From the Bird’s Nest: The only shaft LSU got was the one they gave themselves
LSU players, coaches and fans are obviously disappointed today after the Tigers were not included in the field of 64 for the NCAA Tournament.
But let’s face it, the Tigers put themselves in the position to be passed over.
Going into the conference tournaments last week, it’s pretty obvious LSU was in the field. Although they had not made their conference tournament, we’re talking about the SEC here. Including LSU in the NCAA’s despite not qualifying for the SEC Tournament wouldn’t set a precedent, although it certainly doesn’t happen every year.
The Tigers had a good RPI (but really, the way it’s set up, you have to be really, really bad not to have a good RPI in the SEC.)
The Tigers had a sweep earlier in the season against Cal State-Fullerton a team that is hosting a regional this week.
LSU won twelve of its last fifteen games.
They were 23-3 out of conference.
Then the conference tournaments began. Every year, there are a few “stolen bids”. A stolen bid is when a team that would not otherwise be in the tournament wins its conference tournament. Now, in many leagues, that doesn’t matter. But in many leagues, it does. Usually there are a couple of these.
But this year there were four. And that should have raised a red flag to LSU.
That’s why I was really surprised about Glenn Guilbeau’s column on Monday stating that LSU was safely in. Now, I thought they’d be in as well. But safely? No way. Not after New Mexico won the Mountain West Tournament. The MWC was going to be a one-bid league, with TCU. But UNM stole one.
Belmont won the Atlantic Sun. Well, Stetson was going anyway. So was Jacksonville. You even could have made a case for East Tennessee. The Atlantic Sun was one of the surprise leagues in college baseball this year.
Then came Seton Hall. You knew Connecticut was in. And, St. John’s finished second in the Big East and second in the tournament. And, for some reason, the selection committee tends to look favorably on that league.
But still, the Tigers were probably in.
Then came Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Trojans stole the final bid, raising that number to four. FIU and Troy were going. FIU was a solid two seed. Troy was the champion of the sixth-rated league in America. FAU had played their way off the bubble, going 0-3. The Sun Belt was a two bid league until the Trojans spoiled the party.
By Sunday night, four bubble teams were eliminated.
Tim Weiser, the chairman of the selection committee, was pretty candid when talking about LSU’s exclusion from the tournament.
He said: LSU finished ninth in its conference and failed to make its tournament.
He said that six of those last twelve wins came against the dregs of the SEC. (Well, he didn’t say it like that, but make no mistake, Tennessee and Kentucky were really bad.)
He said the committee didn’t use the RPI as the “hammer” the committee has in the past.
He said because LSU failed to make its tournament and finished ninth, the committee had to look at their out of conference road resume. There wasn’t one. LSU played three road games out of conference: at 4-50 UNO, at Nicholls State and at Tulane. Their 3-0 record in those games didn’t impress anyone.
He said the committee favored the second place team in the Big East over the ninth place team in the SEC. Now, we can debate that one all day, but at the end of the day, that was the decision.
With possible exception of the last point, the committee makes good points. RPI is not the know all to end all when it comes to selections. In fact, in baseball, it’s horribly flawed.
All that having been said, it’s still hard to justify St. John’s over LSU. The other teams LSU fans have brought up…well, you can make a good case for their selection over the Tigers.
But here’s the bottom line: LSU, by not making its’ tournament, by not winning road games, by not PLAYING road games out of conference,gave the committee reasons to exclude them from the field. And the committee, void of anyone connected with the SEC, took the bait.
But, there’s even a bigger picture here.
This is LSU. Six time national-champion LSU. Perennial paid attendance leader LSU.
And right now, their baseball program is reduced to hoping they’re the last team selected to play in the NCAA tournament.
LSU was a young team this year. They’re going to be better down the road, although they’re going to lose one of the best players they’ve ever had in Mikie Mahtook. They’ll probably lose another player or two to the draft, as well as their seniors. But this was a good freshman class that’s only going to get better.
But, while they build themselves back to being LSU, they can take a lesson by what they learned this season.
Schedule better. Play on the road in non-conference. But most of all…..
Play better baseball.