It's football season again at LSU, or it might as well be, after the basketball program announced Sunday that it would not be participating in any postseason tournaments, likely ending the college career of freshman Ben Simmons.
The Tigers were equipped with some of the best young talent in the college game this season, including Simmons, a rare player who is expected to turn pro and be the first overall selection in the NBA draft in June. Freshman Antonio Blakeney was a high school All-American, freshman Brandon Sampson was Mr. Basketball in Louisiana last year as a high school senior and junior Tim Quartermann was already an established playmaker going into the season.
But they underachieved and went out with a whimper Saturday in the semifinals of the SEC tournament, getting shellacked 71-38 by Texas A&M.
It was the lowest scoring game by one team in Division I basketball this season. Enough said.
LSU coach Johnny Jones, who some believe should be on the coaching hot seat, if not fired, took responsibility Sunday in announcing the decision to call it a season and move on.
“We will be able to utilize this time to get better and start preparations for next season,” Jones said in a media release. “We fell short of the mark of getting to the NCAA Tournament; I take full responsibility for this team, and will do the things necessary to make sure we are able to reach one of our main goals at LSU in the future.”
It’s sad to see Simmons go out this way, if, in fact, he turns pro as expected. But it might be best to not force this team to play another game in a tournament with no big prize at the end in light of how awful and disinterested the Tigers appeared Saturday in what amounted to the most important game of their season.
Considering how the Tigers looked Saturday, it's unclear if they would have even received an invitation to a tournament.
The team missed senior Keith Hornsby, its heart and soul and the kind of leader who wouldn’t have allowed Saturday to turn so ugly if he had been on the floor. Hornsby already underwent season-ending surgery on an internal injury that was not disclosed. Jones also noted that Blakeney played with an unspecified illness in the SEC tournament and might not have been available to play next week.
So what had the potential to be one of the best seasons in LSU history at the outset has ended with a thud like Thor’s hammer falling from the sky. It would have been nice to see more of Simmons and his teammates playing at a high level with something on the line, even if it was just an NIT title in New York. But as Mick Jagger once wrote, “You can’t always get what you want.”
More on NCAA tournament
- - - - - - -