NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 09: Mascot Mike the Tiger of LSU Tigers performs during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Lost in Friday's craziness surrounding the Mathieu dismissal was the schedule release by both the SEC and LSU. Here is the complete schedule with some of my thoughts on what it might result in after the jump.
November 9 - vs. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
November 13 - vs. McNeese State Cowboys
November 20 - vs. Northwestern State Demons
November 24 - vs. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
November 29 - vs. Seton Hall Pirates
January 3 - vs. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats
January 9 - at Auburn Tigers
January 12 - vs. Florida Gators
January 16 - vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
January 19 - at Georgia Bulldogs
January 23 - vs. Texas A&M Aggies
January 26 - at Kentucky Wildcats
January 30- vs. Missouri Tigers
February 2 - at Mississippi State Bulldogs
February 6 - vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
February 9 - at Alabama Crimson Tide
February 14 - at South Carolina Gamecocks
February 16 - vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
February 19 - at Tennessee Volunteers
February 23 - vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
February 27 - vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
March 2 - at Missouri Tigers
March 6 - at Texas A&M Aggies
March 9 - vs. Mississippi Rebels
The first thing that jumps out at me is the fortunate schedule that the SEC gave LSU. Missouri, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Alabama are the five home/home games for this season, which is very fair. Missouri and Alabama are likely to finish high in the SEC standings this coming season and they will be tough games. South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M, however, are unlikely to finish in the top half of the conference this coming season, and it will give LSU some great opportunities to rack up wins.
The schedule set by the SEC also shaped up nicely. Only once does LSU play three games in five days, that being from February 14 until February 19. It also worked out well where LSU doesn't play more than two road games in a row during SEC play(they do in the non-conference).
The non-conference schedule, however, came out far too weak. Of all of the teams we play in the non-conference, none will start the season ranked, and I don't think any of them will finish it ranked. While Seton Hall and Marquette highlight the schedule by being Big East teams, they aren't nearly as good as they were last year and will struggle throughout the year. Marquette is really the only team I could see finishing as an NCAA team, though I don't think they will get better than a 8 or 9 seed.
Of the rest of the non-conference teams, it's unfortunate that LSU wasn't able to or willing to bring in stronger low majors. UCSB, with an RPI of 124, is the highest ranked RPI opponent from last year, and most of the schedule features teams with 200+ RPI's from last year. On the one hand, you can point out that every game is winnable, but it will severely hamper LSU's chances of making the NCAA tournament if the Tigers have a decent year.
Numerically, I think for LSU to become an NCAA team, they must win every non-conference game except for Marquette. Beating Marquette would negate the damage of a bad loss, however. In conference, I'm actually very high on the SEC for this coming season, so I think that if LSU were to go undefeated or close to it in the non-conference that LSU would be able to be an NCAA team with a 10-8 record in SEC play. Of course, that's assuming LSU defeats some of the quality opponents like Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, or Arkansas.
Overall, I think what the schedule lacks in excitement it makes up for due to the fact that virtually every game is winnable. If I had to guess now, Florida, Alabama, and Missouri are the three home games that LSU will play against a ranked team, though it's always possible someone else flies under the radar until late in the year. It's too hard for me to predict how many games LSU will win, though I'm excited to see if any of the junior college transfers can step in and produce.