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LSU Basketball’s Postseason Outlook

What will it take for the Tigers to make the Big Dance?

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

One year ago today, LSU Basketball had just suffered their fourteenth loss in a row at the hands of Auburn. They would lose three of their last four games, finishing the season with a 27-point blowout loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament. Today, the Tigers are 16-11 (7-8), one game out of third place in the SEC, and holders of the fifth most “Quadrant 1” wins in the nation at seven.

Quadrant 1 refers to home games against teams ranked 1-30 in RPI, neutral games against 1-50, and away games against 1-75. Only Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Villanova have more Quad 1 wins than LSU. At the very least, the Tigers are in some very strong company in this category.

The Tigers still have three games left on their schedule: Georgia and South Carolina on the road, and the season finale against Mississippi State in the PMAC. There’s at least one game waiting for LSU in the SEC Tournament, but considering there’s a three win difference between third and fourteenth place, we don’t exactly know who that opponent will be.

I’ll be pretty blunt before diving deep into this: LSU needs to win two of their last three games if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. I’m not budging on that. The Tigers started super hot and won their first three true road games, but they’ve dropped their last five, and three of those were ugly blowouts. Georgia and South Carolina are ranked 70 and 73 in the RPI respectively, so as of now both of those road games serve as Quad-1 opportunities. Mississippi State is currently ranked 63rd in RPI, but they’ve been on a tear lately and could be an even more valuable matchup come next Saturday.

LSU currently sits at 74th in the RPI and 63rd in the KenPom rankings. They appeared in the “First Eight Out” section in SB Nation’s latest Bracketology, but do not appear at all in Joe Lunardi’s latest update. I know neither of these are no more canon than the recurring nightmare I used to have about Darth Maul, but they are valid reminders to pump the brakes a bit on Tournament expectations.

Bracketology aside, I honestly believe LSU still controls their postseason destiny, aside from winning out the SEC Tournament in two weeks. I think winning two of the last three games and winning at least one in the SEC Tournament will be just enough, but they have the confidence and momentum to finish out even stronger. The question now is, can they handle the pressure that comes along with postseason hopes?

“I’ve addressed it with the guys: ‘I won’t say it to put pressure on you, but pressure is a privilege,’” said Coach Wade after Tuesday’s win over Vanderbilt. “It beats the hell out of not playing for anything.”

“People want to have great seasons, but the key is, you’ve got to dig out big wins in late February,” Wade continued. “Are we going to be able to dig some of these things out? When we get on the big stage, can we do it? The answer early on was no, but we’ll see how it goes now. We’re more mature, but we’ll see.”

Regardless of how the Tigers finish out, it does seem the floor at this point is the NIT. As I type this, LSU is listed as a #4 seed on NYCBuckets’ NIT Bracketology, a mark I believe the Tigers can only improve upon.

Just having this conversation after where the program left off after last season is nothing short of a miracle and a job damn well done by Will Wade. For a team playing with only nine scholarship players and a first year coach, I’d say this team has already exceeded anyone’s reasonable expectations. Either way, this is going to be one of the more exciting Selection Sundays for Tiger fans in quite a while.