Posted at 4:20 pm on March 7, 2018

Notebook: LSU, a high-seeded NIT projection with fringe NCAA Tournament hopes, is “here to win some games” at the SEC Tournament

Photo by Gus Stark/LSU
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ST. LOUIS — LSU guard Skylar Mays arrived in St. Louis ready to win, but he wasn’t quite ready for the cold, sartorially speaking.

When the sophomore hopped off the team plane into the snowy climate of St. Louis, he wasn’t wearing socks. The 70-degree weather he left behind in Baton Rouge didn’t necessitate them, but he quickly put a pair on when he felt the frigid Midwestern temperatures at his destination – and the playful ribbing directed from head coach Will Wade.

“Coach was on me, because I got off the plan with no socks on,” Mays laughed. “They said it might snow. I was expecting it. But we play in a gym.”

And Mays likes that gym. The Scottrade Center typically hosts hockey matches for the St. Louis Blues and is far from balmy, even indoors, but being in a new town after LSU went one-and-done last year in Nashville is fine by Mays. So, too, is showing up with a 17-13 record, including an 8-10 conference record, that has LSU looking the part of a highly-seeded NIT squad heading into Thursday’s 6 p.m. tip with Mississippi State

“It’s a different setting, a different town,” Mays said. “I like the way the gym’s set up. We’re coming here to win some games.”

NYCBuckets.com currently places LSU as a No. 2 seed in the NIT, alongside the Bulldogs, whom the Tigers handled 78-57 at home over the weekend. Throw in two or three wins this week, though, and things could get interesting, come Selection Sunday. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi tweeted earlier Wednesday LSU was a “fringe” NCAA Tournament team. The bulk of LSU’s resume comes from its strong wins: six of the Quadrant 1 variety, a new factor the selection committee will consider. Such wins include: home wins over teams with RPIs between 1-30; neutral site wins over teams ranked 1-50; and road wins over teams ranked 1-75.

They’ll have to win them with a banged up Tremont Waters, who suffered a broken nose in Monday’s practice before the team left Baton Rouge. Waters didn’t want to talk about the injury, but he is fired up to prove the preseason prognosticators who picked LSU to finish last in the SEC wrong.

“It’s a great feeling to be a freshman guard and play with a team that came from where they’ve come since last season,” Waters said. “Knowing I’ll be able to pretty much run the show, play with Skylar Mays, Brandon Sampson, all these guys. As far as we’ve come since the preseason rankings, I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job. Hopefully we can come out, win some games, and hopefully win the championship.”

Waters is the only backcourt player with an injury to deal with, as Daryl Edwards, who played just 11 minutes against Mississippi State after missing LSU’s loss to South Carolina with a bone bruise on his hip, is “fine,” to quote head coach Will Wade. He’s been a full-go in practice and will be available for a full minutes load, Wade said Wednesday.

“That was just more a product of the game, how the game was going, starting Randy (Onwuasor) on Senior Night, that sort of thing,” Wade said.

Wade will have his options to pick from at the 3 spot. In addition to Edwards and Onwuasor, Brandon Sampson is available and coming off a 16-point effort in LSU’s win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.

“We’ll figure it out,” Wade said. “I haven’t decided quite yet.”

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