Simmons-less Tigers begin new chapter
The Ben Simmons Experience, at least collectively, ultimately went down as a major disappointment for LSU. With head coach Johnny Jones feeling the heat, can his players open 2016-17 with purpose?
LSU is slated to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, which unveiled its bracket yesterday, from Nov. 23-25. The Tigers should get a pretty good idea as to their makeup right away, too, with Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse Wichita State locked in as the opening-round adversary. Jones’ troops would battle either Louisville or Old Dominion on the second day of the event.
The holiday excursion will mark the second time in three years that LSU has left the continental United States. If Jones fails to generate some excitement in the Bahamas, he may be leaving Baton Rouge sooner rather than later. Despite featuring the most sensational freshman in the nation a season ago, the Tigers stumbled to a 19-14 record. The program declined to even pursue a postseason tournament.
Now that Simmons is off to the NBA, to whom does the school turn for scoring? Online sports book Bovada.lv recognizes the same quandary, giving LSU odds of +10000 to claim the 2017 college basketball championship. Among SEC institutions, only South Carolina (+20000), Tennessee (+20000), Alabama (+25000), Ole Miss (+25000) and Missouri (+30000) face more arduous climbs.
If a glimmer of optimism exists, it relates to the backcourt. Sophomore Antonio Blakeney, coming off a campaign in which he averaged 12.6 points per contest and 3.4 rebounds, opted to eschew the pro game for a while longer. He’s joined by Brandon Sampson, a developing shooter in the Keith Hornsby mold.
There are holes in the post, for certain. Nonetheless, various second-tier squads in the conference confront a similar worry. Jones’ gang probably won’t scare the John Caliparis and Billy Kennedys of the world, but the post-Simmons period isn’t destined to usher in the apocalypse either.