Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
LSU fails to build resume with two losses at Legends Classic
NEW YORK – LSU came to Barclays Center this week at 3-0, ranked 22nd in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and with Ben Simmons, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, in tow.
The Tigers are leaving Brooklyn after a one point loss to Marquette on Monday, an overtime loss to North Carolina State on Tuesday, and a résumé that is devoid of anything impressive with the rest of their non-conference schedule offering little help.
Before opening SEC-play on Jan. 2 at Vanderbilt, LSU will play just one team from a Power Five conference (Wake Forest, on Dec. 29). Besides that game, the Tigers’ pre-SEC schedule consists of Charleston, North Florida, Houston, Gardner-Webb, Oral Roberts and American.
Simmons, who was not made available postgame after fouling out in overtime with four points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, is a proven winner, most notably at Montverde Academy, where he won three straight Dick’s High School National Championships under legendary coach Kevin Boyle.
With Simmons, another five-star recruit in Antonio Blakeney, one-time St. John’s commit Brandon Sampson and a host of veterans in the fold, a season without a run to the NCAA Tournament would be a disappointment in Baton Rouge.
“I think it’s huge, I think it’s huge for him,” LSU assistant and Simmons’ Godfather, David Patrick, told SNY.tv. “It’s the reason he came to college, to play in March. And it’s huge for us. I think all the accolades he got in high school was because he was winning at Montverde and winning on his AAU circuit, but moreso winning in high school, and that trait’s gotta transfer to our level.
“And for him to really leave with a good stamp — I think there’s no question he’s a top-5 college player,” Patrick continued. “But I think winning at the end of the day makes you great and puts you in an elite status.”
“He’s been highly successful doing things the right way and he’s been a winner because of it,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. “I think winning really excites him and I think he tries to put himself in position to do what he can to do. Everything has a tendency to take care of itself.”
Even if LSU doesn’t make the Big Dance, it likely won’t impact Simmons’ draft stock much.
“Not in the least,” one NBA scout said.
Still, Simmons wants to play on the big stage of March Madness, fans want to see him perform there, and NCAA Tournament TV partners CBS and Turner would surely love to promote him in one of the biggest sporting events of the year.
The season is still young and the Tigers will have plenty of opportunities in conference play to build their résumé, but they really could have used at least one of the two games in Brooklyn this week. McNeese State, Kennesaw State and South Alabama offered little resistance to open the season, not to mention little in the way of RPI and strength of schedule.
Coming in to Tuesday, LSU’s computer numbers were poor, specifically an RPI of 265 and a strength of schedule that had ballooned to 321. Both of those numbers will fall as the season moves along and LSU wins more games, but the lack of even one quality non-conference win will be glaring down the road.
“I just think it’s time to step up and be a leader for this team,” said junior Tim Quarterman, who has been to the NIT and the NCAA Tournament during his career. “We have to go out there, try to win as many basketball games as we can and put ourselves in a position at the end of the year to make some noise in the Tournament. We need go back, get it together in practice and move forward.”
“We certainly feel coming into a tournament like this helps if you’re successful,” Jones said. “Playing two quality teams was a great opportunity for us here. I’m glad this tournament is in the beginning of the season and it is certainly a marker for us to try and get better. We have to make sure we do a great job with the rest of our schedule, but these setbacks certainly weren’t what we were looking for.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.