LSU heads into the SEC tournament this week on what most believe is the fringe of hosting an NCAA regional.
The Tigers finished third in the SEC, won 40 games and have an RPI of 16. What do they need to do in Hoover to be one of the 16 team that host a regional next weekend?
Who knows? But coach Paul Mainieri explained his thoughts on the matter while expressing frustration at the NCAA selection committee’s past decisions.
Q: What do you think you have to do in Hoover to host an NCAA regional?
Mainieri: That seems to be the most popular question now a days. I’ve thought about it a lot. I wish I could give you a good answer.
It would be my opinion because nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors when those committees meet.
It seems like when you play poorly in the conference tournaments, a rational for getting the short-end of a decision is that you didn’t play well in the conference tournament. If you play well, but you don’t get it, they say, ‘well what you did in the SEC tournament doesn’t really matter.’
I don’t really know what the answer is. It can’t hurt to do well, that’s for sure.
I know that they announce the host sties prior to the championship game being over Sunday. Common sense would tell you that the only thing that counts in are the game leading up to Sunday.
Hypothetically, if we were to have success on Wednesday, Thursday, have Friday off and success on Saturday, you’d have three more wins on your resume against three pretty good ball clubs. I don’t think that can hurt. Whether or not it’s enough or whether the decision’s been made before that, I couldn’t tell you.
I can tell you this: In my opinion, what we’ve done already is worthy of hosting an NCAA regional. We’re the third-best team in the SEC. That’s why we play 30 games, to determine how each team falls into place. And we finished third.
You can argue, ‘This (team has) got a higher RPI or this (team has) got a higher strength of schedule.’
You can say all you want, the bottom line is we’re the third-best team in the SEC. I think the third-best team in the SEC deserves to host a regional.
Q: The NCAA could spread the host sites around instead of giving five to the SEC, right?
Mainieri: The philosophy of the selection committee … do they want the best 64 teams or do they want to spread it around the country? Do the five teams that have won 40 games in the SEC deserve to host it? They’ve built beautiful stadiums. They’ve invested in the programs. The teams have been successful.
Do we not give them what they deserve simply because we want to spread it around the country. I think it comes down to what is the philosophy of the selection committee?
Q: Is it frustrating that some years RPI is big and some years it’s not?
Mainieri: My feeling about it is this: I read in a blog a comment about our strength of schedule, ok?
This is the thing: The RPI takes in to account the strength of schedule. So, if you’re RPI is 13 or 15, it’s already taken into account so don’t tell me we’re not going to get a site because of our strength of schedule. If you’re going to say that then ULL doesn’t deserve one. Their strength of schedule is (117). Cal Poly’s is (148). Oregon State’s is (57), or whatever. The RPI is what it is and it takes that stuff into an account.
I can tell you when I scheduled Purdue they were a national seed. I said, ‘OK, here’s an up and coming program. Let’s play these guys.’
SEC schools have played them, like, three years in a row so I put them on the schedule. I put Virginia Tech on the schedule last year after they hosted a regional. That’s when I scheduled the game, after they hosted a regional.
Well, they both go out and finish last in their league this year. How can you control those things?
Q: And you were supposed to play Southern Cal, right?
Mainieri: We were supposed to play USC and what’s USC? They’re not going to make the NCAA tournament. It would have sounded great, but it probably would have been held against us as well. So that’s the point. You make the schedules and you don’t know what kind of team they’re going to have.
Strength of schedule is what it is, but that’s already been calculated into the RPI. Don’t say, ‘We’re here.’ That’s the only thing that irritates me. I think the committee, sometimes to rationalize their decisions, could come up with … they can use numbers however they want to.
One of the big things is how do you do in your last 15 games? How did you finish? Well, in 2011, we went 12-3 in our last 15 games and don’t even get a bid with an RPI of (26) and a 36-20 record.
You look at Kentucky right now … what’s their record? With an RPI of (22). Nobody’s talking about them not making the NCAA tournament and yet we were 36-20 with an RPI of (26) and we don’t make the tournament.
From year to year, everything changes and that’s frustrating.
Q: Do you have an idea of the teams you may be competing with to get that host site?
Mainieri: You obviously got the other SEC teams.
This is the thing you have to ask yourself: Does Vanderbilt deserve to host over us? They finished sixth in the SEC. Now, their RPI is 6. God bless them. But they’re sixth in the league. Why do we play 30 games to determine the rankings, right?
Does Ole Miss? Ole Miss finished ahead of us in the rankings, but we beat them two out of three head to head and I could argue that if we didn’t have a rainout against Alabama and if we would have finished the game and not had the tie and won that, we would have won the SEC West. The difference between the two teams is incremental.
I’m not saying we deserve it over Ole Miss. I sent a text message to Mike Bianco Sunday morning congratulated him and telling him he earned it. They won it fair and square and he appreciated it. But if it comes down to who deserves to host between us and Ole Miss … I don’t think it should.
Their RPI is 13. Ours is 16. In two or three games, ours might be 13 and theirs might be 16. So who would deserve it more. To me it’s a non-discernible difference. I think both of us deserve it. The SEC should have five host sites.
Q: How important are possible games in Hoover against those like Vanderbilt and Ole Miss?
Mainieri: I don’t know.
Say hypothetically, Vanderbilt were to beat Tennessee and we play Vanderbilt and we win. All of a sudden, we’ve got a 2-2 record against them.
Suppose Ole Miss wins their game, we play them (and win). Now we’ve got a 3-1 record against them.
It’s all speculation. I don’t know how they calculate it and I don’t know what conversations take place behind the doors. I really believe there’s nothing but tremendous integrity and people are doing what they think is best. But, obviously, where you sit is where you stand. You know … you’d like to see us … I feel like we’ve earned it. You win 40 games playing an SEC schedule.
We have the least amount of overall loses of all the teams in the SEC (tied with South Carolina). Outside of Florida, we have the least amount of losses in SEC play (tied with Ole Miss).
That’s a pretty good year. I think that deserve (a host), but I’m not the decision makers. We’ll deal with it when it comes.
Q: And they release the host sites Sunday, before the SEC tournament final?
Mainieri: They come out Sunday afternoon. We’re in the middle of the (SEC title game) when they’re announcing them.
Whether you win the SEC tournament is, obviously, not calculated into it. Which I find that so strange. When we won the tournament in 2010, we got sent to UCLA. And they came out and said, ‘Conference tournaments don’t play that much of a role.’
There’s other years when you do well and that’s the excuse made for you not to get a positive decision. Is it important? Is it not important? The committee changes all of the time too. So what’s important to one company might not be as important as the other.