Two rough road losses have deposited the LSU women’s basketball team back on their doorstep with a 15-12 overall record and what would seem to be bracket-busted NCAA tournament hopes.
But Sunday, the final day of the Southeastern Conference regular season, the Lady Tigers are still in there crunching numbers with some of the best teams in the league.
At 9-6 in the SEC, LSU is a game back of third-place Mississippi State and Texas A&M, which visits the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a crucial 1 p.m. game. The Lady Tigers are tied for fifth with Kentucky.
Remarkably, LSU could wind up as high as the No. 3 seed in this week’s SEC tournament, if it beats A&M (22-7, 10-5) and State (25-5, 10-5) loses at home to the Ole Miss team that beat LSU 58-57 Thursday in Oxford.
LSU could also be the No. 4 seed if it beats A&M and State beats Ole Miss. Either would give the Lady Tigers a double-bye ticket all the way to Friday’s quarterfinals in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
If LSU loses, it will still be the No. 5 seed and play in Thursday’s second round unless Kentucky can beat No. 2 South Carolina (already at least the SEC co-champion) in Lexington. If LSU wins and Kentucky loses, the Lady Tigers are relegated to the No. 6 seed.
Despite a No. 78 RPI as of Saturday, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said she believes her team’s overall body of work is enough to warrant an NCAA bid.
“We’ve always felt the magic number in the SEC has always been .500,” she said. “If you can come in here and get nine wins, you’re definitely one of the top teams that should get a nod on Selection Monday.”
Still, Caldwell knows her team can help itself immensely with a win Sunday against A&M (No. 23 RPI) after a 63-41 loss last Sunday at Arkansas and Thursday’s loss at Ole Miss.
“We want to re-establish ourselves,” she said. “I understand the committee looks at the last 10 games, and we’ve dropped three. It would be to our benefit to go 7-3 down the stretch.”
If there was a bit of good news for LSU coming out of the Ole Miss loss, it’s that junior guard Danielle Ballard is expected to play Sunday.
Ballard, who’s scored in double figures in 11 straight games and leads LSU with 13.8 points per contest, went down with a knee injury with nine seconds left in the Ole Miss game and didn’t return.
She participated in practice Saturday, and Caldwell said she’s expected to play Sunday, though she didn’t say whether Ballard would start.
Raigyne Moncrief, who had 18 points but missed a potential game-winning 17-foot jumper with two seconds left Thursday, averages 11.4 points per game.
Texas A&M, which beat LSU 55-48 on Jan. 11 in College Station, is led by guard Courtney Walker and forward Courtney Williams, who average 14.9 and 14.2 points per game.
However, the Aggies suffered a critical loss in their critical 70-69 loss Thursday to Missouri when point guard Jordan Jones went down with a season-ending ACL and meniscus tear in her right knee.
The game will be the last at home for LSU’s two seniors: forward Sheila Boykin and guard DaShawn Harden. The contest will be televised on ESPNU and can be heard on WBRP-FM 107.3 and in the Geaux Zone at LSUSports.net.