I’ll give the LSU men’s basketball team this: at least they’re not wasting anyone’s time.
The coverage of the men’s team has been lacking this year and that’s mainly on me. I teach, am in grad school, and most games happen on nights when I have class. So for that I apologize.
But! It’s not like they’re giving me anything to talk about since SEC play started. The Tigers lost again Saturday afternoon in the PMAC to Tennessee 77-56 and absolutely wasted these gorgeous throwback uniforms. Personally I think sullying the stars and script is the bigger sin than losing to Tennessee.
The first few weeks of the Matt McMahon era left me rather optimistic for this season. LSU navigated through non-conference play 11-1, the lone loss coming to Kansas State who is now ranked 5th in this week’s AP Poll. And they should have beat them but for some faulty time keeping!
LSU then got out the gate of conference play with an unexpected 60-57 win over then No. 9 ranked Arkansas. The Tigers travelled to Rupp Arena and put up a good fight against Kentucky losing 74-71. The month of January was always going to be rough for LSU but a gritty win over Arkansas and a hard fought road loss in maybe the most intimidating venue in the SEC made me think my prediction of “this team will be better than it has any right to be” would come true.
Since that first week of January, however, it’s been all down hill. LSU’s lost six in a row and at 1-6 in the SEC sit tied with Ole Miss for checks notes ah, right last place.
To be perfectly fair to Matt McMahon and his team: January was going to be rough even with a loaded roster. The SEC’s a really good basketball league nowadays and LSU’s had to face #2 Alabama on the road, #4 Tennessee, and #16 Auburn this month. They’ll also be in Arkansas tomorrow night. That’s a meat grinder of a schedule and LSU would have needed Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, Pete Maravich, Bob Pettit, and Shaq in their peaks to navigate through that stretch unscathed.
Losing on the road against a Final Four caliber Alabama team is understandable (now losing by FORTY and surrendering 106 points? You be the judge). But so far in the critical iffy games LSU had to have if they wanted to be an NCAA Tournament team they’ve failed to get the job done, especially on the offensive end.
LSU scored 56 against Texas A&M and Florida; they scored 49 against Auburn. That Alabama massacre I mentioned? They had 22 at the half. The Tigers are averaging 59 points a game through seven SEC games and have only broken 60 twice. I could wax poetically about offensive sets this and shooting splits that but that would be a whole lot effort to just summarize the problem in three words: they can’t score.
“I knew this was not going to be an easy task when we signed up for it,” McMahon said Saturday after the Tennessee game. “We’ve got to continue to work and fight to try and build not only our team but the foundation of the program.”
Could things turn around for LSU? Maybe? The schedule eases up considerably after Tuesday night’s return trip to Fayetteville. There’s no gimmes on the schedule—especially with the way LSU’s scoring—but beating a Vanderbilt or a South Carolina or an Ole Miss is far more doable compared to the Tigers’ front loaded conference schedule.
I thought LSU would be better than they had any right to be coming into the season. I believed Matt McMahon bringing the nucleus of his 30-win Murray State team to Baton Rouge would’ve been good enough in year one to keep the Tigers somewhere in the middle of the SEC while rebuilding the foundation of the program.
That may not be the case this year anymore though let’s see how they look once the schedule starts easing up. Finishing 8-10 in conference would mean LSU closed the year going 7-3 and I would consider that a strong finish.
And hey don’t write off LSU basketball entirely: the women’s team is kicking ass and if that’s not enough baseball season’s 25 days away.