NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Quickly clearing out cramped digs at the Bridgestone Arena, the LSU men’s basketball team found itself moving into a new residence.
Granted, this address doesn’t carry the same cache associated with March.
The Tigers, reeling from an 80-58 loss to Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament, are encamped on the bubble for the National Invitation Tournament.
Only, there’s no Joe Lunardi carrying out the science of bracketology.
Nope. This isn’t the 1950s, and the NIT long ago ceded relevancy on a mass scale.
Instead, the event adequately fills programming holes for ESPN, while CBS locks in the eyeballs of diehards on the NCAA’s 68-team battle royale.
So, it stands to reason in some locker rooms the idea of accepting a bid in March madness’ step-child could encounter apathy.
Not for LSU, though.
“It would be a lot to this team,” LSU forward Shavon Coleman said.
“We’re not going to look down on it or think of it that way. We’ve got seniors that want it, want something out there to play for still.”
The allure of the NIT can be broken into three tiers:
- Disappointed regular-season champions from mid-major conferences, ones who slipped up in their conference tournaments and landed in this relegation zone.
- Irked bubble teams whose pride is diced and sliced from the NCAA selection committee cut-line.
- Rebuilding power conference programs scouring for tangible evidence of progress out of irrelevancy.
Clearly, LSU is in the third group. And the Tigers’ are unabashed in their desire to suit up again.
Few expected LSU to be in line for the postseason after losing key contributors in Storm Warren, Ralston Turner and Justin Hamilton.
Picked to finish 11th in the SEC during the preseason, a .500 conference finish would satisfy many in a rebuilding year under Johnny Jones.
Yet, Thursday’s win over Georgia might have secured LSU an NIT slot.
Multiple websites have the Tigers pegged as a No. 6 seed in the 32-team field. A glance at the Tigers metrics seems to support the idea. As of Thursday, LSU sat at No. 77 in the RPI and owned a 10-10 record against SEC opponents, including a 4-2 mark against potential NIT teams Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Right now, eight regular-season conference champions have been knocked out of contention for NCAA automatic bids but picked up spots in the NIT.
The more that happens, the greater the peril for LSU. Or, alternately put, root for Southern in the SWAC tournament. Loathe Louisiana Tech for losing in the WAC.
Still, hope abounds.
“I think we did,” guard Charles Carmouche said of securing a bid. “We competed all year, above and beyond what people expected, finished .500 in our conference.”
If rewarded, it’s assured LSU would covet adding another week to its season.
“I’m not going to lie,” guard Anthony Hickey said. “We want an opportunity to get this taste out of our mouths.”