LSU's resume is still a work in progress, and the Tigers would certainly love to add SEC Tournament Champion to their list of achievements.
But even as impressive as that resume already is — 40 wins, a third-place finish in the SEC, an RPI in the top 16 — the Tigers' fate when it comes to hosting an NCAA Regional is still undecided. Most projections still have LSU right on the bubble, some even predicting that LSU will have to travel for the NCAA tournament's opening round for the first time since 2010.
So on the eve of the SEC Tournament, everyone wants to know what exactly the Tigers have to do to guarantee postseason play at Alex Box Stadium.
"That seems to be the most popular question nowadays, and believe me, I've thought about it an awful lot," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I wish I could give you a good answer, but it's just my opinion because no one knows what goes on behind closed doors when that committee meets."
Well if it was up to Coach Mainieri…
"What we've done already is deserving an NCAA regional," he said bluntly.
Considering what LSU has already accomplished, that's hard to argue against. The Tigers are one of only 16 teams in the country to win at least 40 games this season. There were only two teams better in the SEC, undeniably the strongest conference in college baseball.
But even though LSU finished third in the SEC, most experts still have Vanderbilt and South Carolina — two teams behind the Tigers in the standings — hosting a regional instead.
Both schools do have a higher RPI and stronger schedule. Vanderbilt also has the advantage after winning two of three games against LSU earlier this season.
So how much should the SEC standings factor in to who hosts a regional?
"We played 30 games to determine how each team falls into place, and we finished third," Mainieri said. "So you can argue ‘this team's got a higher RPI, this team's got a higher strength of schedule.' You can say all you want, but the bottom line is we're the third best team in the SEC, and the third best team in the SEC deserves to host a regional."
Fortunately for the Tigers, they have an opportunity starting Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. to remove any doubt left in the equation. That SEC Tournament opener may even feature a rematch with Vanderbilt, which would give the selection committee a head-to-head battle to weigh in its decision.
The NCAA regional hosts are typically locked in by the Friday or Saturday of conference tournament week. That would mean a championship game appearance would come after the committee's already made its final calls.
That puts even more importance on those first couple games for LSU to solidify its resume.
But Mainieri isn't relaying that pressure to his players. Their focus isn't on what happens next week. Their goal is much more simple.
"Winning games against these SEC teams would be really good for our RPI and resume. We do want to prove ourselves, but not just for the postseason bids," said senior Sean McMullen. "We just want to win."
Does LSU deserve to host?
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