The LSU women’s basketball team will launch its 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament from the comforts of home.
The Tigers (28-2) are the No. 3 seed in the Greenville, South Carolina 2 Region and will host No. 14 Hawaii (18-14) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center when the first round of the tournament tips off Friday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Tigers were an at-large selection, while the Rainbows won the Big West Conference Tournament.
The other first-round matchup in Baton Rouge has No. 6 Michigan (22-9), an at-large selection from the Big 10 Conference, facing No. 11 UNLV (31-2), the Mountain West Conference champion, at 2 p.m.
The winners of two games will meet Sunday at a time to be announced.
“We could have been the two seed and they (No. 2 seed Utah) could have been the three,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “It doesn’t matter. You’re gonna have to play good teams along the way. The first most important thing is that we get to host. I know how loud it was in here when we hosted last year.”
It marks the second consecutive year LSU, 44-27 in NCAA postseason play, will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and 14th time in school history. The Tigers, who were seeded third, defeated Jackson State 83-77 before falling 79-64 to Ohio State in the second round.
LSU hadn’t hosted a tournament game in seven years until Mulkey guided the Tigers to a 25-5 regular-season mark in her first season. This is the first time since 2013-14 the Tigers have hosted in consecutive years with Mulkey leading a roster with only one returning starter (Alexis Morris) to a 28-2 record and second straight runner-up finish in the Southeastern Conference.
The Tigers received a double-bye in the SEC Tournament and advanced to the semifinal round where they blew a 17-point second quarter lead and lost to Tennessee, 69-67.
LSU, ranked No. 9 in the final regular-season poll by The Associated Press, was a No. 2 seed during both of the regular-season reveals by the NCAA’s Selection Committee.
Observers have long taken issue with LSU’s non-conference schedule which ranks No. 309 according to WarrenNolan.com. The Tigers have a solid NET ranking of No. 3, but are No. 13 in the RPI because of a schedule in which the Tigers are 5-2 against Quad 1 teams and 23-0 against Quad 2-4 teams.
“I look back and reflect on last year’s non-conference to this year’s non-conference,” Mulkey said. “Did we improve? Absolutely, we did. Then I go to last year’s conference record to this year’s conference record. Did we improve? Absolutely we did. Then you go to the conference tournament. We didn’t win a game (last year), but we won one this year. Did we improve? You bet we did.
“Now can we improve during the postseason? We won one game here (last year),” Mulkey added. “Can we win two? And if we win two, we go to back to Greenville (S.C., recently the site of the SEC tournament). Greenville is doable for our fans.”