It’s officially February. Which means LSU is half way through their SEC basketball schedule. Their play hasn’t been great, but is it alright to just call them awful and move on, or should we look at the progression of this season compared to the last few dreadful runs? I think the latter is the correct approach to this, so this should be fun, right? ( just nod and agree)
Watching LSU against their SEC foes has been the equivalent of watching a bad movie. We have all done this, there was a movie that you did not see because you thought the trailer or actors sucked, but a friend recommended it. So you sit down and begin to watch this three hour epic, and you soon realize that you should have stuck to your gut decision. Making your way half- way through, you have to make a decision to stop it and catch up on DVR episodes of Jersey Shore (don’t act like you don’t watch) or finish out the movie. This is a place a lot of LSU fans are in over this basketball team. Do you continue cheering them on, or do you start getting ready for baseball season and forget this season ever happened?
I say hold your horses, maybe this movie has a surprise ending. Sure it is a long shot, but I am saying there is a shot. LSU has already played most of their toughest games on the road and at home. It is a proven fact that playing at home is better than on the road, and of LSU’s last nine games, five of them are at home (Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia and Tennessee). Of the four road games, three of them are winnable games (South Carolina, Ole Miss and Auburn). LSU will enter Saturday’s game against Arkansas with a record of 12-9 and 2-5 in the SEC. At best, LSU should finish out the last nine games with a 6-3 record. If LSU does that and wins a game or two in the SEC tournament, they could make it to a post-season tournament. Not the big one, but the NIT would be nice. At worst, LSU could finish with a 3-6 record. Finishing any worse than this and I think Trent Johnson’s seat might start to burn his bottom.
If the Tigers go 3-6 down the stretch they would finish the season at 15-15. This isn’t a record to brag about, but it is an improvement over the last few years. Improvement is what we all want, right? Look at the chart below, it breaks down the major statistics for the basketball team, comparing this season with the last two. Notice how the numbers, though minimal, are stronger than the last couple of years. (Editor’s notes: Stats collected at NCAA.org and the number in parentheses is their national rank. Also there are 338 division one basketball teams).
|Scoring Offense||66.4 (208)||62.2 (298)||61.5 (302)|
|Scoring Defense||62.8 (71)||66.6 (126)||66.4 (125)|
|Field Goal %||40.7 (284)||40.0 (307)||40.0 (308)|
|Rebounding Margin||.4 (170)||-2.1 (256)||1.0 (154)|
|Turnover Margin||2.8 (37)||-1.1 (255)||-.5 (206)|
|Free Throw %||70.1 (126)||66.5 (252)||69 (149)|
Only two stats have shown serious improvement from last year, rebounding and turnover margin. The addition of Anthony Hickey and Justin Hamilton has been a huge improvement at the point-guard and center position, and their play on the court has backed it up. Unfortunately, the rest of the stats look eerily similar to the last two seasons or are slightly better.
In my last column I was over critical of Trent Johnson. This was an isolated incident because LSU needed a strong performance to lure in the casual fan to support the Tigers down the stretch of SEC play. For a moment, the PMAC reverted back to the Deaf Dome days and the crowd was impacting the team’s performance. Due to the bad loss, LSU will not see a crowd as strong as they did on Saturday, and at best fans will only fill half of the PMAC.
It would be an understatement saying the last month of the season is going to be huge. LSU fans are not basketball fans, they are LSU fans. They want a winner, not an average or worse team, no matter what the sport is. This team over the last month can not just show improvement, they need to win and win more than they lose. If the Tigers finish poorly, LSU might have to get rid of Trent Johnson and try to start over.
Let’s hope that the last month of the LSU basketball movie doesn’t earn a rotten tomato.