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March 5, 2014
Tigers have enough talent
The Southeastern Conference regular season winds down this week.
For LSU, it ends with a Thursday road game against Vanderbilt in Nashville and a Saturday home game against Georgia in the PMAC.
Many people, including this writer, believed that the Tigers would be knocking on the door of the NCAA tournament at this time. Simply, a solid last week in the regular season and performance in next week's conference tournament in Atlanta would be enough to put LSU into the Big Dance.
Well, that situation doesn't exist.
The Tigers probably need a perfect two weeks - six consecutive victories - to be a participant in March Madness. LSU must defeat both Vanderbilt and Georgia to just surpass its regular season and SEC records from last season.
The Tigers are on the verge of finishing with similar records as not only last year, but the preceding one as well. In Trent Johnson's last campaign as coach, LSU had a 17-13 regular-season mark, including 7-9 in the SEC. Two losses this week will put the Tigers at 17-13 overall and 8-10 in the SEC.
In Johnny Jones' first year as coach, LSU posted an 18-11 overall mark, including 9-9 in the SEC. A split this week will give the Tigers an 18-12 overall record, including 9-9 in the conference. So, it's obvious that anything less than two victories will mean a disappointing regular season for LSU.
The Tigers, who had expectations of a NCAA tournament bid in October, could miss the NIT if it doesn't win more games than it loses over the next two weeks. What has happened with this team? Was LSU overrated by numerous observers?
The Tigers have been a poor road team with seven consecutive defeats away from the PMAC after winning at South Carolina. There is an easy explanation for LSU's 1-7 road SEC record. The Tigers do not defend very well at all. A weak defensive team will not be successful away from home.
There is no denying that LSU has enough talent to be a top-four team in the SEC. Yet, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Tigers will finish in the second division of the conference. Such a result would be unacceptable.
As has been pointed out by at least one ESPN analyst, LSU has three future pro players up front - Johnny O'Bryant, Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin - and two veteran guards - Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey. But, the ability to making winning plays has been lacking.
The chemistry has never developed for this Tigers team. LSU played very well twice against Kentucky, but was embarrassed by Florida.
Only three teams in the SEC have more top-100 players than the Tigers, who have five. Kentucky has eight, while both Alabama and Florida have six. That fact, along with a losing conference record, should get Anthony Grant fired as Crimson Tide coach.
LSU's top-100 players are O'Bryant (No. 46, 2011), Malik Morgan (No. 89, 2012), Martin (No. 13, 2013), Mickey (No. 41, 2013) and Tim Quarterman (No. 71, 2013). Morgan suffered a season-ending knee injury last month.
The Tigers' predicted fourth-place finish in the SEC was no reach. That's why two victories this week are needed to somewhat lessen the disappointment surrounding this LSU team.
Here are the top-100 players on SEC rosters.
2010: Trevor Releford (90); 2011: Levi Randolph (30), Rodney Cooper (49), Nick Jacobs (90); 2013: Jimmy Taylor (69), Shannon Hale (98).
2010: Rickey Scott (81); 2011: Rashard Madden (32); 2013: Bobby Portis (15), Moses Kingsley (63).
2010: K.T. Harrell (30) - transferred from Virginia.
2010: Patric Young (27), Casey Prather (71); 2011: Dorian Finney-Smith (31) - transferred from Virginia Tech; 2012: Michael Frazier (88); 2013: Chris Walker (6), Kasey Hill (10).
2012: Alex Poythress (8), Willie Cauley-Stein (40); 2013: Julius Randle (2), Andrew Harrison (5), Aaron Harrison (7), Dakari Johnson (9), James Young (11), Marcus Lee (19).
2011: Johnny O'Bryant (46); 2012: Malik Morgan (89); 2013: Jarell Martin (13), Jordan Mickey (41), Tim Quarterman (71).
2010: Demarco Cox (83).
2012: Craig Sword (90).
2011: Jabari Brown (19) - transferred from Oregon; 2013: Wesley Clark (72).
2013: Sindarius Thornwell (43), Demetrius Henry (100).
2009: Jeronne Maymon (47) - transferred from Marquette; 2010: Will Barton (11) - transferred from Memphis, Jordan McRae (47); 2013: Robert Hubbs (23).
2011: Antwan Space (91) - transferred from Florida State; 2012: J-Mychal Reese (68), Alex Caruso (84).
2010: Rod Odom (92); 2011: Dai-Jon Parker (63); 2013: Damian Jones (77).