to play at Alabama.
Kentucky fact: UK is making a school-record fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The senior class is the only class in school history to advance to postseason play in each of its four seasons of action. That senior group has compiled a 135-94 overall record, the most wins in a four-year span in program history. UK is one of just 27 teams nationally, and one of seven in the SEC to appear in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments, joining Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee.
Seed: Second seed at its regional
Regional: College Station, Texas, Region hosted by Texas A&M
Regional opponents: The host Aggies, seeded eighth, Texas State and Bethune-Cookman
Outlook: This is a good spot for LSU if it can create some offense to go with its pitching. Texas State is a dangerous first-round foe with a solid pitcher, and A&M is capable of playing with the best. LSU isn’t going to win any slugfests, so it needs to find a way to keep the games low-scoring and scratch out a run or two.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of this regional will play the winner of the regional hosted by No. 9 overall seed Missouri.
LSU fact: Rachele Fico and Ashley Langoni have saved their best efforts for NCAA postseason play. Fico has notched NCAA All-Regional honors in both of her seasons, while Langoni has secured NCAA All-Regional accolades in two of her three appearances.
Seed: Third seed at its regional
Regional: Eugene, Ore.
Regional opponents: Host Oregon, the No. 11 overall seed, second-seeded BYU and Portland State
Outlook: This will be a tough road for MSU to advance. BYU is a solid team that has nearly broken through in postseason play in recent years, and Oregon has top-level pitching. MSU is dangerous, but left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker’s availability will be a game-time decision after her injury at the SEC Tournament.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Austin, Texas, Regional.
Mississippi State fact: In two trips to NCAA Tournament play, Brittany Bell is 7-for-13 (.538) with five runs scored, two walks, a double and a home run.
Seed: No. 7 overall
Regional opponents: Virginia Tech of the ACC is the second seed, with UAB and Miami-Ohio filling out the foursome
Outlook: Tennessee is the overwhelming favorite here, but UAB and Virginia Tech are live opponents who could make things interesting. UT will need to manufacture runs where it can to keep the upper hand and rely on its pitching and defense.
Super Regional outlook: The winner of this regional will play the winner of the Athens Regional. Think Tennessee-Georgia.
Tennessee fact: The Lady Vols are 41-20 all-time in NCAA Tournament play and are making their 10th appearance in the national title tournament. This year marks the eighth consecutive season that Tennessee has hosted NCAA Regional play in Knoxville.
Tommy Deas is executive sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News and has covered SEC softball since 1997