LEXINGTON, Ky. — The LSU men’s basketball team clinched a top-four seed and a double bye in next week’s Southeastern Conference tournament before the Tigers took the floor for Saturday’s regular-season finale at Kentucky.
Hours later, following a 94-77 loss, LSU learned it would be the No. 4 seed and will begin SEC tournament play in the quarterfinals at around 2:30 p.m. Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
LSU, the tournament’s No. 4 seed for the second year in a row, won’t know its opponent until Thursday. The Tigers will get the survivor of Vanderbilt and Game 1, which pits Tennessee and Auburn on Wednesday.
LSU (18-13, 11-7) clinched a double bye Saturday when Texas A&M earned the top seed and at least a share of the regular-season title by defeating Vanderbilt 76-67.
At that point, LSU still had a chance to take the second seed with a win over Kentucky. But after a good start, the Tigers fell under an avalanche of points by the Wildcats and eventually finished in a three-way tie for third with South Carolina and Vanderbilt — all at 11-7.
In a three-way tiebreaker based on their record against one another, South Carolina prevailed and took the No. 3 seed, with LSU getting the fourth spot. Vanderbilt, which could have earned a share of the regular-season title with a win over A&M, settled for No. 5.
Simmons left out
LSU freshman Ben Simmons wasn’t among the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, one of the most coveted individual awards given to a college player, when the list was announced Saturday.
ESPN reported that Simmons, who was on the award’s late-season top 20 list, wasn’t eligible because he had “not been certified” by LSU to be eligible for the award.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman cited academics as the reason for Simmons’ omission. One of the six criteria on the Wooden Award website says consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and aspirations, and candidates must have a cumulative 2.0 GPA since enrolling in college.
“I was just told Ben didn’t meet all the criteria that was put forth to be a candidate for the Wooden Award,” coach Johnny Jones said after the game. “Ben is a very competitive player, and he works very hard in order to succeed for the accolades that are out there.
“When you fall short of those, it’s disappointing,” he added. “But I’m sure he can certainly move on from it.”
Jones held Simmons out of the starting lineup for the Feb. 20 loss at Tennessee. At the time, Jones said Simmons, who entered the game with 15:30 left in the first half, didn’t start because he had to deal with “academic stuff.”
Kentucky fans chanted “G-P-A!” when Simmons went to the free-throw line twice during the game.
House of horrors
LSU lost for the 15th time in its past 16 trips to Rupp Arena. The only win in that stretch came in a 73-70 decision over Kentucky on Feb. 28, 2009, in Trent Johnson’s first season as coach.
Kentucky rolled to its 37th consecutive victory at home Saturday, the second-longest winning streak in the 40-year history of the arena. Its last loss was to Arkansas (71-67 in overtime) on Feb. 27, 2014.
Also, coach John Calipari improved to 119-4 at home in his seven seasons. His 119th win tied him with Tubby Smith for the second-most wins by a UK coach in the building named for legendary Wildcats coach Adolph Rupp.
Of the 10 players who started Saturday’s game, only two upperclassmen — LSU junior Tim Quarterman and Kentucky senior Alex Poythress — were on the floor. There were three sophomores and five freshmen among the other eight starters.
The sophomores: Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis and LSU’s Jalyn Patterson and Craig Victor. The freshmen: Simmons and teammate Antonio Blakeney and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe.