Lady Tigers await NCAA fate

Despite a rocky road to end their season, the LSU Lady Tigers still dare to dream of making their mark in the NCAA tournament.

Coach Nikki Caldwell only hopes the NCAA selection committee is true to its word.

“For so long we’ve heard about the committee and the conferences talk about making it competitive,” Caldwell said. “Hopefully our body of work resonates with the committee.”

LSU (19-12) stumbled to the finish of a rugged schedule ranked as the second-toughest in the nation by WarrenNolan.com and RealTimeRPI.com, losing eight of its last 10 games.

That finish and a 7-9 record in Southeastern Conference play will add a whiff of anxiety to the air inside the Lawton Room at Tiger Stadium on Monday night, where the Lady Tigers will gather with staff and supporters to watch the NCAA selection show on ESPN.

The 64-team NCAA bracket will be unveiled starting at 6 p.m.

“I’m not nervous, just ready to play,” freshman guard Raigyne Moncrief said. “It’s exciting because we don’t know who we’ll play.”

LSU still has a strong RPI number, ranked 13th by the NCAA last week, 14th by RealTimeRPI.com and 15th by WarrenNolan.com. Jeff Sagarin has LSU at No. 28.

It seems unlikely that a team rated that high could be left out of the NCAA women’s tournament. Couple that with the economic realities of the fact LSU is hosting NCAA first- and second-round games Sunday and Tuesday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center enhances the Lady Tigers’ chances.

Perhaps so does the fact that LSU’s last 10 games included six games with NCAA tournament teams: two against SEC tournament champion Tennessee (an automatic qualifier) and one each against SEC regular season champion South Carolina, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Georgia.

“I hope they look at our entire body of work,” Caldwell said.

LSU is seeking its 23rd NCAA tournament appearance and third in three years under Caldwell. The Lady Tigers used first- and second-round games at the PMAC last year as a launching pad to the program’s first Sweet 16 regional semifinal appearance since LSU’s last Final Four trip in 2008.

ESPN women’s bracketologist Charlie Crème has projected LSU as a No. 8 seed, taking on No. 9 Arizona State. In the other Baton Rouge first-round game, Crème has 32-0 Notre Dame as the No. 1 seed in the South Bend Regional facing Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champion Prairie View.

Another strong scenario his that the NCAA sends Notre Dame to nearby Toledo, Ohio, gives LSU a procedural bump to the No. 7 or No. 10 seed lines and sends a No. 2 seed like Louisville (which LSU played on the road) or West Virginia to Baton Rouge.

“Our coaches have been trying to figure it out,” said guard Jeanne Kenney, one of three seniors hoping to squeeze two more home wins out of their LSU careers. “Hopefully we have” done enough to earn a bid.