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Tiger Tournament Tracker: February 25- March 2

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Beating a top-five team: good! Losing to an unranked team at home: not good!

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another win over a top-five opponent for the Tigers.

LSU split last week going 1-1 but I’m sure the entirety of the basketball program will take a loss to a desperate Florida team if it meant beating a top-five Tennessee without Tremont Waters in the program’s biggest home win in about 35 years.

LSU gets dinged slightly in the NET rankings dropping from 14th last week to 15th. Because of the NET’s scoring margin criteria, losing to Florida by seven in overtime was better than the final score indicated. The formula assessed LSU a -1 as opposed to the actual -7 because the rationale is that the teams played to a draw over the course of the 40 minutes of regulation. The same can be said for the win over Tennessee: yes LSU won by two, but because it came in overtime, the NET’s calling it only a +1 win for LSU.

Selection Sunday is less than three weeks and LSU is a lock for the tournament regardless how the final three games and SEC tournament go. At 23-5 overall, 13-2 in conference and owners of seven Quadrant 1 wins, the question for LSU heading into Selection Sunday is where the Tigers will be seeded, not if.

Before we get to the projections, a quick rundown of the SEC regular season race. LSU and Kentucky each have three games left to play and Tennessee beat Ole Miss last night. We now have three teams with 13-2 records in the conference with three games remaining for each. LSU’s got the clearest path to at clinching at least a share of the SEC: win the remaining three games against Alabama, Florida and Vanderbilt. Because of their head-to-head wins over both Kentucky and Tennessee, LSU will clinch, at worst, part of the regular season championship with three wins. Don’t be alarmed if you see LSU in third place in some online standings listings today. That’s overall record and LSU at 23-5 would be one game worse than both Kentucky and Tennessee.

Where it gets fun is that Tennessee and Kentucky play a rematch of the Big Blue Beatdown in Rupp this Saturday in Knoxville. So, assuming LSU wins Saturday, someone’s going to fall a game behind LSU and the SEC will be a two-horse race between the Tigers and the winner of UK/UT. LSU’s got their fare share of problems ahead, playing in Tuscaloosa and Gainseville against teams needing a signature home win to get on the right side of the NCAA bubble isn’t ideal, but LSU controls their destiny the rest of the way home. Three wins to go.

On to the projections:

ESPN Projection: Four Seed vs. No. 13 Hofstra in San Jose (East Region); Last Week: Four Seed

CBS Projection: Three Seed vs. No. 14 Montana in Jacksonville (East Region); Last Week: Three Seed

USA Today Projection: Three Seed vs. No. 14 Radford in Tulsa (West Region): Last Week: Three Seed

SB Nation Projection: Three Seed vs. No. 14 Radford in Tulsa (South Region): Last Week: Three Seed

A couple of thoughts:

  • Not a lot of movement for LSU which is to be expected. Beating Tennessee at home didn’t skyrocket LSU up the polls like it did when they upset Kentucky two weeks ago.
  • That loss to Florida didn’t really harm LSU all that much but it helped bring the Gators back to life. Florida’s now up to No. 31 in the NET and I’m seeing the Gators jump from “first four out” to 11 seed territory.
  • However if LSU DOES win that game against Florida on top of beating Tennessee, they’re maybe a two-seed, right?
  • Speaking of games LSU may wish they had back, man dropping that Houston game is a growing bummer the deeper we go into the season. The Cougars are No. 4 in the NET
  • But, Saint Mary’s and Furman are still top-50 in the NET and at least the Tigers have a pair of quality, if not stellar, non-conference wins
  • Alabama’s tournament chances are on life support and, like Florida last week, a win over these very same Tigers could do wonders for the Tide.
  • I won’t pretend to sound like I know how this process works, but if LSU wins their remaining three regular season games and the SEC tournament, that would put the Tigers at 29-5 overall and 19-2 in a multiple-bid league. I feel like that’s good enough to get LSU at worst a 2-seed in the NCAAs. Maybe even a 1 if they have multiple wins over Tennessee and/or Kentucky?
  • Likely SEC bids for the tournament if the bracket was announced today: LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Auburn, Miss State, Florida. Alabama remains a fringe team.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the other basketball program on LSU’s campus and their tournament chances. The Lady Tigers are currently 16-10 overall and 7-7 in a tough conference.

After getting embarrassed to the tune of a 68-35 demolition to Mississippi State, the Tigers have won four of six and played No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 16 Kentucky to five points and four points respectively on the road. Charlie Creme, ESPN’s women’s basketball bracketologist, has LSU as a last four in team as an 11 seed against South Dakota State in Corvallis. Interestingly enough, the Lady Tigers are the third to last team in, ahead of Auburn, and the two will conclude the regular season against each other March 3 in Baton Rouge. It feels like LSU has to get a win against either Auburn, Miss State, whom they play Thursday, or win at least one game in the SEC tournament to get in. If the Tigers lose out to close the season, it’s hard to imagine a 16-13, 7-10 record earns a bid.