Back on the bubble, can LSU inch up SEC standings?

Remember a week ago when LSU wasn’t in shouting distance of the NCAA tournament bubble?

Well, now they appear perched right on it after a emerging from a crucial seven-day span.

With Kentucky set to arrive in Baton Rouge last Tuesday, the Tigers needed a quality win to spruce up their postseason credentials. The swiped it with an 87-82 upset. Next, Johnny Jones’ crew needed to avoid a let down against Arkansas. Done.

LSU also picked up three points in the AP top-25 poll, which was released late Monday morning. WBAL-TV’s Chris Dachille slotted the Tigers No. 24. Fletcher Mackel of New Orleans’ WDSU-TV had them in the poll at No. 25.

The NCAA also released its weekly RPI update, and LSU sat at No. 54. Four SEC teams were in front of the Tigers, but the quartet of Florida (No. 5), Kentucky (No. 13), Tennessee (No. 39) and Missouri (No. 52) have been considered the group that could represent the conference in the field of 68.

Meanwhile, the Tigers’ projected RPI lands at No. 50 and calls for a 20-10 finish to the regular season and an 11-7 mark in the SEC. Again, it would seem LSU is back in the mix to be one of the final teams to sneak into the field, probably having to fly to Dayton, Ohio, for a play-in game. No, it’s not optimal, but it would end a four-year drought from March Madness. Below is a list of bracket gurus’ current projections:

  • USA Today: Last five in, a No. 11 seed.
  • CBS Sports: Last four in, a No. 11 seed.
  • ESPN: Last four in the field.
  • SI.com: Last four in the field, a No. 11 seed.

As we documented last week, too, the Tigers’ schedule softens up in February. This week, the Tigers visit Georgia (No. 140 RPI) and host Auburn (No. 175), which doesn’t exactly provide a booster shot. So LSU needs to hope Missouri can knock off Florida, which would raise Mizzou’s rating and have a positive trickle down to LSU.

Meanwhile, this week holds another prime chance for Jones’ bunch to move up the SEC standings. LSU (13-6, 5-3 SEC) is currently fifth, but has two winnable games this week that could — optimally — boost the Tigers to a 7-3 league mark. Ole Miss (15-6, 6-2) travels to Kentucky on Tuesday and hosts Missouri on Saturday. Not an easy span for the Rebels, who will get a stress test as to their staying power in the SEC’s upper tier.