LSU receives a national seed

The No. 8 overall Tigers will host Houston, Bryant and Southeastern Louisiana in the Baton Rouge regional starting Friday at 2 p.m.

It seemed improbable a week ago, but LSU earned one of eight national seeds as the NCAA Tournament's field of 64 was announced Monday.

The Tigers' torrid run to a title in the SEC Tournament earned them the No. 8 seed, bringing the first round of the tournament to Alex Box Stadium for the third consecutive year. The road to Omaha will run through Baton Rouge should the Tigers win out.

LSU entered the SEC Tournament on the bubble to simply host a regional, not even really in the discussion for a national seed. But as the Tigers capped off the season with eight straight victories, including that 2-0 thriller against top-seed Florida, LSU quickly placed itself in the conversation amongst the nation's best teams.

But even then, Paul Mainieri admitted he was a "tad bit nervous" as the top eight seeds were rattled off during the nationally televised selection show.

"I had a pretty good feeling though that we were going to get it," Mainieri said. "I just had a sense that we had earned it and deserved it. I just couldn't imagine who they were going to give it to over us."

No. 2 Houston, No. 3 Bryant and No. 4 Southeastern Louisiana will join LSU in the Baton Rouge regional. All three of the Tigers' opponents won their respective conference tournaments.

The winner of that group will meet the victor from the Houston (Rice) regional in the Super Regional. The Owls play host to No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 George Mason.

The Tigers will open their NCAA Tournament campaign Friday at 2 p.m. against SE La. Those two teams met this season on Feb. 19, a game the Tigers won in Hammond, 7-3. There will be no television broadcast for LSU's tournament opener, but the game will be streamed on ESPN3.

The Lions made it in the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southland tournament title. They finished the season 37-23 overall, 18-12 in conference play.

Mainieri will caution his team against treating SE La. as a typical No. 4 seed. He expects the Lions to throw their ace, Andro Cutura, who led the starters with 10 wins, a 1.72 ERA, three complete games and 95 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings pitched.

"He's a legitimate SEC-caliber starting pitcher," Mainieri said. "This is not a No. 4-seed that you can look beyond. You have to go after them with one of your top guys."

Mainieri added that it will either be Jared Poché or even Aaron Nola that pitches the tournament opener for LSU, but that decision will come later in the week.

Houston was a team on the bubble to host a regional of its own. They finished third in the American Athletic Conference standings, and won the conference tournament Sunday with a 10-4 victory against top-seeded Louisville. But the Cardinals swept Houston during the regular season, which likely prevented them from hosting.

The Bryant Bulldogs, located in Smithfield, R.I., received the Northeast Conference's automatic bid by winning that tournament for the second consecutive time. They defeated Sacred Heart — whom LSU beat 8-1 this season — to clinch a spot in the tournament.

Bryant was also the NEC regular season champion and finished the year with a 42-14 overall record, 19-5 in the conference.

"We'll do some research on all the teams," Mainieri said. "We'll get as prepared as we can, but right now our only focus is on Southeastern Louisiana."

The SEC placed a record 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament, which breaks the previous record of nine, also held by the SEC. The Tigers are one of two national seeds from the conference, joining No. 2 Florida. The SEC also produced five total regional hosts, with Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and South Carolina receiving those bids.

Mississippi State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Alabama also made the field.

"You have to go through this league to really understand how tough it is," Mainieri said. "I'm proud of this league. It's a tough one. I'm proud we won the SEC Tournament because I know who we had to win that championship."

The state of Louisiana produced two national seeds as Louisiana-Lafayette, who finished the year with a nation's best 53 wins, landed the No. 6 overall seed. Should both the Tigers and Cajuns reach Omaha, it would be the first time the state produced two CWS teams since 2000.

"If we both make it to Omaha, the last person leaving Louisiana needs to turn off the lights, because I'm afraid the entire state might be in Omaha," Mainieri said.

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