All posts by Scott Rabalais

Scott Rabalais is a sports columnist and sports writer for The Advocate. A Baton Rouge native, he began working at the paper in 1991 and has covered LSU athletics since 1992.

Win over Aggies gives LSU women RPI bump, keeps them in NCAA picture

LSU’s 80-63 romp over then No. 12-ranked Texas A&M on Sunday gave the Lady Tigers an RPI bump and probably kept them in ESPN’s NCAA Tournament projections going into this week’s SEC Tournament.

LSU (16-12, 10-6 SEC) moved up eight spots to No. 71 in Monday’s official NCAA RPI. Meanwhile, ESPN women’s basketball analyst Charlie Creme has LSU hanging in the NCAA Tournament field as a No. 11 seed in the Greensboro Regional, taking on No. 6 Ohio State in a first-round game in Durham, North Carolina.

Despite having lost their previous two games at Arkansas and Ole Miss, Creme actually pushed the Lady Tigers off the “Last Four In” list.

He has the SEC getting seven teams in the NCAA Tournament:

  • South Carolina (27-2, 15-1): No. 1 seed, Oklahoma City Regional
  • Tennessee (24-5, 15-1): No. 2 seed, Spokane Regional
  • Mississippi State (26-5, 11-5): No. 4 seed, Albany Regional
  • Kentucky (21-8, 10-6): No. 4 seed, Greensboro Regional
  • Texas A&M (22-8, 10-6): No. 6 seed, Albany Regional
  • LSU (16-12, 10-6): No. 11 seed, Greensboro Regional
  • Arkansas (16-12, 6-10): No. 12 seed, Spokane Regional

Creme’s latest projection finds Tulane (20-9, 11-7) on the “Last Four Out” list. Tulane’s RPI is No. 50.

LSU will be the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Lady Tigers get a double bye all the way to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they will play No. 5-seeded Texas A&M or No. 12 Florida (13-16, 5-11) or No. 13 Auburn (12-17, 3-13) at about 2:30 p.m. The winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between Florida and Auburn will play A&M in Thursday’s second round.

Despite losing their last two regular-season games, the Aggies’ RPI dropped only from No. 24 Sunday to No. 28 Monday,

LSU has three wins over current Top 50 RPI teams: No. 9 Kentucky, No. 26 Mississippi State and No. 28 Texas A&M.

Nikki Caldwell drops the glasses, but not for the reason you think

Nikki Caldwell’s bio on LSUSports.net mentions her fashion sense. The LSU women’s basketball coach’s collaboration on her on-court outfits with fellow former Tennessee player Shyra Ely-Gash is well documented.

Caldwell in recent years incorporated a thin pair of eye glasses into her look, but the last couple of games they’ve been absent (no jokes about LSU’s inability to shoot straight in Sunday’s 63-41 loss at Arkansas).

Turns out Caldwell isn’t trying to make a new fashion statement: she’s simply out of eye glasses for the time being.

“I’ve lost all my glasses,” Caldwell explained Tuesday. “My last pair got chewed up by my 12-week-old boxer. I’ve got more ordered, they just haven’t come in yet.”

Caldwell’s puppy by the way was named Tupac by her husband, Justin Fargas, after his favorite rap star.

Caldwell said the glasses will be back, with an added twist.

“I’m getting some purple ones,” she said.

SEC TOURNAMENT UPDATE: Caldwell’s Lady Tigers travel to Ole Miss on Thursday to take on the Rebels in a key 6 p.m. matchup on SEC Network+.

LSU is 15-11 and 9-5 in SEC play, while Ole Miss 16-11 and 6-8 after a 67-59 upset Monday of No. 13 Kentucky.

The loss by UK (19-8, 8-6) keeps the Wildcats a game back of LSU in sixth place. Kentucky is also down a tiebreaker to the Lady Tigers, who beat UK 84-79 on Jan. 18.

One more win by LSU at Ole Miss or at home Sunday against Texas A&M or one more loss by UK at Arkansas on Thursday or at home Sunday against No. 2-ranked South Carolina will mean LSU will be no worse than the No. 5 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament.

The Lady Tigers could be as high as the No. 3 seed if they win out while Mississippi State loses at South Carolina or to Ole Miss, with winning out meaning LSU would win the tiebreakers over State and A&M.

If LSU is the No. 3 or 4 seed in the SEC Tournament, the Lady Tigers will get a double bye into the quarterfinals and start playing Friday. If LSU is the No. 5 seed it will play in the second round on Thursday.

LSU women’s RPI drops to No. 67 after loss; SEC tourney possibilities

If there was any evidence needed as to how much the LSU Lady Tigers need a win Thursday at Ole Miss after Sunday’s 63-41 blowout loss at Arkansas, the numbers proved it Monday.

LSU’s RPI dropped from No. 63 to No. 67 according to the list released by the NCAA on Monday. The Lady Tigers slipped to 15-11 overall and 9-5 in SEC play, putting LSU’s brightening NCAA tournament hopes back into greater jeopardy.

During ESPNU’s telecast of Sunday’s LSU-Arkansas game, announcers said ESPN women’s basketball analyst Charlie Creme has the Lady Tigers among his last four teams in the NCAA women’s tournament field of 64.

Creme on Monday updated his bracket with LSU remaining as a No. 11 seed. He now has the Lady Tigers playing at No. 6-seeded Princeton, which is the last undefeated team in women’s basketball at 25-0.

The loss at Arkansas dropped LSU to fifth in the SEC standings, a game behind Mississippi State and Texas A&M (both 10-4) and a half-game ahead of sixth-place Kentucky (8-5).

The Lady Tigers hold tiebreakers over State and Kentucky and have a loss to A&M with a game remaining against the Aggies at home Sunday in the regular season finale.

Ole Miss (15-11, 5-8) hosts Kentucky on Monday before hosting LSU Thursday (6 p.m., SEC Network+). The Rebels lost seven straight SEC games before a 51-46 win last Thursday at last-place Auburn. That losing streak included a 70-41 loss at LSU on Jan. 29.

Here are the possibilities for LSU at this point:

  • If LSU wins out to finish 11-5: The Lady Tigers would at least be the No. 4 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament in North Little Rock, Arkansas. LSU would be the No. 3 seed with two wins and a loss by Mississippi State, which plays Thursday at No. 2-ranked South Carolina.
  • If LSU splits its last two games to finish 10-6: It’s complicated, but the Lady Tigers could be anywhere from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed depending what State, A&M and Kentucky do. Most likely, LSU would be the No. 5 seed.
  • If LSU loses its last two games to finish 9-7: The Lady Tigers would be the No. 5 seed if Kentucky loses two of its last three at Ole Miss, at Arkansas and at home against South Carolina. LSU would be the No. 6 seed if Kentucky wins two of three. The Lady Tigers can’t finish worse than the No. 6 seed because the next best teams (Arkansas and Georgia) already have eight losses.

March 1 LSU-A&M women’s game time set

The LSU Lady Tigers’ March 1 regular season finale against Texas A&M will tip off at 1 p.m., the Southeastern Conference office announced Friday.

The game will be televised by ESPNU.

The LSU-Texas A&M game and Kentucky-South Carolina game on March 1 were part of a flex scheduling package by the SEC and ESPN which was announced at the beginning of the season.

The Lady Tigers, coming off an 86-62 loss Thursday at No. 1 South Carolina, return to action at 7 p.m. next Thursday against No. 24 Georgia in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. That game will only be shown online on SEC Network Plus.

LSU No. 10 seed in NCAA mock tournament selection

INDIANAPOLIS – If the season ended today, the LSU men’s basketball team would be in the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed. That’s the view, anyway, of the mock selection committee, a group of 20 media members who met here Thursday and Friday to go through the process of selecting the 68-team field.

In bracket decisions made Friday, LSU would be the No. 10 seed in the East Regional, taking on No. 7 Ohio State in a second-round game (first full round) in Pittsburgh. The East Regional teams wind up in Syracuse, N.Y.

LSU (17-7, 6-5 SEC) 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.

Meanwhile Louisiana Tech, which got in the field as the projected Conference USA tournament champion, was picked as the No. 13 seed in the Midwest Regional. The Bulldogs were paired with No. 4 Iowa State in a second-round matchup in Louisville, Kentucky.

Twenty members of the media, including this writer, participated in the mock exercise at NCAA headquarters.

The real NCAA bracket will be revealed on Sunday, March 15. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was not present at the mock selection meeting, is in his fourth year of a five-year term on the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee.

For more details on the mock selection process, check back at www.TheAdvocate.com and in Saturday and Sunday’s editions of The Advocate.

LSU men under consideration during NCAA mock tournament selection exercise

INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA held its annual mock basketball tournament selection event Thursday, inviting 20 media members from around the country to participate in an exercise to simulate what the Men’s Division I Basketball Committee goes through to pick the field of 68 teams.

LSU (17-7 overall, 6-5 SEC) was one of the teams committee members voted on to place under consideration for an at-large berth during the exercise.

However, the Tigers were not voted into the field when about three-fourths of the field was selected at the end of Thursday’s meeting.

According to Final Four media coordinator David Worlock, about 10 at-large berths remain to be filled along with the remaining automatic qualifier berths.

For the purposes of the exercise a number of automatic qualifying berths were arbitrarily filled. Among those was placing Louisiana Tech in the field as the automatic qualifier as winner of the Conference USA tournament.

LSU entered Thursday ranked No. 51 in the official NCAA RPI. The Tigers’ RPI and their record has placed LSU squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Mock committee members (which include this reporter) are instructed to select at-large teams based on their current record, not to project how they may or may not do the rest of the season.

The mock selection committee seeded the top four seed lines in the tournament, though those seedings are subject to change.

Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Wisconsin were selected as the No. 1 regional seeds.

The mock selection exercise concludes Friday, culminating with the release of a 68-team bracket. The actual NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed Sunday, March 15.

Visit www.TheAdvocate.com and follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter at @RabalaisAdv for updates.

Raigyne Moncrief named SEC Player of the Week

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Raigyne Moncrief is playing some of the best basketball of her LSU career at the right time, as the Lady Tigers prepare to travel Thursday to play No. 1 South Carolina.

Monday, the Lady Tigers’ sophomore guard was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, according to the conference office.

It is the first such honor for Moncrief in her college career.

Moncrief averaged 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 assists per game last week. She scored an SEC career high 21 points in a 74-65 win over Missouri and had 11 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in Sunday’s 51-39 win over Alabama.

LSU also won 60-49 at Auburn, making the Lady Tigers only the third SEC team to win three conference games in the same week.

The Lady Tigers are now 14-9 overall and 8-3 in SEC play, tied for third with Mississippi State, having won six of their last seven. Were the SEC tournament to begin today, LSU would be the No. 3 seed because it beat Mississippi State.

LSU’s RPI nudged up from No. 69 to No. 67 on Monday. ESPN women’s college basketball analyst Charlie Creme continues to group the Lady Tigers in the “next four out” in his NCAA tournament projections.

 

DaShawn Harden will not play at Tennessee

LSU senior guard DaShawn Harden will not play Thursday night when the Lady Tigers take on No. 5-ranked Tennessee at 6 p.m. in Knoxville, Tennessee, team spokesman Matt Dunaway said.

Harden took an elbow to the eye Sunday about four minutes into the second half of LSU’s 84-79 upset of then No. 10 Kentucky at the PMAC.

She didn’t suffer any bone fractures, LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said, but did suffer some significant swelling around her eye. Caldwell said Harden was not checked for a concussion.

Harden was LSU’s leading scorer with 11.5 points per game until Danielle Ballard became eligible. She is averaging 14.3 points per game in four games since returning from a 14-game suspension to start the season.

The LSU-Tennessee game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Danielle Ballard named USBWA national player of the week

Another day another major honor for junior guard Danielle Ballard – her biggest yet.

Ballard was named Tuesday as the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. This followed honors Monday from the SEC, ESPNW and LSWA.

Ballard averaged 24.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals in LSU’s two upset wins over top 15-ranked teams.

She had 24 points in a 71-69 double overtime win Thursday at then No. 15 Misssissippi State and a career high-tying 25 points Sunday in an 84-79 win over then No. 10 Kentucky.

Ballard is averaging 14.3 points per game in her four games since returning from a 14-game suspension to start the season.

Ballard was not made available for interviews Tuesday.

LSU’s Danielle Ballard earns SEC, ESPNW, LSWA honors

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Danielle Ballard drives for a layup Sunday against Kentucky. Advocate staff photo by Patrick Dennis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No one had a week like LSU’s Danielle Ballard.

The junior guard rose to the occasion just when the Lady Tigers needed her most, scoring 24 points Thursday in a 71-69 upset win at No. 15-ranked Mississippi State and a career high-tying 25 points Sunday in an 84-79 upset of No. 10 Kentucky at the PMAC.

For that, the junior guard from Memphis, Tennessee, was honored Monday as the Southeastern Conference, ESPNW and Louisiana Sports Writers Association player of the week.

In addition to averaging 24.5 points in her last two games, Ballard also averaged 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals.

Her play was reminiscent of her three-game run in the NCAA tournament last year. With first Raigyne Moncrief then Jeanne Kenney sidelined by injuries, Ballard averaged 23.3 points and 14 rebounds per game to carry the Lady Tigers to the regional semifinals.

Eight of Ballard’s 10 career-best scoring games have now come against ranked opponents.

Her efforts allowed LSU (10-8, 4-2 SEC) to post back-to-back wins over ranked teams for the first time since the Lady Tigers made their last trip to the Women’s Final Four during the 2007-08 season.

LSU is in a five-way tie for fourth place in the SEC standings. The Lady Tigers also moved up from No. 98 to No. 87 Monday in the NCAA’s official RPI rankings.

Ballard’s emergence came in a time of emergency for LSU. The Lady Tigers went 6-6 in pre-SEC play, their worst non-conference record in 20 years.

Ballard was suspended for LSU’s first 14 games for a violation of unspecified team rules. She returned two weeks ago, scoring four points each in her first two games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M before erupting in her last two.

While discipline may have been a problem for Ballard, there’s certainly no questioning her ability, as LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said after the Lady Tigers’ win over UK.

“Ballard is an All-American,” Caldwell said. “She’s one of the best guards in the country. And she has the ability to make the other people around her very good.”

LSU returns to action at 6 p.m. Thursday at No. 6 Tennessee, the last of five ranked opponents the Lady Tigers will have played over a six-game span.

LSU is home next Jan. 29 against Ole Miss.