FEINSWOG: Tigers believe they can win

This is madness of the March variety to a degree never before seen in the Southeastern Conference.

The West was won with a league record of 8-8.




"We're three games out of first place, and that's amazing," LSU coach John Brady said Saturday night after his SEC West last-place Tigers defeated visiting SEC East last-place South Carolina 61-52 to end the regular season.


LSU is 16-14 overall, 5-11 in the SEC, a record that includes every bad break in the book, from that last-second 3-pointer that gave Georgia a 57-54 win to the 73-70 loss to Alabama to the 70-67 defeat at Tennessee to the 71-70 loss to Ole Miss.


"It just shows how tough the conference is," said sophomore Tasmin Mitchell, who has emerged as LSU's best player the second half of the season. He led the Tigers with 21 points, four assists and five rebounds Saturday night.


Let's face it: Sometimes there's a pretty fine line between winning and losing, but LSU could never get on the right side of that line this season.


Could Brady have imagined the division winner being 8-8?


"I wouldn't have believed it. I thought 10-6 would win the West," Brady said.


"But I go back to it again – and nobody writes it because I guess you don't believe it – but a successful or significant season is all about close games.


"If you win your share, you've got a chance. And a lot of people on our side (of the conference) lost close games. They also won some.


"We lost more than others. But that's why it's 8-8, and that's why we're where we are."


Where they are is this: A team that went to the Final Four last year needs to win four games in four days in the SEC Tournament to win the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.


For that matter, LSU may have to win a couple of games in Atlanta just to get an NIT bid.


Two years ago, Louisville went to the Final Four. Last season, Coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals made the NIT. It happens.


But in a year in which 8-8 is the benchmark, you know that the SEC Tournament is going to be one jumbled mess.


"This is no joke conference," Mitchell said. "Maybe the toughest in the nation. I think we are the toughest in the nation."


LSU plays the late game Thursday night in Atlanta against Tennessee.


"I think we can win the tournament," Mitchell said matter-of-factly.


When the Tigers lost to Tennessee in Knoxville, Glen Davis had one of his worst games. And Tennessee is as up and down as the next team, finally getting hot at season's end.


"I agree that anyone can win the tournament," LSU sophomore Garrett Temple said.

"This league is wide open."


Brady knows that.


"I deal in reality," Brady said. "I'm not going to give a rah-rah talk.


"I believe if we play together and play as a team and execute just a little bit better … we can win the tournament.


"The only thing that concerns me is four consecutive games in three-and-a-half days. And we're playing the late game the first two days.


"But I think our team is good enough to beat anybody in the league."


It is.


But so is every other team in the 12-team SEC, which is about to put on one wild tournament.




Baton Rouge sportswriter Lee Feinswog is the host of the weekly television show "Sports Monday." He's covered LSU athletics since 1984. His book HoopDaddy is available at www.HoopDaddy.net. Contact Lee at sportsmonday@aol.com or (225) 926-3256.

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