Officially it's the SEC Tournament. But unofficially it may as well be the LSU Invitational.
It's the buffer between the regular season and the regionals where LSU casually reminds the entire conference who really runs it.
LSU is 74-39 in the tournament all time, the best record of any school in the conference. In the Paul Mainieri era, they're 24-5. The Tigers own 11 conference titles, again the most out of any school in the conference, in addition to winning five of the past eight tournaments.
What separates LSU from Ole Miss and
Mississippi State (lmao) is that LSU isn't a mainstay in Hoover, they're a winner there. Up until the Florida game last year, Paul Mainieri had won more SEC titles in Hoover than he had lost games there.
And if LSU doesn't win it, you can bet that the team that beats LSU does.
The criticisms of the tournament are fair. It is indeed stupid how the tournament goes from single elimination to double back down to single elimination for the quarterfinals. Some years it's just an exercise to stay spry for the NCAA Tournament.
But not this year. This year LSU has a young team filled with fresh faces, and it has showed over the course of the season. There were plenty of struggles but with the help of your friendly neighborhood marsupial, they're rolling into the postseason hot. And NOBODY wants to play a hot LSU team in the postseason, regardless of the year. LSU's late season surge has thrust them from questionable hosting status to national seed contender. But they need a strong showing in Hoover for them to solidify their status as a national seed. Also, LSU has something to prove after not winning their own tournament last season.
That's enough to where if I was fan of any of the 11 other teams in Hoover, I'd be scared to play LSU.
Because ultimately, this is just what this team needs. In April this team looked like a far cry from even having a chance in Hoover. Now they've timed it so where it can be a catalyst and turn their roar down the backstretch into a monstrous ovation turning into the NCAA tournament.
LSU's opponent in game one of the tournament Tuesday night will be Tennessee, who LSU swept with extreme prejudice in the penultimate series of the SEC regular season. Should LSU win and advance into the double elimination portion of the tournament, they get another crack at the former top ranked Florida Gators Wednesday night.
You know, the same Gator ball club that came into Baton Rouge a consensus #1 and left with two L's. Florida really screwed the pooch for the entire conference because that series gave something deadly to a young LSU team: confidence. That was what was lacking throughout all the injuries and position shuffling, all the struggles at the plate and on the field. Now they have it in spades as well as a cohesive identity, and that does not bode well for every other team in Hoover this week. You saw it when Kramer Robertson, a player who for two seasons was the butt of a certain website's jokes before turning into a rock, twice this season was on the wrong side of an ass kicking from a ball and refused to leave the field, soldering on and being the leader the team desperately needed at the plate and on the infield dirt. You saw it multiple times this year when Bryce Jordan set the school record for hit by pitches and wore every one of them with honor, literally giving up his body for the team. You saw it when Alex Lange with minimal run support went nine innings two weeks in a row just to give his team a fighting chance. Now the rest of the conference is about to see it.
Welcome to the week where we find out if LSU earns a national seed or if we get to wreck somebody else's party in a Super Regional for once. Welcome to the week where a young team truly tests their mettle and carries on the great tradition of taking a marble
pyramid obelisk back to Baton Rouge. Welcome to the real season.
Welcome to the LSU Invitational. Hope you like possums.