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The Successful Failure

LSU hoops lost, but the program looks like it is turning into a winner

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Mississippi State vs LSU
The little guy finds a way
Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

The season ended with a furious rally that fell just short.

Tremont Waters, of course, hit a pressure three in the waning seconds to give the Tigers a chance, but the team couldn’t find a Bulldog to foul on the inbounds play. Brandon Rachal’s half court prayer went unanswered.

It was a fitting end for the LSU basketball team. The team was outmanned all season long and despite the furious effort of the players, they couldn’t quite dig out of the hole. However, this season will likely be viewed as a success by a majority of fans.

There were plenty of chances for the Tigers to give up on the season. On paper, this was the worst team in a suddenly competitive SEC. At midseason, Will Wade kicked off several players, weakening an already bare bones roster. The team persevered, and fought gallantly to the end.

As a general rule, we’re against moral victories around this place. Moral victories are more commonly referred to as losses, and losing sucks. So I don’t want to get in the habit of praising a team for being almost but not quite, but if any team deserves credit for simply playing hard and giving fans hope, it was this one.

In case you forgot, or just conveniently blocked it from your memory, last year’s team finished 2-16 in the SEC and 10-21 overall. At one point last year, the team lost fifteen consecutive games, and only four of those games were within 10 points. Only one was decided by a single basket. LSU limped into the SEC tournament and lost by 27 points to 12th seeded Mississippi St.

This was incredible progress in just one year. And Will Wade did it with essentially only two viable frontcourt players on the roster, Duop Reath and Aaron Epps. LSU was at a severe matchup disadvantage in nearly every game this season, given the lack of frontcourt depth. It was a glaring hole in the roster that every opponent could exploit.

Still, this team found a way to finish 8-10 in conference. Tremont Waters blossomed into a superstar before our eyes, hitting remarkable shot after remarkable shot. Given his small frame, he’s not considered much of NBA prospect, so LSU fans will at least get to enjoy him for another year. Upon this rock, Will Wade will build his program.

Wade had a thin frontcourt this season, and he loses both Epps and Reath to graduation. He’s already recruited some big time names to come in and fill the void, and Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams becomes eligible next season. The lack of size could still be a problem going forward, but Wade is working on it.

And that’s what gives me the most confidence. Will Wade has shown himself adept at dealing with every challenge. When he took the job, I thought his first year success depended on convincing Antonio Blakeney to stay one more year. I was wrong. Blakeney left for the NBA, but it gave space for Wayde Sims to further develop and for Waters to explode on to the scene. He had a plan, and his plan was bigger than one player.

This program changed directions this season and for the first time in a long time, seems pointed in the right direction towards longterm, sustainable success. This wasn’t the team to bring LSU back to the tournament, but it was the team that provided the path back to success.

I cannot wait to see the next step. With Wade and Waters, I’m confident the next step will be the right one.