Only a No. 8 seed? Analysis on LSU basketball's NCAA draw and what's ahead for dancing Tigers
A No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
LSU probably had a No. 8 seed when it landed in Nashville for the SEC Tournament on Thursday. So, the NCAA Selection Committee apparently ignored or paid only cursory attention to the Tigers defeating 10th-ranked Arkansas, 78-71, in the semifinals on Saturday. The Razorbacks (22-6) received a No. 3 seed on Sunday.
Alabama (24-6), which LSU came within a tip drill of beating on Sunday in an 80-79 loss in the championship game, got a No. 2 seed.
At least, the Tigers (18-9) got some days off and will not play until Saturday against St. Bonaventure (16-4) in central Indiana. The Bonnies, short for the name of the small Catholic school near Olean, New York, were 16-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference and beat Virginia Commonwealth, 74-65, in the league tournament on Sunday for the automatic bid.
Should LSU get by that game, though, it will likely play No. 1 seed Michigan (20-4) on Monday. But the Tigers may catch a break here.
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The Wolverines went 14-3 in the Big Ten Conference and are No. 4 in the Ferris Mowers coaches poll. But Michigan may be without one of its top players in senior forward Isaiah Livers, who has a stress fracture in his right foot and is out indefinitely. If he does return, he may not be at his best. And Livers is Michigan's top 3-point shooter. He is averaging 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.
Michigan will play on Saturday against the winner of a play-in game on Thursday between Texas Southern (16-8), coached by former LSU coach Johnny Jones, and Mt. St. Mary's (12-10).
"I was surprised," LSU coach Will Wade said Sunday of his No. 8 seed. "I thought we'd be a little bit better than that."
The Tigers had just played their guts out against Alabama and put three very good games together in three days.
But he admitted that LSU had no strong non-conference wins early in the season.
"I've said this, the conference tournament doesn't matter," Wade said, as far as the NCAA Tournament seeding. "That thing was done. Our seed was probably set on Friday night."
LSU may not have convinced the NCAA Selection Committee with its Nashville cramming session, but the Tigers convinced themselves that they can go places.
"I think we put the world on notice," LSU forward Trendon Watford said after the Alabama loss.
"That was part of the reason it was so important to advance," Wade said. "I wanted to get some guys some positive experiences in a tournament. We all got some valuable tournament experience this weekend. And playing tournament basketball is playing tournament basketball."
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The Tigers also have a geography advantage. They did not come home from Nashville after their game Sunday. And they will bus four hours to Indianapolis on Monday.
"As much energy as we expended the last three days, to be able to play on Saturday instead of Thursday or Friday is a big deal," he said. "Our guys need a little bit of a break."
They did not get one from the selection committee.