We are 34 days from Selection Sunday and for the first time in years, LSU is sitting comfortably in the NCAA tournament projection.
At 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the SEC, LSU is widely agreed to be a tournament team if the selections were made this week. But with a little less than five weeks to play, that could all change. The Tigers still have dates with potential 1-seeds Kentucky and Tennessee and still has to play fringe tournament teams Florida and Alabama. Add in the potential for an unceremonious exit in the conference tournament and LSU still, in theory, could potentially nosedive their way out of the NCAAs.
With all that in mind, I’m going to do a weekly update to LSU’s overall record and how their performances over the course of the week positively or negatively affected their tournament projections from ESPN, CBS and so on. These won’t be my projections, just what I find online so don’t shoot the messenger.
Before getting to the actual projections, I feel a brief explanation for the Tigers resume is needed because the NCAA is using a new criteria this year. Gone are the days of RPI, instead the committee has a new statistic called NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET. The NET is a singular metric that has the usual results-based data, but also includes predictive elements. The thinking is predictive data tends to produce a more accurate, bigger-picture results. The NET is a five-part metric, they are:
- Team Value Index: the most important of the five according to the NCAA, based on win-loss results and who teams play.
- Team Efficiency: sort of similar to the NBA’s Offensive and Defensive rating, this measures how many points a team scores/allows per 100 possessions.
- Wins: simply put a team’s winning percentage
- Adjusted Winning Percentage: teams earn points for winning on the road, but take a hit for losing at home. Neutral-site performances, like LSU’s results against Memphis, Charleston, Florida State, Oklahoma State and Saint Mary’s, are balanced out. Whom a team faces isn’t considered in this metric, unlike Team Value Index
- Scoring Margin: teams are now judged on how much they beat an opponent by. The caveat is that the scoring margin is capped at ten points. Also when it comes to overtime games, regardless of the margin of victory or how many overtime are needed, the team that wins is given a +1 score, while the loser gets a -1. The thinking is that over the course of the 40 minutes of regulation, the teams played each other to a draw and overtime results don’t accurately reflect how close a game was.
On to the projections and LSU’s resume as a whole. As mentioned above, LSU is 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the SEC. According to ESPN, LSU has five quality wins to two quality losses. LSU hasn’t faced the toughest schedule to date, but again games with Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida twice and Alabama gives the Tigers a chance to improve upon that record before even getting to the SEC Tournament.
ESPN Projection: Five Seed vs. No. 12 Belmont in San Jose (West Region)
CBS Projection: Four Seed vs. No. 13 New Mexico State in Hartford (East Region)
USA Today Projection: Five Seed vs. No. 12 Murray State in San Jose (South Region)
SB Nation: Five Seed
Overall, the Tigers are in very good shape midway through February. LSU is not only in, but currently projected high enough to avoid a one or two-seed in the second round assuming they make it that far. Let’s assume LSU holds on to finish top-four in the conference and earns a double bye in the SEC tournament. That means LSU potentially has 11 games (the eight remaining regular season games, the SEC quarterfinals, semis and championship) left to improve upon their resume. For the sake of the argument, let’s project LSU to close out the regular season 6-2 and lose in the semifinals of the conference tournament. That’s a 7-3 close which would put LSU 26-7 overall and 16-4 in a league that’s looking at having anywhere from five to seven teams in the NCAA Tournament. At the moment, LSU only has one truly bad loss against Oklahoma State in November. A four/five seed feels fair and the most likely finish for LSU. A lot can change between now and Selection Sunday, but for the moment, LSU is sitting right where they belong.