Tigers take first ever trip to Missouri today
LSU forward Charles Carmouche looks around the crowded group of NCAA tournament bubble hopefuls in the Southeastern Conference and basically says, Why not us?
It’s probably still a silly notion.
The Tigers’ all-important RPI ranking, which weighs heavily in the pursuit of tournament at-large bids, has improved significantly while winning eight of their last 11 games, but still checks in at a rather modest 79.
LSU’s last two victories, however, have come against Alabama and Arkansas, two teams that proclaimed themselves to be fighting for a spot on the bubble by the time the SEC tournament rolls around.
“We want to be one of those teams that are talked about,” Carmouche said after a 65-60 win over Arkansas on Wednesday.
Head coach Johnny Jones understands that talk is cheap.
“Their play will have to speak for itself, and that’s the only thing that we can do,” he said.
One thing certain, though, is that LSU (17-9, 8-7 SEC) will have to win its final three regular-season games, beginning with the school’s first-ever road trip to Missouri for today’s 3 p.m. tip-off.
It’s probably not the best spot to start.
With Florida probably the only SEC team assured of a tournament spot, Missouri (20-8, 9-6) might have the strongest case among he SEC bubble wannabes with an RPI of 38 after a strong pre-conference schedule.
Missouri has had its ups and downs on the road in its first SEC season, including a 73-70 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge when it was ranked No. 17 in the country.
But Mizzou is 15-0 at home.
LSU’s earlier victory, one of the signature wins of Jones’ debut season, came with Mizzou missing star forward Laurence Bowers.
“They have all their guys back now,” Jones said. “The real key for them is that he (Bowers) will be back. I think probably, chemistry-wise, they’re much better with him. He’s probably gotten a little bit more integrated with their team, what they’re doing and the speed of the game.”
Missouri, which is coming off a 90-68 win Thursday at South Carolina, is the first of back-to-back road games for the Tigers. They travel to Texas A&M (16-12, 6-9) on Wednesday before finishing the season at home against Ole Miss (21-7, 10-5) a week from today.
“I think they’ve really enjoyed the (recent) success,” Jones said of his team. “I think there’s been a keen understanding of what they had to do to get here. I don’t see any let up at all in them. I think they’re really excited about playing. They look forward to the challenge.”
And the bubble?
“I think our guys look at things like (Arkansas bubble hopes) and read into it,” Jones said. “If they were talking about them, what is it we have to do to get somebody mentioning us?
“When we started practice in October that was all those guys’ dreams — postseason play and the NCAA tournament. You understand March Madness you want to play, too.
“They are going to do the best they can … and try to position themselves as best they can. They’re hopeful that they can sit here and be watching just like everybody else on Selection Sunday.”