LSU has been wildly inconsistent throughout the season, but is there any good reason to bet against this team in March?
With a reeling and banged up Texas A&M in town, the Tigers were aggressive around the rim and effective at the free throw line in a 76-71 win. It’s the fourth straight loss for the Aggies, limited by Jalen Jones’ hip injury (though he played but did not start) and a stomach bug that sidelined Anthony Collins. With Collins out, Texas A&M struggled to match the same level of play that put them in the top five of the polls just a few weeks ago.
For LSU, the win not only counts as a quality one for the NCAA Tournament resume, but moves the Tigers into a tie for first place in the SEC standings, at 9-3, with Kentucky, winners against South Carolina after John Calipari’s early-game ejection.
So while losses to College of Charleston, Marquette and Wake Forest made Ben Simmons’ fans nervous that college basketball’s most noteworthy freshman would miss the tournament, wins against Kentucky, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have not only helped the resume, but also made LSU one of the most potent teams in the league.
Ben Simmons, by the way, was great on Saturday, notching his 17th double-double of the season (16 points, 11 rebounds) and adding seven assists. Craig Victor II (16 points) absolutely took over in the second half, using aggressive play to help LSU’s advantage on the offensive boards (14-7) and at the free throw line (23-of-29 for LSU compared to 6-of-7 for A&M) as the Tigers pulled away in the final minutes.
Texas A&M might be in trouble now, but winnable games are ahead to give Billy Kennedy’s team a chance to get right. With four straight losses — and now five in six games — the fast rise of this veteran-led team seems like a long time ago.