Well, thank God it's nearly baseball season, so we can now stop gawking at the train wreck that is the LSU basketball team. We didn't exactly have high hopes for this season, but I don't think anyone expected the team to be THIS bad. Heck, I was even hoping we might make the NIT this year, though I knew it wasn't a sure thing. Instead, this team is simply wretched.
So, how did it get here and how do we get out of this hole? Why is LSU basketball this bad? Oh, let's count the ways.
THE UPPERCLASSMEN VOID. There is not a single senior on the roster. Not one. There are five juniors on the team, only three of whom were on the team last year. Let's call this the core of the team. You don't need these guys to be studs, but you need some sort of contribution from your veterans. Storm Warren, Chris Bass, and Garrett Green have combined for 22 starts out of a possible 75. At least they are in the rotation, but only Storm has double digit starts or averages at least 20 minutes a game (and it's exactly 20 minutes).
Bass actually distributes the ball decently (62-37 Assist to Turnover ratio), but his complete inability to shoot has curtailed his effectiveness . He's shooting 28.8% from the field. Not a misprint. You can't play big time college basketball and shoot below 30%. Green can at least rebound decently, but he's not exactly a playmaker underneath either. The three core players on this team aren't quite giving us nothing, but it's pretty close.
WE CAN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT. LSU is shooting 40.0% on the season, which isn't horrible, but it's not great. But dig slightly deeper. Four of LSU's top five scorers shoot under 40% from the field, including the top two. LSU does not have a single guard on the team shooting at least 40%, regardless of the number of attempts. The only way LSU can score reliably is to take layups on the inside, and LSU lacks size on the inside. In fact, no listed center on the roster has played a single minute this year. No defense has any reason to respect LSU's outside shot, which means they can pack the lane, making it even more difficult to get easy looks.
LOUISIANA DOESN'T CRANK OUT PLAYERS. As Paul often points out, the most important factor in recruiting is proximity. The top Louisiana high school athletes are playing football, not basketball. LSU only has six Louisiana players on its roster. Our two leading scorers both come from out of state. It's not like Louisiana is completely barren, but it does lack top tier impact players.
LOSING BEGETS LOSING. Pretend you are a top recruit from Louisiana. You can go to any school in the country, but you want to give the local school a look. You go to a game and not only do you see a dismal team, but you see empty stands. You pick up the paper the next day, and there is virtually no coverage of the most recent debacle, as the media focuses on football or the upcoming baseball season. Ask yourself, why on earth would you come to LSU? What are we selling right now?
Also, the one-and-done rules favor the basketball powers. If LSU is fortunate enough to ever get that sort of elite talent, you can't build a program around him. He's gone in a year. But honestly, LSU isn't going to get the guy because the elite schools now get their pick of the elite talents. OK, it was always this way, but UNC used to at least be limited by keeping guys on the roster. But now, the elite schools constantly have open roster spots, and even playing time to sell to big time recruits. The roster turnover at major schools means they need to keep getting these top players, and it further freezes a school like LSU out. We're not getting the next John Wall, and even if we did, the program likely wouldn't improve longterm.
BASEBALL. But you know what? We could overcome all of these factors if we just invested in basketball as fans and as an administration. But it's not going to happen because we have baseball. Football lasts until January, and recruiting can tide you over to the first week of February. First and foremost, LSU is a football school and we treat other sports as the dead time waiting for the next football game. Baseball starts this weekend, which means the average LSU fan really only had to pay attention to basketball for a month at the most, a week if the fan is obsessed with recruiting.
At the end of the day, we don't really care that basketball stinks. Would it be great if we could go back to the days of Dale Brown and the Deafdome? Sure. But we're now invested in the baseball team instead. That's now the sport that gets us through the long dark period before football begins.
Basketball is dying at LSU. And baseball killed it.