On Tuesday March 13th, the LSU men’s basketball team finished its season. The cause was exhaustion due to lack of depth. The team traveled to Eugene, Oregon for the opening round of the NIT tournament, but passed out about ten minutes into the game. They flew back that night and the following day members of the media were allowed to further inspect the end of the year.
LSU finished the season with a overall record of 18-15 and a conference mark of 7-9. The team will lose three critical members, Storm Warren, Chris Bass and Malcolm White, but will return a loaded roster. By loaded I mean there will be some actual returning talent that can show smalls signs of improvement any maybe compete for a NCAA birth. Justin Hamilton and Anthony Hickey earned all-SEC honors, Johnny O’Bryant can build upon his freshman season and try to tame some of his raw talents. Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner showed some improvement over the second half of SEC play and should be able to carry that momentum into the off season.
I started thinking about this article a few days before the SEC tournament, if LSU would have lost to Arkansas in the opening round I thought Trent Johnson should have been released, instead he who and coached a nice game against Kentucky to earn the NIT bid. Even with how poorly the team competed at Oregon, you can’t blame him. From finding out they were going to the NIT, then where they had to play, and finally try and game plan for Oregon and set up travel, it would had been a tough challenge for any team. Not making excuses for them, just my opinion. Still after the improvement on the season many want a new head coach to lead LSU into next season, but is that a move that needs to be made?
The only question I have to judge if a coach needs to go or not is if he is improving the team, or if the team is regressing. Trent Johnson inherited a competitive team in 2009 that had underperformed under its previous coach and led them to the NCAA tournament, then the bottom fell out. In 2010 and 2011 LSU had two of its worst seasons in history, players had left the program earlier than expected, leaving LSU lacking depth and talent. Johnson and his staff finally put together a nice club for the 2012 season and they had a nice year, and 2013 should be even better. So to answer my question, yes the team is improving, but it is on a 2% grade.
The team is improving, but is he the right fit for LSU. That statement can go in numerous directions, but what I look for is if Johnson is building a program, or just building a team year after year. You don’t have to be a college basketball blue-blood to be considered a program. Just in the SEC, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Florida and Arkansas have all had recent basketball success without all the expenses a Duke, Kentucky, or North Carolina incur. With exception to Arkansas, those teams have all had long tenured coaches that is what LSU needs to be sure they have. All of those team have a constant theme. Mississippi State always has dominate interior play, Florida is super athletic and loves to shoot long jumpers, Arkansas uses it pressure defense to generate offense and Vanderbilt always has great guards. What is LSU’s M.O under Trent Johnson? His first three years did provide adequate information to give me an opinion, but this year we saw he like fast, very fast guards and physical, deep front lines. Now what he have to look for is if he continues to recruit that way.
By my calculations he is two for two answering my questions, but I have one more, and not all questions weigh the same. The final one is if the team has improved year over year and if individual players have improved. To find this out we are going to look at the team stats from the past three years and players that have been in the program that long. Lets first look at Team states.
|2010 LSU||2011 LSU||2012 LSU|
Notice a big difference? I don’t either, which tells me the improvements to the team are minute, and not what you want from a improving program. The only improvement is with average home attendance, and it is in the right direction. The only problem with those number is the PMAC holds 13,000.
There is one issue when trying to evaluate individual player talent over the Trent Johnson era and that is not many players have been in the system for multiple year. The ones who have either digressed or were never anything more than a role player. Only Chris Bass, Storm Warren and Eddie Ludwig have been in the system for three years. Bass’s minutes dropped off from 24, as a sophomore, to only 12 as a senior. Ludwig never averaged more than two points per game or 12 minutes of actions. Storm Warren actually went backwards in production. As a sophomore he average 11 points and eight rebounds. Warren was the second leading scorer and top rebounded in 2010, but production dropped off over the last few years, and his senior year he averages eight points and five rebounds coming off the bench. What you take away from this is not that he failed to develop the players, it you watched LSU you know that isn’t true. Warren and Bass were the verbal leaders of the team and both came off the bench. The talent that Johnson has brought in is better than what was here when he arrived, which isn’t a bad thing. What is important is that the recruits stay here. LSU only returned five players from the 2010 season in 2011, but had nine players from 2011 return for 2012.
Looking ahead to 2013, LSU is out on the recruiting trail trying to improve its overall talent. So far LSU only has one signee in the 2013 class, Malik Morgan. Morgan is the number two guard in Louisiana and should give some depth and height to the Tigers backcourt. Trent Johnson mention in his post-season press conference he will look to sign 2-3 more players. He needs to bring in a good class due to the expectations. For the first time at LSU Johnson is going to have expectations, if he lives up to them he will be here for a while, but if the team struggles I think he will be shown the door. Either way the 2013 season will be the most hyped season for LSU in a few years.
Tags: 2013 Preview Andre Stringer Anthony Hickey Chris Bass College Basketball Eddie Ludwig Johnny O'Bryant Justin Hamilton LSU Basketball Malcolm White Malik Morgan NIT Ralston Turner SEC Storm Warren Trent Johnson