OMAHA, Nebraska -- One SEC team conspicuously missing from the Men's College World Series that opened Friday is Tennessee, which spent the majority of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Despite that, and winning both the SEC East and SEC Tournament titles, the Volunteers were left on the Omaha sidelines when they lost a best-of-three series, 2-1, to Notre Dame in the Knoxville Super Regional that they hosted.
Mike Bianco, the Ole Miss coach, said that should not take away from the incredible season that Tennessee had. Prior to losing in the Super Regional, there was much chatter about them possibly being one of the best college baseball teams ever.
"I will say this: I've listened to a lot of people make comments," Bianco said. "They had one of the greatest years in college baseball. People will try to shy away from that because they're not here. But to that point, I've done this for a long time. I don't know how many teams that I can think of that were that dominant for that many weeks. And really a team that didn't have a flaw. People try to pick flaws, like maybe you can steal a few bases off them or whatever. But when you start saying that's their flaw, you know they're pretty good.
"Tremendous rotation, great bullpen. They can really swing it. They can defend it. They play with a ton of confidence and so on. I say that because I played them myself and I've watched them dominate our conference. But the reason they're not here is because this game is really hard. And people sometimes don't understand that the best team doesn't always win. It's the team that plays the best.
"And in baseball sometimes you can have a tough weekend. Or you could have a tough game in a Game Three (of a best-of-three Super Regional series) and not get here. We know that very well."
Bianco was asked if he was surprised Tennessee didn't make it after winning the SEC East and the SEC Tournament and posting a 57-9 overall record and going 25-5 in SEC play.
"Am I surprised? In a way, yeah, maybe in that the best team in the country didn't get here," he said. "But not surprised that it happened. It happened a year ago to the University of Arkansas, where they had a tremendous year and had a tough weekend at the wrong time. And so it happens.
"So you can think it's something else, but it's really baseball. It's really that sometimes they get the big hit or they make the big pitch and you end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. But they were certainly not just the best team through the, whatever that was, 16 weeks, but as good a team as I've seen maybe ever."