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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Respect beginning to build

Maybe it took a win at Kentucky, or an SEC championship outright, but it appears LSU is beginning to get a little bit of respect on a national level.

You can read here where one pollster is ready to put LSU in his top 15.

And even ESPN is giving the Tigers some love.

Still, it would have been nice for LSU to have a win out-of-conference that carries some significance. As it is, LSU's blitz through the SEC will have to do for earning respect.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

LSU stands alone in Big 3 sports

BATON ROUGE - It's not even football or recruiting season, and these are splendid times in the LSU athletic world.

-A superb new baseball stadium just opened that folks will enjoy even if they do not have the slightest interest in what's happening on the field. And for those who love LSU baseball, it is a mecca.

"I'm just walking around with stars in my eyes," said a young employee who works in the pressbox on opening night last week.

And what's happening on the field will be just as excellent as the team's surroundings. The 2009 Tigers are as talented as some of Skip Bertman's best teams and could win the program's first national championship since Bertman this season.

-The men's basketball team is off to one of its best seasons since the best season of all in 1980-81 when the Tigers went 17-1 to win the Southeastern Conference with the only loss on the last day of the season at Kentucky. The 2008-09 LSU team has already won the SEC West and clinched a share of the SEC overall title and can win the SEC outright with a win Saturday at Kentucky in a 3 p.m. game on CBS.

-The football team is coming off a disappointing 8-5 season in 2008, but it just turned in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation earlier this month, and coach Les Miles appears to have made the right calls with some new staff hires, particularly defensive coordinator John Chavis.

-The women's basketball team will not be going to a sixth Final Four, but it is making a late season run and will likely play in the NCAA Tournament. Tonight, the Lady Tigers host Tennessee in a rematch of the 2008 national semifinal that the Lady Vols won in the final seconds.

What's happening at LSU lately is not happening at most places. In fact, LSU established a first in SEC history on Tuesday night when the men's basketball team clinched a share of the SEC crown. That was the team's 10th league title in history, making LSU the only SEC school to win double-figure titles in the big three sports - men's basketball, baseball and football.

The baseball team has won 13 league titles, while the football team has won 10.
Overall, LSU has captured a total of 114 conference championships.

Here is the breakdown of the SEC leaders in double-digit league titles in the big three.

FOOTBALL - Alabama (21), Tennessee (13), Georgia (12), LSU (10-1935, '36, '58, '61, '70, '86, '88, 2001, '03, '07).

MEN'S BASKETBALL - Kentucky (43), LSU (10-1935, '53, '54, '79, '81, '85, '91, 2000, '06, '09).

BASEBALL - LSU (13-1939, '43, '46, '61, '75, '86, '90, '91, '92, '93, '96, '97, 2003.), Alabama (13), Florida (10), Mississippi State (10).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Earlier in the year when Rick Stansbury called LSU the best team in the league, I wondered if he wasn't blowing smoke.

Now, I'm convinced. Stansbury knew what he was talking about.

I don't say that just because LSU clinched a share of the SEC basketball championship last night.

I say that because of what this team has done over the last couple of weeks.

There was the double-overtime win at Mississippi State. They come back a couple of nights later, get behind nine in the second half to Ole Miss and outscore the Rebels 19-4 to win the game.

They have a slow start at Arkansas, rally to win the game. They fight off a pesky Auburn team and win the game.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the Ole Miss and Arkansas wins came without starting point guard Bo Spencer.

Then there the was the win over Florida when both teams were playing at a particularly high level.

"I think we were playing against the best team in the league right now with a whole bunch of seniors,'' Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the game. "I think our guys did pretty well to be honest with you.''

And I agree. Florida didn't play poorly.

Yet for the last month or so, LSU has consistently found ways to win games.

Yes, the Tigers don't have that sexy out-of-conference win. But they have played consistently well over an extended period of time. That's what good teams do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tigers and the draft

I didn't follow the NFL Scouting Combine as closely as I normally do. Still, I saw where Demetrius Byrd ran one of the top 40-yard dash times for a wide receiver. His time of 4.42 ranked eighth among wide receivers.

I didn't see too many other players from LSU test that highly.

In fact, I'm starting to think maybe LSU's record wasn't such a fluke last season. (I realize they shouldn't have lost to Arkansas and nearly lost to Troy.)

Anyway, the highest-rated LSU player at his position is fullback Quinn Johnson, according to NFL Network's Mike Mayock. Johnson is the No. 2-rated fullback. Of course, that doesn't mean anything as far as being an early draft pick just because people don't use the fullback as much anymore.

Tyson Jackson is also a No. 2-rated player at his position -- defensive end. One mock draft has Jackson going in the first round to the Chicago Bears.

Darry Beckwith is the No. 4-rated inside linebacker and Herman Johnson is the No. 5-rated offensive guard.

Of course, this is the whole chicken-and-egg thing. Are the players rated lower because of the sub-par 2008 season? Or was the sub-par 2008 season the result of players not as good as the ones in the past?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How will the new Box play?

One of the questions about a new baseball stadium is usually how will it play?

Will it be a pitcher's park where home runs are hard to hit?

Will it be a band box with the ball flying out of the yard?

The old Alex Box Stadium was a hitter's park, especially when it got late in the spring and the wind began to carry out away from home plate.

So how will the new Box play?

If two games are an indication, it appears the ball will carry there as well. Leon Landry hit a couple of home runs in Saturday's game. Blake Dean homered on opening night.

It looks like it should be a park where fans will get to see some runs scored and the ball leave the park.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On to baseball

Opening day for the LSU baseball team has arrived.

Last season's trip to the College World Series and preseason national rankings this year have stoked expectations.

Give Paul Mainieri credit. He was hired to bring LSU baseball back. And while it may not have ever been written in a contract or said out loud, Mainieri was brought in to bring back LSU baseball in time for the move to the new Alex Box Stadium.

Consider that mission accomplished.

So tonight will begin the baseball season -- and a long one it is. The regular season begins in February and doesn't end until May. That's why all of the games ups and downs can't be life or death. There's a long season to play.

Ain't it great?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

News and notes

The LSU Tigers are finally ranked in both the AP and coaches men's basketball polls. While it's always good to be ranked, college basketball's polls may be the most meaningless of all polls.

The only rankings that matter in college basketball are the RPI rankings and they only matter in the way that the NCAA tournament selection committee uses those rankings.

So if LSU moves up in the ranking -- great. If LSU gets beat at Arkansas on Wednesday and falls out of the rankings -- not that big of a deal.

The big deal is to get into the tournament and take your chances.

While LSU fans may consider their football team to have been a disappointment you wouldn't know if from the NFL folks. Consider this tidbit: There will be nine LSU players at Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Alabama has five players going to Indy. Florida has four. USC has 11. Oklahoma had eight.

You can look that a couple of diffrent ways. LSU has more talent than all but USC. Or LSU underachieved this season.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baseball's No. 1

No real surprise here, but the SEC coaches voted LSU as the preseason favorite to win the conference baseball championship.

I say it's no surprise because when you're voted either one or two in most national polls, then it is safe to assume that you're going to be No. 1 in your conference poll. LSU received 10 of 12 first-place votes among the conference coaches.

It's also to safe that it has been a long time since there has been this much anticipation for an LSU baseball season. The new park and a top-ranked team will do that for you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


LSU's win over Ole Miss on Saturday may have been as impressive as any win the Tigers' basketball team has had this season.

Consider the team played without point guard Bo Spencer (ankle). They were coming off an emotionally draining, double-overtime game with Mississippi State on Wednesday night. And Ole Miss had been off for a week.

Throw in the fact that LSU didn't play particularly well and you can see how any win can be a good win.

Actually, there was concern about this game in the LSU camp from just about the moment Wednesday night's game ended.

LSU was at least able to win. Mississippi State wasn't so fortunate on Saturday.

Sometimes getting the win is more important than how you got there.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is this for real?

I've stayed away from commenting on Wichita running back Bryce Brown's recruitment just because I considered it a long shot.

His brother goes to Miami. He had committed to Miami. Then after a change in assistant coaches, Brown opens up his recruiting again.

Then along comes this blurb that says Brown may be leaning to LSU.

Could you imagine what it would do to the recruiting class if he came to LSU? His addition would almost certainly give LSU the top-recruiting class in the country by any measure.

Still, I expect he'll end up at Miami.

But you could imagine a class with Russell Shepard, Rueben Randle andBryce Brown? Wow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's up Bobo?

Remember last spring when LSU basketball fans were sweating the possibility of J'Mison "Bobo'' Morgan bolting for UCLA?

You may remember LSU coach Trent Johnson reminding folks that Morgan wasn't Shaquille O'Neal and if a player didn't want to be at LSU they could leave.

So Morgan left for UCLA.

How has that all worked out?

LSU is 20-4, leading the SEC and on the verge of joining the top 25.

And Morgan? He has played in 18 games. He hasn't made a start for the Bruins. He's averaging 2.6 points per game and 5.8 minutes per game. His minutes average ranks 12th on the team.

Greatest game you never saw?

Unless you were one of the 9,000-or so lucky ones to be in Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night, you missed one of the great basketball games in LSU history.

Thanks, Raycom.

Consider the context of this one. LSU came into the game with a one-game lead over Mississippi State in the SEC West and overall standings. A State win and the division is tied. An LSU win and the Tigers are up two games with seven to play in the conference.

Then, consider the game goes into double overtime. And, LSU finishes the game with four players having fouled out and another on the bench with an injury.

Yet, LSU, with 41 points and 11 rebounds from Tasmin Mitchell, pulls out a 97-94 win on the road.

It may not be as flashy as some of LSU's signature wins in the past (LSU-Arizona, LSU-Georgetown, some of those LSU-Kentucky games), but considering all of those things, this win will take its place in LSU basketball lore.

"I thought we played really well at times,'' LSU coach Trent Johnson said this morning on the SEC coaches' teleconference. "We competed really well from start to finish.''

Specifically, Johnson was impressed with his team's toughness on Wednesday night.

"It was fun for me because this basketball team has come so far in terms of mental toughness and trust in each other,'' Johnson said. "There was a lot of emotion, a lot of ups and downs. I thought we displayed some courage.

"More importantly, I thought during timeouts from start to finish, I thought the guys were really engaged. Some guys haven't played a lot and they come in and we're talking in the huddle and we know exactly what we need to do and what we want done. Usually in situations like that where there is a lot of pressure and it's really tense and the team you're playing against is really good, teams or kids have a tendency to go do their own thing or lose their poise. For the most part, I thought we did a very good job.''

And then there was Mitchell.

How many LSU players can say they scored 41 points in a game and didn't commit a turnover?

"I thought Tasmin, since I've been a head coach, probably played as good a game on the road, in terms of scoring and decision-making...I thought he was very, very impressive,'' Johnson said.

It was a great game -- for the 9,000-or so who got to watch it.

"I thought Rick (Stansbury)'s team didn't lose, we managed to get one more basket,'' Johnson said. "It's unfortunate somebody had to lose that game because those teams were really getting after it. There were 23 possessions, where there were loose balls and kids were on the floor. That's impressive.''

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The best game you won't see

Don't spend anytime tonight looking for the LSU-Mississippi State basketball game on TV. You won't find it.

Somehow, this game won't be televised. Never mind that it is the top two teams in the SEC playing. Raycom is showing another game.

The hope is when the new SEC TV contracts with CBS and ESPN kick in next year this won't be a problem. As it is, we'll go back to the time before iPods, Facebook, and easy Internet access -- yeah, that's right, back to the days of listening to the game on the radio.

Oh well, it'll be good to use your imagination to picture the game.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Truth or blowing smoke?

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury was talking on the SEC teleconference Monday about his team's upcoming game with LSU.

In SEC terms, it's a big game. LSU leads the SEC West and the overall SEC standings at 7-1. State is a game behind at 6-2. And LSU already owns a home win over State.

"It's very obvious that we're going to play the best team in the SEC,'' Stansbury said.

Now, I know LSU has the best record in the SEC. I know LSU has been the most consistent team in the SEC.

But the best team?

Do we know that now?

Then Stansbury went on to say LSU was the "team to beat.''

And maybe the Tigers are. Tennessee has struggled to shoot the ball. Florida has shown flashes of brilliance. Kentucky goes flat just when you're about to believe in the Wildcats.

But I wonder if he's just blowing smoke. Maybe it's the memory of that Utah game that doesn't have me completely sold on this team. I mean, LSU's most impressive game in nonconference was a home-court loss to Xavier.

If LSU rolls through the remainder of the SEC schedule, then we'll know Stansbury was telling the truth. But if the Tigers go flat, then we'll know Stansbury was planting some seeds for a fall.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What do you have to do to get in the Top 25?

Having voted on the AP Top 25 basketball poll in the past, let me just say -- that thing is a beast. You're basically picking 25 teams out of 300 or so Division I teams playing. They play every night of the week for six months. And there's no way you can see a majority, much less, all of the teams playing.

Because of all of those things, I've always taken the AP Top 25 basketball poll with a grain of salt.

But in the case of LSU this year -- despite the weak schedule and the down year in the SEC --you think this might be (or should be) a top-25 team.

Well, they didn't make it Monday. They're still on the cusp -- the first team out so to speak.

If LSU wins at Mississippi State -- and that would be a worthy accomplishment the way the Bulldogs are playing -- and home against Ole Miss on the weekend, then you'll see LSU in the polls.

Personally, I thought they might get there Monday. Now, it's a little more challenging. But if the Tigers are in the poll next week, they'll have earned it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Tourney talk

College basketball has the shortest regular season -- in terms of being the center of attention -- of just about any sport out there.

Heck, in this part of the country you have to get past the Super Bowl and signing day to get anybody to pay attention.

I say all of this because both the Super Bowl and national signing day are in the past. And, what do you know, people in Louisiana may start paying attention to college basketball because LSU is relevant again.

The Tigers defeated Alabama today, 76-62, for their sevent straight win.

At one national sports web site, there was discussion about how many SEC teams would make it. One observer said Tennessee and whichever team won the tournament.

Personally, I don't see the SEC ever getting fewer than three. But if there was ever a year, this would be it. Still, I don't know if Tennesee is a lock even though the Vols have some of the most impressive nonconference wins in the SEC.

LSU's schedule -- while it helped the Tigers gain confidence early in the year -- is killing the Tigers now. They're still at 52 in the RPI. And if you say no big deal, there will be 65 teams in the tournament, you're missing one important point. Only 34 slots are up for at-large selection.

I've got to believe if LSU wins the West in impressive fashion then the Tigers will make the tournament. I don't think winning the West is a guarantee for making the tournament. I think it has to be won rather convincingly -- and by that I mean no more than three losses, maybe four in the league.

Anyway, at least we have something to occupy our attention until March.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The curious case of DeAngelo Benton

BATON ROUGE - Apparently, DeAngelo Benton is really a good wide receiver. So much so that the father of Rueben Randle, who is considered the No. 1 high school wide receiver in the nation today, perhaps does not want his son to have to compete with Benton.

Or perhaps Randle is not that good after all? We shall see.

Emmett Randle seemed wary of Benton on a Monroe radio show Tuesday and has been telling others that for a few days - ever since he learned from a Gannett story last week that LSU was still interested in signing Benton and Benton was still interested in being a Tiger. Benton, the No. 7 receiver in the nation when he was still at Bastrop in 2006-07, visited LSU just last weekend.

According to folks in Bastrop, where both kids played high school ball, LSU on Tuesday night took back a scholarship offer to Benton that had been on the table for the last three years. Benton then signed at Auburn.

Gosh, I hope the elder Randle does not have a problem with his son being a teammate of Brandon LaFell or Terrance Toliver or any of the other receivers at LSU. If so, the Tigers may have to use a one-wide receiver offense last season. If Randle is so good, does it matter what other receivers LSU has or will have. JaMarcus Russell didn't care that LSU was recruiting two other quarterbacks and had a few others on campus when he signed in 2003.

Randle better be good because LSU suddenly does not have a lot of depth at the position. After Randle's signing Wednesday, the Tigers lost two other receivers they were recruiting in addition to Benton. Those were No. 40-ranked Kenny Bell (an LSU commitment) of Rayville and No. 26 Kendall Kelly of Gadsden, Ala., both to Alabama.

Had Randle chosen Alabama over LSU, it is conceivable that Bell and Kelly would have ended up at LSU along with Benton. So, in essence the Tigers got a No. 1 (Randle) for a former No. 7 (Benton), a No. 26 and a No. 40.

Alabama gave up Randle but got two in return. Auburn gave up nothing and got Benton. So doesn't Auburn owe LSU a player to be named later? Or perhaps some cash? Just kidding.

LSU coach Les Miles should not be vilified that much for this move as he has been in some circles. He did let Benton down, but Benton let LSU down twice. After failing to qualify academically for the 2007 school year after signing with LSU the previous February, Benton went to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., which is a haven for elite football players who do not make the grades. He left after football season, hurting the plan to get eligible for 2008. He spent the summer working out at LSU and "getting eligible," but he didn't make it again.

Now, LSU did keep recruiting Benton right up until Mr. Randle made his radio show comments. LSU hosted Benton just last weekend. If signing Randle meant letting Benton go - and it appears that is exactly what happened - then Miles did the right thing. Benton is damaged goods. He could end up being great, but he is a risk. He's a free agent who hasn't played in more than a year.

Randle is indeed a first round draft choice and the better choice, even though Benton may be a better receiver than Randle right now. And recruiting is so much about perception. Had Miles not signed Randle, that would have been two huge prospects from the state of Louisiana that he would have lost in three signing days. Joe McKnight of Curtis in New Orleans left LSU for USC two years ago. And Randle would have gone to Alabama. Egad!

So, Miles made the right move. The scary thing is how much power a parent can wield in recruiting.

SOMETHING TO LOOK FOR: LSU recruiting coordinator Josh Henson could be leaving on the highest of notes. The Tigers' No. 1 recruiting class signed Wednesday - the first in Miles' career - could be Henson's swan song. Henson has virtually been the only name linked in recent weeks to the assistant coaching opening at Missouri. That move could be finalized very soon.

Missouri offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Dave Christensen took the Wyoming head coaching job after last season, and Missouri quarterbacks coach David Yost was elevated to offensive coordinator and retained quarterbacks duty. Missouri has been lacking an offensive line coach.

Henson, 33, is a former Oklahoma State offensive lineman and has been LSU's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach since Miles came to LSU in 2005. He was Oklahoma State's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach from 2001-04 under Miles. Henson is ready for a change as recruiting coordinator is usually an entry level position.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Signing day thoughts

It's been sort of a mixed bag kind of day for LSU. And really, most signing days are that way.

On the positive side:

LSU landed Rueben Randle which was as close to a must-get as it came in-state recruiting this year.

The Tigers also added defensive lineman Sam Montgomery from Greenwood, S.C. That was a bit of a surprise but also one LSU needed.

On the bad side:

Wide receiver Kenny Bell of Rayville, who had been committed to LSU since August, switched to Alabama. That's a double whammy because not only does LSU lose him, but he goes to an SEC Western Divsion rival.

Wide receiver DeAngelo Benton of Bastrop signed with Auburn after committing to LSU the previous day. This one probably doesn't hurt as much as Bell because it's taken Benton three years to become eligible -- and he may not be now -- and there are concerns to his ability to make it academically.

In essence, LSU traded two receivers (Benton and Bell) to get Randle. If Randle is as good as everyone says, then it may be worth it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just make a decision

I would love to say I deeply care what college decision Bastrop's Rueben Randle makes.

I don't.

Don't get me wrong, like everybody else in the college coaching world I've talked to over the last year, I too, believe Rueben Randle is the real deal.

But here's the thing -- in football, it takes more than one guy. You need about 20 of them to be dominant (actually 22 would work but everybody has a weakness somewhere).

So if Rueben Randle signs with Alabama or Oklahoma, he'll make those programs better but he'll need someone to get the ball to him -- surely Sam Bradford will be gone after the 2009 season.

And if he goes to LSU, he'll need one of theTigers' quarterbacks to get the ball to him. And he'll make LSU better.

He's a glamor athlete, but wide receiver is not a premium position. You may notice, LSU's run of glory in the 2000s came at a time when the school became an assembly line for defensive line prospects. And yes, the defensive line would qualify as a premium position.

So make a decision Rueben. We'll all be glad when it's over.