Why LSU basketball feels hopeless after Tuesday’s loss to the Florida Gators

While LSU women's basketball trends upward, the LSU men's basketball team is stuck in neutral. In other words, they're not good, and the progress isn't sufficient.

Feb 13, 2024; Gainesville, Florida, USA; LSU Tigers guard Trae Hannibal (0) passes the ball over
Feb 13, 2024; Gainesville, Florida, USA; LSU Tigers guard Trae Hannibal (0) passes the ball over / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, I was one of several LSU basketball fans who preached patience and sought signs of progress and reasons for optimism. Today, I'm ready to admit Matt McMahon's program absolutely stinks and feels somewhat hopeless.

LSU basketball lost to the Florida Gators 82-80 on Tuesday night. The Tigers stormed back from a lopsided first half but failed to take the win despite the Gators' best attempts to give the game away. Indeed, Jordan Wright missing a last-second layup to send the game into overtime is a microcosm of a season in which LSU struggles to do even the simplest things.

Tuesday's loss was the Tigers' seventh in nine games, dropping their record to 12-12 on the season, including a 4-7 record in SEC play. The Tigers now sit in 11th place in the SEC standings with seven regular season games remaining.

Currently, it seems as if rematches against Arkansas and Vanderbilt are the only hope McMahon's squad has to avoid a last-place finish.

I gave McMahon a lot of slack last season. He was hired late after the Tigers dismissed former head coach Will Wade for cause. As such, McMahon had little time to scrape together a roster and salvage what was left of LSU basketball's 2023 recruiting class.

The 2022-23 season was an expected disaster as LSU's hodgepodge lineup struggled on both sides of the floor. Other than cruising through their non-conference schedule, the only bright spot from last season was a first-round SEC tournament win over Georgia. Thankfully, the LSU women's basketball team stormed through the NCAA tournament and fulfilled fans' needs for glory on the court.

Still, a void remains with a men's program that won the SEC regular season title in 2018-19.

McMahon attacked the transfer portal and brought Wright, Will Baker, and Jalen Cook to Baton Rouge. The Tigers have also relied heavily on 2023 three-star recruit Mike Williams III. However, LSU struggles in all facets of defense and is a constant liability in the paint.

Moving forward, LSU basketball fans have no choice but to look toward the 2024-25 season. Hopefully, 2023 four-star recruit Corey Chest will be ready to play, and 2024 signee Robert Miller III can provide an immediate impact. Indeed, Chest, at 6-foot-8, and Miller, at 6-foot-10, can solve LSU's problem of playing hopeless small ball.

Conversely, only signing two recruits in the 2024 cycle does not bode well for a team with glaring holes in the starting five and poor depth.

McMahon must get LSU basketball to finish 2024 with a pulse and progress toward the top six of SEC play in 2025. Another season lingering in the conference cellar will result in Scott Woodward searching for a new head coach.

LSU fans are too impatient for a three-to-four-year rebuild, and I think the administration is too. I believe that McMahon is a good basketball coach, but not every coach is cut out to build a championship contender in the SEC.

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It does not help McMahon that Woodward found immediate success with his latest football, baseball, and women's basketball head coaching hires. It also doesn't help that Wade is doing much more with less down in Lake Charles.