Rabalais: Tigers and Cajuns alike have plenty of Omaha cred

Today, Alabama.

Tomorrow … Omaha?

For LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette, every trip to the Yellowhammer State (no, really, that’s what it’s called) should be this successful.

The Tigers captured yet another title here Sunday in the Southeastern Conference tournament with a tense, crisply played, 2-0 victory over SEC regular-season champion Florida.

Just hours earlier, the Ragin’ Cajuns survived a 6-5 victory over Texas-Arlington in Mobile to add the Sun Belt tournament title to their regular-season championship and an already bulging résumé folder.

Not surprisingly, the teams were awarded with two of the NCAA’s 16 regional host sites, which begin Friday across the country.

It’s just part of the NCAA two-step both programs hope to complete.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, the NCAA field of 64 will be unveiled on ESPNU, an announcement which will include the naming of the eight national seeds.

With a 53-7 record, the nation’s best, and a projected No. 5 RPI according to WarrenNolan.com, there’s more of chance that they will cancel all the Mardi Gras parades in Acadiana next year than there is that the Cajuns won’t be a national seed.

But has LSU done enough here to merit a national seed as well?

Coming into the tournament, the NCAA talk surrounding the Tigers was whether they would merely be hosting a regional for the 22nd time. LSU worked its way to a No. 3 SEC tournament seed after going 17-11-1 in conference play, but the Tigers’ NCAA regional hopes were dragged down by the anchor of a less than luminary nonconference schedule.

That changed with four wins in five impressive days here as LSU stormed to a fifth tournament title in the past seven years, outscoring the opposition (including wins over projected RPI No. 3 Florida and No. 8 Vanderbilt) by a combined score of 31-4.

The Tigers own this event. Joe Alleva didn’t get his way on SEC football scheduling, but the LSU athletic director will sponsor legislation at this week’s SEC Spring Meeting to have the name of the conference tournament changed to the LSU Invitational.

Still, the conventional logic has been that if the Tigers did do enough to deserve a regional, they would be paired with the winner of the Lafayette regional, with both teams on a collision course to meet in Lafayette for the right to advance to the College World Series.

Politically, it would be desirable to the rest of the college baseball-playing country to limit Louisiana to one super site and spread the wealth with the others. But that’s now outdated, unfair thinking.

The Cajuns deserve their national seed, and so do the Tigers.

UL-Lafayette should be a national seed because of its impressive, season-long body of work. LSU should be a national seed because it captured a championship in the toughest conference in America (OK, Cajuns fans, I know you’ve heard that before) as part of an eight-game winning streak in which it outscored the opposition 87-8.

“You’re not going to make everyone totally happy,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who after leading his Tigers to the championship was the encyclopedic definition of “totally happy.”

“The teams that earned it should get it,” he said. “ULL deserves one, and I feel we do, too. If that’s the way it is, too bad for everyone else.”

Now, there are probably some on both sides of the Atchafalaya who would rather not see the other make it to Omaha. There are plenty of Tigers fans who aren’t eager to see the Cajuns hone in on their Nebraska turf — though both did make it to the CWS in opposite brackets in 2000. And there certainly are Cajuns fans who would prefer that LSU not be around to overshadow their team’s moment in the sun, should both teams get there.

But Omaha is a big town, big enough for both factions — unless they have to play each other.

Until then, dream big, everybody. And agree to meet for a round at Barrett’s or Upstream Brewing Company if both teams punch their tickets to Omaha.

“I hope we both make it,” Mainieri said. “Turn off the lights in Louisiana if that happens.”

But first, turn on the lights at Alex Box Stadium and Moore Field.

The Tigers and Cajuns have some baseball to play.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.