Last Modified: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 7:28 PM
Oh, what a dilemma.
If you’re LSU, how seriously do you take the Southeastern Conference tournament this week?
The Tigers have been assured that they can go two-and-toast in Hoover, Ala., and it will have zero effect on the national seed they figure they’ve already earned.
Those doing the assuring are mostly media, Internet bloggers, an entire army of tweeters, assorted well-wishers, fellow coaches and just about everybody except the NCAA tournament selection committee.
That august body is sworn to secrecy.
But it would be an historic occasion if the Tigers didn’t get one of the coveted eight seeds, which allows a team to stay home, as long as it wins, en route to the College World Series.
The SEC regular-season championship that LSU collected over the weekend has been good enough to get a national seed every year since the super regional concept took flight in 1999.
So, if it’s not good enough this season, the conspiracy theorists still ranting from LSU being snubbed altogether by the committee a year ago, will have their smoking gun.
“I would hope everybody is right,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “If you win an outright championship in what most people would concede to be the best conference in the country, I think it probably earns you a national seed.”
Anyway, let’s work on the theory that no matter how many victories, if any, the Tigers come home from Hoover with, they won’t play another road game unless it’s in Omaha, Neb.
They’re playing this week for grins and giggles.
What to do about it? How much sweat should be extended?
Back in the old days, when faced with a similar situation, Skip Bertman used the tournament as his personal tinker toy set, fiddling with and adjusting his team under ideal laboratory conditions with little or no regard for whether he eventually won the fool thing or not.
He did like to win at least two games just so he could wring out his pitching staff on a final shake-down cruise before things got really serious.
But there was a hint of arrogance to the way he treated the conference show pony as little more than a nuisance.
Bertman won more College World Series titles (5) than SEC tournament titles (4). OK, he did win two other tournament titles, but it was some convoluted thing when both divisions had separate tournaments.
Now, Mainieri has been a little different.
He’s won every SEC tournament he’s ever coached in. He missed it last year, of course, and he missed it his first year, 2007, while rebuilding the mess Smoke Lavall left behind.
But when actually showing up, Mainieri won three consecutive tournament titles from 2008-2010, with the first two catapulting them all the way to Omaha.
The other one the Tigers won as the No. 8 seed, which until this week was the lowest you could get in as.
Mainieri is 13-1 all time in Hoover.
So maybe there’s something to a little momentum from this tournament getting you ready for the real bullets next week.
Or maybe not.
South Carolina has won the last two national championships, and those two years the Gamecocks won only one SEC tournament games those years.
To each his own.
“Believe me, these games matter to us,” Mainieri said. “I heard the SEC tournament isn’t as important as the NCAA, blah-blah-blah.
“I never understood that. You’re lining up against outstanding ball clubs, there’s usually six or seven ranked teams there. If you love competition … I think our kids love tournaments and we’ve had some good fortune. Our kids genuinely enjoy being here.”
Mainieri is going to play every game to the hilt without doing anything stupid with the pitching staff.
“If we were on the bubble, I would probably have (ace) Kevin Gausman pitch the opening game,” Mainieri said.
But there was no reason to bring back Gausman, who pitched last Friday, back on less rest than usual, so the Tigers will cobble it together with five or six pitchers today against Mississippi State then get into their regular rotation.
“Outside of that, and the idea that you’re not going to extend some pitcher into some area he hasn’t been pitch-count-wise, nothing changes,” he said. “We’ll play our best players and play as hard as we can.
“I hope we can enjoy the week — hopefully we’ll be here all week.”
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org