24 February 2016

Even with Ben Simmons, LSU has been such a disappointment

(Gunnar Rathbun/USATSI)
Coming into the season, expectations were the highest they had been in Baton Rouge for several years and it was easy to see why. Not only where the Tigers coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009, they also had the third best recruiting class in the country, one that was led by budding superstar Ben Simmons. They were featured in the preseason top 25 for the first time in a while, and rightfully so.

And here we are just days until March, LSU is coming off their third straight loss, their fourth in five games, and they currently sit at 16-12 with their hopes of an at-large bid to the big dance all but dead. Hence why LSU is one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

Now for what it's worth, it's not Simmons's fault that LSU has been such an underachiever. He has performed to expectations as he has a 19.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.8 steals statline and he continues to be the presumptive first overall selection in June's NBA draft. Yes, his defensive effort has lacked at times and he needs to work on his free throw percentage but it is not because of him that he's likely to join the immortal Michael Olowokandi as the only top pick to not play in the NCAA's since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.

And as noted earlier with the recruiting class, it is not as if Simmons is a one-man-band. There is plenty of talent around him as fellow star recruit Antonio Blakeney has been playing well in conference play and other guys like Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Craig Victor are all quality players.

One of the problems is that the team has struggled to stay healthy at times but even when with their full arsenal available, coach Johnny Jones has struggled to get the most out of them. They have been bad defensively and their offense has been stagnant at times as well as they seem to be too reliant on Simmons making plays for his teammates or for himself.

Underachievement has been one of the defining features of Jones's head coaching tenure at his alma mater as despite having talent on his roster every year, his teams have only made the NCAA's once, choking away a big lead to NC State last year, while struggling to make much of a dent in conference play. The jury is out as to whether he will get a fifth season to figure things out in Baton Rouge but he hasn't exactly endeared himself to a fanbase that would like to actually meet expectations.

Of course, LSU is not completely done just yet as they have opportunities to get key wins down the stretch against Florida and at Kentucky, plus there is still the SEC Tournament. But I have no confidence in a team that has been so listless at times figuring things out in time.

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