LSU Basketball Looking at a Possible NIT Bid, Whether It’s an Automatic Bid or Not Could Hinge on SEC Tournament

Trae Hannibal had a career-high 24 points and led a second-half comeback that saw LSU go up by 21 before having to stave off Missouri late and hold on to finish in the upper half of the SEC one year after going 2-16 and finishing dead last in the conference. PHOTO by LSU Athletics

A trip to the NCAA tournament looks to be out of reach for LSU basketball, but the SEC tournament and a potential NIT bid are still on the line for the Tigers this season.

The NIT adopted a new selection format this season that has automatic bids for the top two teams from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC that did not make the NCAA tournament. The two highest teams based on NET rankings, regardless of win-loss record, will be given the chance to hot a came in the first round of the NIT.

ESPN currently has seven SEC schools projected to make the NCAA tournament meaning LSU will need to be in eighth or ninth place in the conference to secure an automatic bid.

Texas A&M is currently sitting as one of the first teams out in the ESPN projection. If the Aggies manage to make NCAA tournament and the SEC sends eight schools to March Madness, a 10th place SEC finish for LSU would be enough to qualify for an automatic bid. Fox Sports’ projection currently has eight SEC schools in the NCAA tournament.

LSU currently sits just behind Ole Miss in the NET rankings at tenth place in the conference. Ole Miss ended the season with two straight losses to Georgia and Texas A&M. Ole Miss plays the Aggies again on Thursday in the SEC tournament.

LSU is ranked at 92nd in the NET rankings with Ole Miss barely pulling ahead by just two spots in 90th place.

If LSU can’t claim an automatic bid, it can still make the tournament as one of the 20 at-large schools selected by the NIT Committee. The top four at-large schools are given places in the top 16 seeds and can host a game.

NET rankings are calculated using strength of schedule, game location, net offensive and defensive efficiency and the quality of wins and losses. It replaced RPI in the 2018-19 season as the way the NCAA evaluated teams.

LSU plays a Mississippi State team coming off four straight losses in the SEC tournament on Thursday. Mississippi State beat LSU 87-67 in the first matchup, but that was the last regular season game the Bulldogs were able to win. The winner will play No. 1 seed Tennessee in the next round.

Despite beating LSU the first time around and having a better overall record than the Tigers, Mississippi State is the No. 9 seed while LSU is the No. 8 seed. However, in the NET rankings the Bulldogs are four spots above LSU and sit in sixth place in the SEC.

LSU enters the SEC tournament after beating Missouri and winning five of its last seven games. That stretch includes wins over ranked Kentucky and South Carolina.

Mississippi State is one of the last teams into the NCAA tournament in the ESPN projection and is one of the first teams out in the CBS Sports projection. Losing in the SEC tournament might actually secure LSU an NIT bit.

If Mississippi State beats LSU and manages to be the eighth SEC team in the NCAA tournament, a 10th place finish would be all LSU needs to make the NIT. LSU is nine spots ahead of 11th place Georgia in the overall NET rankings.

Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament will be at 5 p.m. on March 17. The NIT selections will be announced on ESPN 2 that evening.

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Will Nickel


  1. Will Nickel is it? Ok. What in the hell is wrong with you? Who cares about an automatic bid to the NIT (or what I like to say Not In Tournament)? Your rant almost sounded to me like you want LSU to lose to Mississippi State just so we can get an automatic bid to the NIT. In fact your whole ridiculous article was about it. I agree with you on the NET Rankings and that LSU is in a tough spot but the fact of the matter is we’re playing well, just beat SC and Kentucky, and the committee likes having teams playing well now in the tournament. Not a Mississippi St. or Ole Miss team who is struggling. I honestly think we can get an at large bid just by beating Mississippi St. and Tennessee and who knows maybe we can shock everyone and win the SEC tournament. This certainly wouldn’t be the LSU team I would put money on to do that but there’s always that chance. Having said that ease up with your NIT agenda man. I guarantee there’s not a player on our team or even another true LSU fan who is hopeful for an NIT bid. Stop with your nonsense.

  2. Ty Trichell, is it? . . . Just playing with you. I read Will’s article. I saw no rant, but okay. The fact is LSU’s NET Ranking is in the 90s. The fact is the only way LSU has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament is if they win the SEC Tournament, so, the Tigers would have to beat Mississippi State, Tennessee, then probably Auburn or South Carolina, or maybe Arkansas (likely Auburn) then probably Alabama or Kentucky in the championship. Four wins in four days. Could LSU pull it off? Of course it! It could be just like 1986 all over again. But if LSU doesn’t win all four games in four days and bring home the SEC Title, it’s damn near impossible because everything is so strongly weighted on the NET these days. LSU actually dropped in the NET rankings after beating Missouri in its final game of the regular season. Also, LSU is the No. 8 Seed in the SEC, but No.7 Texas A&M (who LSU split with in the regular season) is ranked more than 40 spots higher in the almighty NET. Texas A&M is believed to have to win at least one game to make the NCAA Tournament. Miss. State, the No. 9 seed, needs one win (maybe two) in the tournament to make it a lock for the NCAA Tournament field, so the Bracketologist’s say. But former LSU coach John Brady said on Tiger Rag Radio on Tuesday night he thinks State is already in the NCAA Tournament no matters to them in the SEC Tournament . . . because of the NET. So, Ty, I feel your pain, but barring a repeat of 1986, which everyone somehow associated with LSU would love to see, including Will Nickel, I’m sure, the best postseason alternative available for the Tigers is the NIT unless LSU wins the SEC Tournament. Right now, LSU is not even assured of an NIT bid. But, get this, if Texas A&M wins its first SEC Tournament game, LSU likely clinches a NIT bid, no matter what happens against Mississippi State on Thursday. Whacky world, huh?

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