A week ago this time, LSU appeared to be on the precipice of breaking into the top 25 in both the AP Poll and the NET rankings. The Tigers had won three straight games and were facing a schedule that was manueverable to earn its way further up the rankings board.
Instead, the Tigers lost two straight to Georgia and No. 20 Arkansas both on the road, leaving some doubt as to where this team currently stands in the NCAA tournament picture. Will Wade mentioned to the media on Friday that goal No. 1 was to win two of the last three regular season games to earn a double bye in the SEC tournament.
With the most recent 83-75 loss to the Razorbacks on Saturday, the Tigers must now beat Vanderbilt at home on Tuesday and travel to Missouri on Saturday to pick up wins and secure that first goal. The silver lining is that LSU's loss on Saturday didn't affect the team in the NET rankings, as the Tigers remained No. 30.
An improved SEC tournament standing will help the team's chances to move further up the NCAA tournament standings by taking on more Quad 1 opportunities before tournament selection date. Winners of each conference tournament receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament but even if LSU doesn't win the SEC Tournament, the Tigers appear to be locked into March Madness at the moment.
According to ESPN and other bracketology experts, the Tigers are on that "Bubble Watch" as the regular season comes to a close, with most sites designating the Tigers as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the tournament.
"The probability that LSU will face a top seed in the round of 32 (if the Tigers proceed that far) can now be termed high. Moreover, the remaining schedule doesn't hold much potential to change that seed for the better," ESPN writer John Gasaway recently wrote. "Looking ahead, any No. 1 seed with an assistant coach who meets standards of due diligence in scouting is likely to be given pause by LSU. This has been the best offense in the league in SEC play, one that makes its 2s and is incredibly careful with the ball despite playing at an accelerated pace."
Entering the tournament as an eight or nine seed certainly isn't what LSU envisioned at the start of the season. As far as difficult tasks go it's right up there with the worst as the winner of a No. 8 vs No. 9 seed goes on to play the No. 1 seed in each region in the Round of 32.
As of now, three of those teams appear to be very clear in Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan. Will Wade said after the most recent loss to Arkansas, that the Tigers have played both their best and their worst during the two game skid but putting 40 minutes of their best has been a challenge all season.
"You saw us at our best, you saw us at our worst for a second half. We've got to get back to work," Wade said. "We've got a quick turnaround on Tuesday against Vanderbilt, who's been playing really, really well so we've got a lot of things we've got to get going between now and Tuesday and we've got to put all our effort into that."