The Lady Tigers (27-3) received the first No. 1 seed in school history and will open the NCAA Tournament against Southwest Texas (18-13). The game is slated for a 10:30 p.m. (CT) start at McArthur Court on the University of Oregon campus.
LSU has already faced the Bobcats this season, handing them a 91-40 loss in Baton Rouge on Dec. 21, 2002.
Ranked No. 3 in national polls, LSU had to wait until the last 16 teams were announced for the women's tournament field to find out they would be playing in Oregon. Although it will be a long trip for her Lady Tigers, head coach Sue Gunter is pleased with LSU's opening draw.
"I was an absolutely nervous wreck," said Gunter. "Because I never know, ‘Are we going to be a one or we going to be a two, where they are going to place us?'" said Gunter. "The fact that we are going to Eugene, Ore., is a little far but still is a totally neutral site. So I think that's good, too."
LSU is 10-3 in games against eleven teams from the NCAA field it faced during the regular season and 11-3 against teams in the top 25. But the Lady Tigers avenged all three of those losses - to Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee - in the SEC Tournament.
Southwest Texas makes its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1996 and the second in school history. The Bobcats, coached by Suzanne Fox, closed the season with seven straight wins and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southland Conference Tournament.
After starting the season 1-7, including the loss at LSU, Southwest Texas rebounded to finish third in the Southland standings. SWT sophomore guard Tori Talbert, the SLC Player of the Year, feels as though the Bobcats will give the Lady Tigers a tougher challenge than in their first meeting this season.
"They are a great team and have improved quite a bit since we played them last," said Talbert. "We have improved tremendously since then too, and they are going to see a whole new Bobcat team."
If LSU gets past Southwest Texas, they will face the winner of the Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-3) and Washington (22-7) game.
The Lady Tigers could meet Louisiana Tech (29-2) in the Sweet 16 round, which will be played at Stanford University in Palo Alto. Calif. The Lady Techsters will host Pepperdine in an opening round game at Ruston, with the winner meeting the Ohio State-Weber State winner.
Although Louisiana Tech enters the tournament with the No. 6 national ranking, they were seeded No. 5 in the West. There were 13 teams ranked lower than the Techsters that received equal or higher seeds.
"Obviously, we felt like we deserved a higher seed and did everything possible to earn a higher seed," said Louisiana head coach Kurt Budke. "However, we are still playing at home and are playing some of our best basketball of the year right now. There are three excellent teams coming into Ruston and there should be some great games."
The LSU men's team earned a No. 8 seed after finishing the season with seven wins in its last eight games. The Tigers have three wins over teams in the top 25, including an upset of No. 1 Arizona, 66-65, on Dec. 21, 2002.
The Tigers (21-10, 8-8 SEC) meet Purdue (18-10, 10-6 Big Ten) at 2 p.m. Friday ay the Jefferson County Civic Center in Birmingham. The winner would face either No. 1 seed Texas or the winner of the Tuesday play-in game between North Carolina-Ashville and Texas Southern.
The Sweet 16 for the South Regional will be played at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.
"I was hoping in a perfect way to get a seven seed," said LSU head coach John Brady, "so we could avoid No. 1 if we are able to win the first game. But that didn't happen. But the second thing I wanted to do is go to Nashville, or in particular Birmingham, and it's close for our fans.
"We are playing on a Friday night, I don't think it could have worked out any better. Instead of the seven seed we got an eight and I guess the tradeoff is that we get to go to Birmingham."
The trip to Birmingham is a homecoming of sorts for Brady, who coached for six seasons at Samford before taking his current job at LSU.
LSU and Purdue have met just one time in men's basketball, and it was also an NCAA Tournament game. The Tigers were seeded eleventh when they upset the No. 6-seeded Boilermakers, 94-87, in double overtime at the NCAA sub-regional at Baton Rouge on March 13, 1986.
LSU went on to become the lowest seed to ever advance to the Final Four that year.
"We are playing Purdue and they are a good basketball team, but it is certainly a game that we will have an opportunity to win," said Brady. "I'm excited about it. I know our players are excited about it.
"And to be able to go to the NCAA Tournament and to be an eight seed and play at Birmingham, to come from where we have came from to get to this point, I think you really have to commend our team and our players for what they may have accomplished the last four to five weeks of the season."
Purdue finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten and lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan State.
Boilermakers head coach Gene Keady is hoping his team can learn from their last game since it will face what he feels is a very similar team in LSU
"I know that they play very hard," said Keady. "We saw them three years ago at Albuquerque, so we know they'll be very athletic. And the fact that they're in the SEC, means they are a special team.
"Hopefully it's going to be just as hard for them to prepare for us, so everything should be pretty equal. We know they're going to be athletic and run and rebound and be hard-nosed. That's the way Michigan State was, so that should prepare us for the LSU game."
Tickets for the LSU men's game can be purchased as a six-game packet for $120 per seat at www.southtix.com or by calling 1-800-590-6908.
Those interested in attending the LSU women's games in Eugene, Ore., can purchase tickets through 1-800-WEBFOOT. All session tickets are $26 for three games, and single game tickets are available starting Tuesday from $6-$13 per seat.