Even though Corban Collins was the only player who needed stitches, the entire LSU basketball team was bloodied in Athens on Saturday.
The Tigers have been dealt the proverbial blow to the face and remain the only winless team in a dreadful basketball league. The 0-4 start includes losses to Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia, schools with little to no basketball tradition and no realistic chance of competing for much of anything in March.
No one truthfully expected the Tigers to make a serious push in Johnny Jones’ maiden voyage at his alma mater. But losing the first four wasn’t exactly a sure bet either.
I wondered whether or not the sizzle Jones created by inking a recruiting class ranked in the Top 10 nationally would endure the ice bath of a rough first season. That still remains to be seen.
A nagging injury to Johnny O’Bryant, a series of mini-suspensions for Anthony Hickey, a tendonitis flare up in Charles Carmouche and a patch of poor shooting has derailed whatever momentum a perfect home record in the non-conference manufactured.
The crowd in the Assembly Center for the Florida game was as electric as any in recent memory. It will now fade to just that, a memory. That is until the team starts to win some games.
And that won’t be this season.
Remember where we are. Baton Rouge, LA.
In this town, it wasn’t just one or two people clamoring for a new football coach after the greatest regular season in program history. Ripping of 13 straight in America’s toughest league was totally forgotten because for four hours on the biggest stage the Tigers were bludgeoned by what has become the school’s biggest rival.
In this town, a baseball coach who wins the toughest league in America by winning two of three against the two-time defending national champions on the final weekend of the season and finds himself one win away from Omaha is skewered for the team’s performance.
And in this town, basketball is now a stop gap between the two.
Jones knew that before he took the job. He knows that today, but he also knows that can change.
There is no question that LSU dwells toward the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in terms of talent. The most highly touted recruits brought in by the previous staff were Aaron Dotson, Matt Derenbecker, Ralston Turner, Johnny O’Bryant and Malik Morgan.
See what I mean?
It would appear that Jones is doing everything he can to fix that. Earlier this month Jarrell Martin went for 26 points on 5-A favorite Scotlandville and Tim Quarterman dropped 35 on Oak Hill Academy. Those guys are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6 respectively. Jordan Mickey stands 6-foot-7, and he can score. John Odo is already in the fold, practicing daily with the team. He’s 6-foot-9.
Length, athleticism and scoring ability are on the way.
Here’s the big question. How will Jones coach them?
It was my opinion that the measuring stick this season was rather simple. Beat the teams you should beat. Nothing more.
In the non-conference, LSU did just that. The Chattanooga’s, Northwestern State’s and UC-Santa Barbara’s didn’t bite this team. It wasn’t too long ago that Nicholls State, South Alabama and Tulane beat this program.
But losses to South Carolina and Georgia are tough to swallow. Now looking at the schedule, it only appears that there are three remaining games the Tigers “should” win. And that may be a stretch.
The Tigers go to Starkville to play Mississippi State Feb. 2. Robert Nkem…I mean, Vanderbilt comes in Feb. 6. A second crack at South Carolina comes a week later. That’s it.
Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama are a notch above LSU at a minimum, and Texas A&M and Arkansas appear that way as well. That leaves Tennessee, but that one’s on the road.
Searching for wins with this group is like digging for the baby in a king cake. You’ll find one eventually, but you may make a mess before you do.
Losing the South Carolina and Georgia games doesn’t exactly buoy the argument that Jones is really coaching them up. It’s fairly obvious that Jones is going to try to do this with talent as opposed to a schematic advantage. That can be done, but it won’t with this team.
This season will likely end shortly after a morning tip in Tampa on the 13th of March. Football practice starts the 14th. SEC baseball the 15th. Stop gap.
Again, no one expected a big run from this team. That doesn’t change the sobering truth that the program is still very much in the bottom tier of the league.
If I’m a betting man, that begins to change next season.