Tigers left out of Tournament field
LSU doesn’t earn one of 34 at-large bids
Monday’s NCAA Selection Show has come and gone and the Tigers didn’t hear their names called for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Seven SEC schools made the field of 64, but LSU was not one of them even though the Tigers boasted an RPI of 26.
With obvious disappointment following the NCAA Tournament Committee’s decision, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri as well as players Ben Alsup, Austin Nola and Mikie Mahtook addressed the media.
“This is one of the most disappointing days I’ve had professionally in 29 years as a coach, but not for me personally, really for these kids on my team. They’re heartbroken right now,” said Mainieri. “Obviously at times we didn’t play well enough and at times. We had some unbelievably heartbreaking losses.”
They all conceded that they could have done more during the season to make the decision easier for the committee, but they feel they have done more than enough to deserve inclusion.
“I tracked every game all week that was being played in conference tournaments, and tracked how it affected RPIs for other teams and how it affected ours, and honestly, I thought we were in. By my calculation, and I’m certainly bias about it, but I thought we were in. I felt like we deserved to be,” said LSU’s skipper. “When I saw some of the schools going up there in the early part of the selection show, quite frankly, I didn’t even think that they were in the competition with us for the bid, so obviously I was very surprised about some of the selections.”
Among the players available for interviews, senior Ben Alsup summed up his disappointment in one word - heartbreaking.
“We’ve been in this tournament the past three years and to not make it is really heartbreaking. It’s kind of indescribable,” said Alsup. “Knowing that this is my last year and not coming back is making it even more disheartening. It’s like a sack of bricks hitting you in the face.”
This is the first time since 2007 that the Tigers failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Most experts predicted the Tigers to make the field fairly easily even though they didn’t make the SEC Tournament, so this comes as quite a bit of a surprise.
Here are additional quotes from Paul Mainieri, Mikie Mahtook, Austin Nola and Ben Alsup following the announcement.
How did you feel about your chances of making the field before the show started?
Paul Mainieri: I had some concerns obviously because any time you put a decision into a committee’s hands, there’s a human element involved and so there’s nothing you can ever take for granted. I tracked every game all week that was being played in conference tournaments and tracked how it affected RPIs for other teams and how it affected ours, and honestly, I thought we were in. By my calculation, and I’m certainly bias about it, but I thought we were in. I felt like we deserved to be. When I saw some of the schools going up there in the early part of the selection show, quite frankly, I didn’t even think that they were in the competition with us for the bid so obviously I was very surprised about some of the selections. Any time you put it in the hands of people to make these decisions, you run the risk of getting the short end of the decision. This is why we need to get better. We can’t put ourselves in this position again, but no matter what you do, unless you win the league in the regular season and/or the tournament you don’t know what the result is going to be…This is one of the most disappointing days I’ve had professionally in 29 years as a coach, but not for me personally, really for these kids on my team. They’re heartbroken right now. Obviously at times we didn’t play well enough and at times. We had some unbelievably heartbreaking losses.
What were your thoughts watching the selection show unfold on TV?
Mikie Mahtook: Shocked. We for sure thought we were going to get in. We felt we deserved to get in, but obviously any time you leave it up to chance or fate, we didn’t get into the SEC Tournament. We weren’t one of the top eight in the SEC, obviously we didn’t deserve to get in. That’s tough for us.
Ben Alsup: We’ve been in this tournament the past three years and to not make it is really heartbreaking. It’s kind of indescribable. Knowing that this is my last year and not coming back is making it even more disheartening. It’s like a sack of bricks hitting you in the face. Playing under thee coaches, for this program, with all the great players and great friends that I’ve met here and now I’m going to continue my career somewhere else, which is a great thing, but at the same time this is a hard place to leave with the people, the fans, the greatest fans in college baseball and the program itself. This is one of the best programs in the country over the past 15-20 years.
How hard was the week off last week with no games to play?
MM: That’s probably the toughest part, knowing we had to spend a week in limbo. We didn’t know what was going to go down. We couldn’t play anymore. We couldn’t show the committee that we were playing our best baseball of the year, and we just had to hope that they’d see in the last 15 games we went 12-3 and those types of things, but I guess not making it to the SEC Tournament was a huge factor.
Considering all the young guys on the team, is this about how LSU should have done this season?
MM: No, not at all. We don’t expect to go 13-17 and not make the SEC Tournament. That’s not what you come to LSU to strive for. You try to do as much as you can to win games and make it to Omaha. We had enough talent this year regardless of how young we are to win, and we came up just short in some games. Maybe that was because of the inexperience, but we never go into the season expecting to be 13-17 and come up short of the SEC Tournament.
Austin Nola: You don’t come to LSU expecting to be 13-17. I think we had a lot of talent. We could have done a lot better than what the record came out. We worked hard. We’ll just have to do a little bit better, and we’ll have the find the little things inside our hearts that’s going to get us over the hump and winning those close games.
What was the mood in the room like?
AN: It was anxious. We were all sitting there. We didn’t know what to do. I think the thought on the team the whole week is we’re going to be in the tournament. There was no doubt in our minds, but the human factor came in, and we’ve got to accept the decision and live with it.
How will the feeling of this day affect your decision to go pro, Mikie and Austin?
MM: You don’t want your college career to end on this kind of note. It’s something that me and my family are going to have to asses looking at our options and my future endeavors.
AN: It’s something that you have to access when it comes down to the time of the draft. This feeling is tough to get out of your stomach right now. I’m not even thinking about the draft right now. I’m just thinking about the team and these guys.
Has it sunk in that your career over, Ben?
BA: I definitely feel it now, but I guarantee it’s not going to progressively get better in the next couple days. I feel like it’s going to get worse once I start seeing Regionals played. There’s going to come a point in time next week, couple weeks maybe next month where I have to move on to the next level, and it’s going to be hard to do, to leave these guys behind. I will definitely always be here. I’ve kind of made this my second home.
Did anyone on the team say anything after the selection?
MM: No. We’re kind of still in a state of shock, and I don’t think anybody’s said a word since we found out we weren’t making it. Words can’t really cure the way we’re feeling right now.
Richard Fischer is Tiger Rag’s lead reporter on LSU Baseball. Reach him at email@example.com.