INDIANAPOLIS — There’s still a month to go before we know whether the LSU Tigers are considered worthy of an NCAA tournament bid on Selection Sunday.
On Mock Selection Friday, however, the Tigers had no problems making it in as an at-large.
Twenty members of the media met at NCAA headquarters Thursday and Friday to go through a mock selection exercise, a chance to experience first-hand the inner workings of the tournament selection and seeding process.
Using team resumés as if the season had ended Thursday, LSU (17-7, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) was tabbed as the No. 10 seed in the East Regional, taking on No. 7 Ohio State in a second-round game (the tournament’s first full round) in Pittsburgh.
East Regional teams wind up in Syracuse, New York, with the regional champion advancing to the Final Four here in Indianapolis.
Two media members each represented one member of the selection committee. The Advocate represented LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, in his fourth of five years on the committee, along with Jason Lisk of TheBigLead.com.
As will be the case for Alleva in actual selection committee meetings, The Advocate and Lisk were not able to vote or participate in discussions concerning LSU.
Alleva was here Thursday for a meeting with the real selection committee but did not attend the mock selection exercise.
The exercise has no bearing on how the actual NCAA tournament field will be selected.
Alleva has admitted LSU is squarely on the NCAA bubble provided it doesn’t capture the SEC’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. Generally speaking, it’s expected the Tigers will have to win at least five more games in the regular season to be worthy of an at-large bid.
In the mock selection exercise, NCAA officials arbitrarily decided that LSU had made it to the SEC tournament final before losing to Kentucky. In real life, the Tigers nearly pulled off what would have been an NCAA resumé-boosting upset of the No. 1-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday, missing a last-second shot to win before falling 71-69.
LSU went through several voting rounds before being selected Friday morning. The Tigers got in despite their RPI dropping from 51 to 57 from Thursday to Friday, but LSU went in as the No. 38 overall seed.
Weighing in LSU’s favor were four wins against RPI top 50 teams: No. 22 Georgia, No. 30 West Virginia, No. 37 Ole Miss and No. 39 Massachusetts.
Five SEC teams made the mock selection field in all.
Kentucky (24-0) was the No. 1 seed overall and in the Midwest Regional, while Arkansas (19-5) was No. 6 in the Midwest.
Georgia (16-7) was the No. 8 seed in the South Regional and Ole Miss (17-7), which eked out a key win Thursday night at Florida, was right ahead of LSU at No. 9 in the East.
Left out of the field of 68 in the mock selection bracket from the SEC were 16-7 Texas A&M (No. 43 RPI and with a win over LSU) and 15-9 Alabama (No. 63, loss to LSU).
The Tigers face another key game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Tennessee (14-9, 6-5) on the SEC Network.
LSU wasn’t the only Louisiana team picked in the mock selection process.
Louisiana Tech (19-6), which got in the field as the projected Conference USA tournament champion (another arbitrary move by NCAA officials running the exercise), was picked as the No. 13 seed in the Midwest Regional. The Bulldogs were paired with No. 4 seed Iowa State in a second-round matchup in Louisville, Kentucky.
ESPN “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi on Thursday pegged LSU as a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional, meeting No. 6 Georgetown in a second-round opener in Columbus, Ohio.
CBS bracket expert Jerry Palm also put the Tigers as a No. 11 seed, but playing a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, against Miami (Florida). The winner of that game, Palm predicts, would go on to face Midwest Regional No. 6 SMU in a second-round game in Seattle.
SMU eliminated LSU in the second round of the NIT last season.
Per NCAA selection rules, the four teams sent to the First Four that are not No. 16 seeds are the last four at-large teams to be selected for the field. In the NCAA mock selection exercise those teams were Michigan State and Stanford, a pair of No. 11 seeds; and Bryant and North Florida, a pair of No. 12s.
The NCAA field will be revealed March 15 on CBS.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.