Mar 15, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers guard Tremont Waters (3) with LSU Tigers interim head coach Tony Benford during the first half of game seven in the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena


Analyzing LSU's road to the Sweet 16 & Final Four

What you need to know before the Tigers enter March Madness

Seth Dunlap
March 17, 2019 - 7:04 pm

There was much speculation about whether the NCAA Tournament selection committee would unjustly penalize LSU basketball for the suspension of head coach Will Wade and the programs looming crisis around the federal probe into corruption in college basketball.   We finally got the answer: they weren't.  In fact, you could even say the selection committee seeded LSU a line higher than many experts predicted, getting a #3 seed in the East Region, where they are matched up against #14 seeded Yale in the opening round.

There's a lot to like about LSU's position in the bracket.  There are also more than a few concerns.  Here are five takeaways from tonight's bracket reveal for the Tigers:

1.  The selection committee valued resume on the court, not problems off of it.

Usually people are only talking about the selection committee when they've gotten something wrong, at least according the masses of college basketball fans who think they could do it better.  It's a thankless job, really.  When the committee gets it right, rarely do we acknowledge that.  Well, they got it right with LSU.  Yes, the Tigers are caught up in the sordid scandal brought on by their now suspended head coach, Will Wade.  That shouldn't have factored into their seed line.  Any repercussions for this will be felt by the program down the road.  The Tigers' certainly had the resume of a #3 seed, or better.  They were justly rewarded.

2.  LSU has a great path to the Sweet 16.

No team should be taken lightly this time of year -- just ask Virginia.  That said, LSU got a pretty favorable opener against Yale.  Ivy League teams are 8-34 all time in the NCAA Tournament, and this is just Yale's second trip to the big dance, with their first coming a couple of seasons ago.  The Ivy League does have two wins in the Round of 64 this decade, with Harvard stunning #3 seeded New Mexico in 2013 and Cornell doing the same against Wisconsin three years prior.  If LSU gets past Yale, they'll take on either #6 Maryland or the winner of #11 Belmont vs. #11 Temple (a First Four matchup).  Maryland gets the Belmont-Temple winner in the Round of 64.   The Tigers will be favored in any game they play on opening weekend.  

3.  Those Blue Devils stand in the way of a Final Four trip.

Make it past the opening weekend and LSU could be staring at Michigan State then Duke in their path to a Final Four.  That's hardly a desirable path to Minneapolis.  Michigan State was a trendy preseason pick to win the championship before injuries took their tole.  The latest Spartans latest setback is a lower leg injury to forward Kyle Aherns, who suffered the injury in the Big Ten championship game.  The Blue Devils, meanwhile, are back to full strength with Zion Williamson abusing people while carrying Duke to an ACC Tournament championship.  Don't look at LSU's championship or Final Four odds after this draw; they won't look pretty.  

4.  Location, location, location.

Worried that the Tigers may have been marooned in the Anaheim Regional out west or, even worse, facing an opening round trek up to Des Moines or (gasp!) San Jose?  You've been spared.  The Tigers will play their first week's games in Jacksonville, FL, a relatively-friendly eight hour drive from Baton Rouge.  Make it past that, and it's on to Washington D.C.  Tiger fans should have no trouble watching their team play the next couple of weeks -- that's assuming everybody is still on board this hype train after the Will Wade derailment of the past two weeks.  Spoiler alert: you should be still on board. 

5.  LSU was spared a matchup against elite guard play in the their region -- with one big exception. 

One doomsday scenario for LSU's tournament hopes would have been getting stuck in a region full of teams with elite talent on the perimeter.  Well, consider their final placement a bit of a mixed bag on that front.  Yale just doesn't have the talent to match up with LSU if the Tigers don't completely implode -- yes, certainly a possibility considering the current situation around the program -- and Maryland relies on a talented front court more than top-notch guard play, although point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. is a fine player who netted all-Big Ten first team honors this season.  That's great news for LSU, who has the athletic, and physical, front court to hang with anybody in the country.  They way they handled Kentucky & Tennessee this season is a perfect example of that, as both of those teams rely on dominant play from their bigs.Beyond the opening weekend, there might be issues, and it starts with Michigan State.  Cassius Winston is one of the best players in college basketball, and he's lighting it up from beyond the arc to the tune of a 41% clip this season.  There's just nobody on this LSU team that can be expected to effectively defend a player like that. Get by Michigan State (yes, I'm playing the always-dangerous what-if game now) and you're likely to see Duke, who has dominated this season on the interior.  Oddly, the Blue Devils might be a better matchup for LSU than Michigan State.  I didn't say it was a good matchup, just a better one.  Considering they could have been stuck in the guard-heavy South and Midwest Regions, this is probably better than the alternatives, even with big, bad Duke looming in the opposite half of the bracket.


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