in

From The Abyss, LSU And Aggies Rise Up Entering SEC Tournament

When the sun rose Saturday morning, LSU found itself in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Southeastern Conference with an 8-9 mark.

By late Saturday night, the Tigers were the No. 5 seeds in the SEC Tournament that opens Wednesday at 21,500-seat Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

On Saturday afternoon, LSU defeated No. 25 Alabama, 80-77, in overtime to catapult back into respectability with its first victory over a ranked team since Jan. 8 when it beat No. 18 Tennessee, 79-67, on its way to a 15-1 and 3-1 start and No. 12 ranking.

LSU (21-10, 9-9) is tied for fifth with five teams at 9-9 – Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. That win over Tennessee (23-7, 14-4), which is ranked 13th now and finished as the No. 2 seed, and a 65-60 victory on Jan. 4 over then-No. 16 Kentucky (25-6, 14-4), which is now No. 7 and the No. 3 seed, are the reasons why LSU beat out the four 9-9 teams for the No. 5 seed.

The Tigers, who have not been ranked since early February, play at approximately 2:30 p.m. eastern time Thursday in the SEC Tournament against the winner of No. 12 seed Missouri (11-20, 5-13) and No. 13 seed Ole Miss (13-18, 4-14). Those two open the tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday with No. 11 Vanderbilt (15-15, 7-11) and No. 14 Georgia (6-25, 1-17) playing at about 8:30 p.m. All Wednesday and Thursday games will be on the SEC Network.

LSU just lost to lowly seeds Ole Miss and Vanderbilt last month in a rollercoaster season.

“This is going to help our seed a lot,” said LSU senior forward Darius Days, who scored a game-high 24 points with seven rebounds, three steals and 3-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

He could have been talking about either the NCAA Tournament or SEC Tournament seed.

LSU has been listed most often as a No. 7 seed in recent weeks, but that could inch up, depending how the Tigers do in the SEC Tournament.

“For the NCAA Tournament, this win will help us a lot,” Days said. “It’s a quad one win. It will help our confidence.”

Quadrant one victories include home wins over teams with a top 30 RPI. Alabama is at No. 17 while LSU is at No. 24 in RPI.

It was also LSU’s first win over Alabama after five straight losses.

“It was a must win,” said LSU guard Brandon Murray, who scored 17 with three steals and hit 2-of-6 from 3-point range. “It was no more than that. We had to do what we had to do.”

Alabama (19-12, 9-9), which has been listed as a No. 5 NCAA Tournament seed, is now the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament and will play in the late game Thursday against the Vanderbilt-Georgia winner.

“Tough loss,” said Alabama coach Nate Oats, whose team trailed 68-64 with three minutes left in regulation but managed a 72-72 tie. “We played a lot harder than we had recently. Much better.”

The Tide lost 87-71 at home Wednesday to one of the hottest teams in the SEC – Texas A&M, which just weeks ago was smelling the cellar of the SEC. The Aggies (20-11, 9-9) are the SEC Tournament No. 8 seed and will play No. 9 seed Florida (19-12, 9-9) in the first game Thursday at noon.

The Aggies won 67-64 at home Saturday over Mississippi State. It was A&M’s fourth straight victory and fifth of the last six. That run came off an eight-game losing streak that had the Aggies at 15-10 and 4-8 and near the bottom of the league on Feb. 12. Texas A&M could sneak into the NCAA Tournament. Others like Florida and South Carolina are also on the bubble.

“I can honestly say we didn’t rediscover anything,” Texas A&M senior guard Quenton Jackson said after scoring 28 in the win at Alabama. “We knew the answers to the test the whole time. We just had to figure a way to implement that into the game. We never got discouraged.”

Jackson scored 18 in the win over Mississippi State (17-14, 8-10). The Bulldogs are the SEC Tournament No. 10 seed and play No. 7 seed South Carolina (18-12, 9-9) at 6 p.m. Thursday.

SEC Tournament Friday play opens with No. 1 seed/regular season champion and No. 5 Auburn (27-4, 15-3) playing at noon on ESPN against the Texas A&M-Florida winner. Auburn, which won 15 league games for the first time in history, should be a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

No. 4 seed Arkansas (24-7, 13-5) plays at approximately 2:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN against Missouri, Ole Miss or LSU. No. 2 seed Tennessee plays at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network against the South Carolina-Mississippi State winner.

No. 3 seed Kentucky plays at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday against Vanderbilt, Georgia or Alabama on the SEC Network. The Wildcats are likely to be a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament with Tennessee looking like a No. 3 and Arkansas like a No. 4.

The semifinals will be at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN. The championship game will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN.

“All the records reset now,” LSU coach Will Wade said.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

Leave a Reply

to comment on this post. Not a VIP? Signup Here