LSU will most definitely finish in the upper half of the SEC this season
That would mean top 6. We are tied for 8th right now. If we go 3-2 in the last 5 games, which is a reasonable expectation even though it would require winning a road SEC game which we haven't done all year, we'll finish 8-8. I don't know if that's "definitely" in the top half. Going better than 3-2 in the last 5 already takes us out of "definitely" territory regardless of where it would put us in the standings. LSU has a chance, but only a chance, to finish in the top half of the SEC, but it is far from assured, and the odds of doing so are probably no better than even, maybe worse than even.
has a chance to finish in the top 3rd.
To finish in the top 4 would require a sequence of events that would likely only happen if we could write the script. There are four teams in our way for a top 4 finish, and we only play two of them, so we would need to beat those teams (one is on the road) and get some help. A finish outside the top 3rd in the SEC is all but assured. Besides, assuming the SECT is seeded like a normal 12-team tournament, we don't want a #4 or #5 seed anyway, because then we'd have to play Kentucky in the semifinals, assuming we get that far. A #6 seed is much better than a #4 or #5 because we'd avoid Kentucky until the final, assuming we get that far.
That is not bottom tier.
No, that would be our SEC record over the last 20 years (12th out of 12). That's why everybody is going so crazy over MAYBE finishing .500 in the SEC and going to the NIT.
The bottom line is that, right now, there are three teams behind us, seven teams ahead of us, and one team tied with us in the SEC standings. Call it what you want, but a school with LSU's resources should never be pointing to a season like this, in any sport, as the big breakout improvement year after three years of rebuilding.
The interesting things to see over the next couple of years will be A) can we get to a point where we are one of the best two or three teams in the SEC, and B) can we avoid the freefall to 2-4 SEC wins the following year? If we can't do A, then we need to get rid of TJ. If we can do A (after four years of building) but not B, then we might as well have kept Brady. If we can do A and B, then we'll be making progress.