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Men’s Basketball Opens at No. 22 in First NET Rankings of 2020-2021 Season

A good but not great start has Will Wade’s team on the bubble

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

With the calendar rolled over to 2021, the college basketball season is getting into full swing. Conference play is in session and March Madness is right around the corner. Selection Sunday is just 67 days away.

With the NCAA Tournament looming, the NCAA put out its initial NET Rankings on Monday. NET, adopted in 2018, replaced RPI as the metric by which teams are evaluated. NET rankings was originally comprised of five different components but this year it has been simplified to just two: Adjusted Net Efficiency and Team Value Index.

Per the NCAA’s website, Adjusted Net Efficiency measures a team’s offensive efficiency (points per possession) and defensive efficiency (opponents points per possession), while Team Value Index considers factors like who you played and where you played them.

LSU opened at No. 22 in the initial NET Rankings of the season which is a promising start for Will Wade’s team but there is something lacking from the Tiger’s resume at the moment: a signature win.

LSU has six wins yes, but is currently 0-2 against Quadrant 1 teams. For those of you who don’t remember, here’s how the quadrant system is broken down:

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75.

Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135.

Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240.

Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

Not only does LSU not have any Quadrant 1 wins, it doesn’t have a Q2 win either. Some of that isn’t LSU’s fault. Having the South Florida and VCU games cancelled hurt LSU’s resume. VCU would have been a Quadrant 1 game, while a neutral site game against USF was a Quadrant 2.

LSU’s best win, at least according to NET, is the SEC opener against Texas A&M. It’s a conference win sure, but A&M is currently 97th in NET so that’s a Quadrant 3 win. It’s the kind of game LSU gets little to no credit for winning, but would be crucified for had they lost. Georgia, LSU’s opponent tonight, is only slightly better per NET checking in at No. 85. In other words, it’s a game LSU can’t afford to lose.

What’s currently saving LSU is they don’t have any bad losses. LSU has played two Q1 games against Saint Louis, 11th, and Florida, 17th, and lost both games by four points. That’s keeping LSU in the early tournament projections...but just barely. Most outlets have LSU playing in the play-in game.

Still, it’s encouraging that LSU is getting early Tournament buzz despite having zero wins of significance. The Tigers, like all bubble teams, control their own destiny and can solidify its case with wins over quality opponents like at Missouri this Saturday (No. 11 in NET), home against Texas Tech on January 30 (No. 20), a rematch against Florida in the PMAC on February 6 and at home against Tennessee on February 13 (No. 3). LSU also has home-and-homes with Arkansas (No. 23) and Alabama (No. 34) which gives LSU four extra Q1 opportunities.