One down, two to go.
That’s the mindset for the Tigers as we enter tournament week. LSU wrapped up the regular season as champions of the SEC for the first time since 2009 and will try to win the league’s conference tournament in Nashville.
Thanks to their 16-2 conference record, LSU gets a double-bye in the tournament and won’t have to play till the quarterfinal round on Friday at noon. That gives the Tigers a bit more time to find some normalcy amidst all the drama surrounding the program. Naz Reid should be good to go after taking a shot to the mouth against Florida. Will Wade and Javonte Smart’s status is an entirely different matter, however. Unless something dramatic happens, expect Tony Benford to continue on as LSU’s interim coach.
Onto the bracket.
The tournament starts Wednesday evening as the league’s bottom four teams (Missouri vs. Georgia and A&M vs. Vanderbilt) try to put themselves out of their misery. A Vanderbilt loss would complete an unprecedented 0-19 SEC record, so that’s fun.
The winners advance to Day Two on Thursday. The Mizzou-Georgia winner plays Auburn, while the Vandy-A&M winner gets Miss State. Tipoff is slated for noon on Thursday so we have a good nine hours of college basketball to carry us through before LSU takes the court on Friday. Days one and two will be carried exclusively on SEC Network.
When the Tigers do take the court on Friday, they’ll be the first on the court in the quarterfinal round at noon on ESPN. In a bit of bad luck, the Tigers first opponent in Nashville will be against either Arkansas or Florida, the only two teams to beat LSU in league play this year. But LSU also has wins over both the Hogs and Gators so it could all be much ado about nothing.
If LSU makes it out of the quarterfinal round, they’ll get either South Carolina, Auburn or the winner of Georgia-Missouri in the semifinal round on Saturday at noon. That’s where being the one-seed pays major dividends for LSU. The Tigers won’t have to play Tennessee and Kentucky in Nashville, it’ll be one or the other. If things go as expected, Tennessee and Kentucky will play a rubber match Saturday evening, while LSU watches comfortably from their hotel. Both semifinal games will be broadcasted on ESPN.
The SEC championship will be played Sunday at noon and also shown on ESPN. Sunday is also Selection Sunday so LSU could be playing for not only a conference tournament title, but a one-seed for the NCAA Tournament.
The broadcast crew for LSU’s opening tournament game will include Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and Laura Rutledge. The same crew will be on hand assuming LSU makes the semifinal round on Saturday. But LSU won’t be able to avoid more Dick Vitale finger wagging as he’s slated to call the SEC Championship on Sunday.