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LSU athletic director Joe Alleva

Despite questions swirling around the LSU men’s basketball program, athletic director Joe Alleva said emphatically Wednesday the Tigers will participate in the NCAA tournament that gets underway next week.

Speaking on a teleconference with The Advocate editorial board from Nashville, Tennessee, Alleva didn’t mince words when asked if the Tigers would play in the tournament after the university’s indefinite suspension of second-year head coach Will Wade last Friday.

“Absolutely,” Alleva said. “Absolutely.”

Wade was suspended after declining to meet with LSU President F. King Alexander and Alleva, who wanted him to explain comments he made on a secretly recorded FBI phone call with federally convicted recruiting middleman Christian Dawkins.

The conversation, according to a national report, appeared to be about a recruiting offer to LSU freshman guard Javonte Smart.

Smart, a former three-time Louisiana Mr. Basketball pick from Scotlandville High School, was held out of the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt last Saturday by school officials while they investigated the report of possible recruiting improprieties with Smart, his mother and at least two other individuals.

Smart was still waiting to be cleared when he left with the team Wednesday for Nashville, where the Tigers begin play in the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday as the No. 1 seed after winning the league’s regular-season title.

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A virtual lock for the NCAA tournament, LSU is projected as a No. 2 or 3 seed. Some of the nation’s most widely known bracketologists have predicted the Tigers could grab a No. 1 regional seed if they were to win the SEC tournament.

Alleva, who in 2016 completed a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, told The Advocate he doesn’t think the controversy will impact the Tigers’ seeding when the tournament brackets are revealed Sunday afternoon.

“The rules in how they do business, it should not,” he said. “However, let’s remember everyone in that room is a human, and subconsciously, they might take that into consideration. But they’re supposed to go by the facts of how the team has performed throughout the year.

“I don’t really think it will. It should not affect our seeding.”

About 90 minutes later, Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, the chairman of the 10-person NCAA selection committee, made similar comments on a conference call with reporters before the committee began five days of deliberations to fill the 68-team tournament field.

Muir was asked about the uncertainty of the LSU situation, considering Wade likely won’t be reinstated by the time the NCAA tournament begins March 21.

Selection committee members will look at LSU and other teams that have player availability issues, injuries, suspensions and other uncertainties, he said, before adding they would be in consultation with the SEC office as well.

“We'll watch what happens in the SEC tournament, observe how in this case the Tigers will play in the coming week, then make our assessments as to where we think they should fall as we move forward with this process,” Muir said.

Muir was also asked if there was any chance LSU wouldn’t be in the tournament, considering what the committee knows at this point.

“That’s an institutional decision. ... They’re working through their process,” he said. “But as far as we know, they’re eligible for the tournament.”

He said the Tigers would be evaluated in the SEC tournament, like any other school, then make judgments as it compares to the rest of the field.

Muir noted he hadn't recently remembered a head coach being suspended going into the tournament.

“I know during the course of a season, you’ll have a coach sit out or have to sit out for a number of different reasons,” he said. “It requires us to just spend some time to really talk thoroughly about a particular team, how we think they might do.

“We’re not speculating on anything. We don’t reserve judgment.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.