Coach Will Wade’s first postseason appearance as head coach of LSU Basketball is finally upon us, and against a strong, local opponent in the 27-6 UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. LSU was invited as a #3 seed in the NIT after a 17-14 season with seven Tier 1 wins, and the Cajuns qualified for and were invited to the NIT after winning the Sun Belt regular season championship with a 16-2 conference record.
This will be LSU’s eighth all-time NIT appearance, most recently in 2014, where they beat San Francisco 71-63 before losing to SMU 80-67 in the second round. For UL-Lafayette, this will be their sixth appearance in the NIT, first since 2003, a 82-80 loss to UAB. The Tigers and Cajuns have met five times in their history, with LSU winning all five contests, most recently in the 2009-10 season.
The Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Bob Marlin stirred up some drama after the match up was announced, heavily ticked about LSU hosting his squad, despite the Cajuns having a higher RPI and ten more wins than the Tigers. “Our RPI is much better, our record is much better, we feel like our gym’s better, there are a lot of things that say we should be a higher seed than we were,” said Marlin. “We’ve got the second-best record in the entire tournament out of 32 teams, but it is what it is.”
On to how these squads will match up, UL-Lafayette could prove to be stronger than some may anticipate. The Cajuns ranked first in the Sun Belt in both KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency, and just have an overall very impressive team. They have an above-average offense nationally, and not a great, but a serviceable and coach-able defense...very much like LSU. The teams look very evenly matched, with the Tigers being slightly better shooters and the Cajuns being slightly better at...just about everything else. I strongly believe both teams would have each other’s record if they played in each other’s conference.
The Cajuns lost two of their first five games, but didn’t lose another two games until mid-February. They lost their fifth and most embarrassing game in overtime on Senior Day against 7-25 Little Rock. A week later, the Sun Belt regular season champs would drop a three point affair against UT-Arlington, eliminating the Cajuns from the Sun Belt Tournament, and effectively the NCAA Tournament.
Tonight’s NIT first round contest will tip off at 6pm in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and will only be available on ESPN3. You can listen in on the radio at 98.1 FM, or follow along in the comments below.