It’s not the end of a record-setting streak of unyielding consistency, but rather an opportunity for a new adventure.
That’s the glass-half-full approach LSU coach Paul Mainieri is taking as his team prepares to hit the road for an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, when they played at UCLA. Considering the Tigers weren’t a lock to even be in the field this time last week, the Tigers are just happy to be in the field of 64.
And as fate would have it, LSU is heading far west again.
LSU learned Monday morning that it’ll be heading to Oregon State this weekend as the No. 2 seed in the Corvallis Regional. The Tigers (37-25) will open tournament play against No. 3 seed San Diego State while the hosts take on No. 4 seed Northwestern State (37-22).
That means a rematch with the mighty Beavers (44-10-1), the No. 3 national seed and a team LSU upset twice at the College World Series last summer. Repeating that feat on their turf will certainly prove difficult as the hosts are loaded again and sure to have revenge on their minds.
It’s a funny bit of irony that LSU’s 4-2 run through the Southeastern Conference Tournament bumped it up to a No. 2 seed, which has now landed them in a regional with one of the top national seeds, but Mainieri didn’t convey any concern about LSU’s landing spot.
“Everybody in the NCAA Tournament is good,” the coach said. “It doesn’t matter who you play and where you play. You’re going to have to beat championship teams. Everybody either won a conference championship or earned an at-large bid.”
The Corvallis Regional is paired with the Minneapolis Regional, hosted by No, 14 Minnesota, meaning the teams that advance from each four-team will meet in the supers for a chance to advance into the College World Series.
LSU can’t get caught looking ahead to Oregon State, though. The Tigers will begin the regional by playing the Mountain West Champions in San Diego State (39-19) at 3 p.m. CT. Oregon State and Northwestern State will begin the other half of the double-elimination tournament at 9:30 p.m. CT.
“They had some of the best teams I ever coached against (during my tenure at Air Force),” Mainieri said. “Those teams are filled with Southern California kids and all know how to play. Honestly, I’m not even thinking about Oregon State right now, I’m just thinking about having a good game against San Diego State.”