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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Get your finger off the panic button

LSU has lost four straight baseball games -- three at Ole Miss and one at home to a struggling UNO team.

If you want to push the panic button go ahead, but keep in mind it's still April. There's still time to turn things around.

However, there are some causes for concern. Because of injuries Anthony Ranaudo hasn't been Anthony Ranaudo -- at least to this point.

And good luck on figuring out what is wrong with Austin Ross. His struggles are starting to have some impact on the team.

Yes, the UNO loss is embarrassing. But LSU always has some embarrasing losses -- that's the way baseball is, remember Nicholls State from last year.

Still, if the Tigers are struggling on May 28 and not April 28, then there is real cause for concern.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

End of an era?

Unless something crazy happens on Thursday, LSU's run of six consecutive years with first-round NFL Draft choices will come to an end.

That mark is currently the longest in the nation -- and one more reason why you could argue LSU as college football's team of the '90s without embarrassment.

While Les Miles may promote the draft on his Twitter account, the reality is the streak shouldn't have ended here. Both Brandon LaFell and Ciron Black were once thought to be first-round talents. Not anymore.

Sure, LSU is hoping for a school-record 10 draft picks this year. But the fact that there could be no first-rounders speaks to where this program is right now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baseball thoughts

LSU's baseball team makes a rare north Louisiana appearance tonight when the Tigers play Northwestern State at Shreveport's Fair Grounds Field.

Why Shreveport? Simply put this was NSU's home game. The school is receiving roughly $50,000 from the Shreveport-Bossier Captains baseball team to play the game here and LSU didn't balk at the extra hour drive time.

The game was originally scheduled for early March but was rained out. The contract had an April 20 makeup date and so here we are.

But as LSU coach Paul Mianieri pointed out, the Tigers would have been better served playing this game with NSU at home and Wednesday's game up north instead of vice versa.

We're just about to reach the point in the season where it will be time to start paying closer attention to LSU baseball, but here are some quick thoughts.

1) LSU is kind of deep in pitching. By that I mean there are quite a few possibilities. But the kind of part is that you'd like to have seen some pitchers emerge into set roles by now. Outside of Anthony Ranaudo, the weekend rotation can be either good or not so much.
2) Leon Landry has put together a nice season. For a guy who once was better with the glove than the bat, he is becoming an all-around player.
3) Micah Gibbs has been consistent and is the rare offensive weapon behnd the plate.

There's still a lot of season left. But at least the games should become more meaningful as the weeks progress.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NFL draft thoughts

Here's about all you need to know about the state of the LSU football program at the moment.

If The Sporting News' draft projection is anywhere near right, the first player taken in the upcoming NFL draft from a Louisiana school will not be from LSU.

Yes, you read that right.

Remember when offensive tackle Ciron Black was a sure-fire first-round pick. The Sporting News doesn't have Black going in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.

Remember when wide receiver Brandon LaFell was a lock to go in the first round after coming back to school for his senior season. Now, LaFell is considered to be a second-round pick at best.

No, the top-ranked player from the state, at least accordingto The Sporting News, is Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith.

Now this isn't because there is a lack of talent at LSU. The recruiting classes have consistently ranked in the top 20. But what we're seeing is that players are LSU at about the same place in their development as when they got there. And that's not a good sign for the LSU program.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"C" is for condescension, "K" is for lucky with Coach K

BATON ROUGE – Had Gordon Hayward’s Hail Mary heave from half court at the buzzer hit home – and it almost did - Monday night, Butler would be seen by most as a very lucky national champion today, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would know a little bit about what it's like to be Guy Lewis.

Instead Duke and Coach K won the national championship 61-59, but they are clearly no less lucky than Butler would have been as a 62-61 winner thanks to a Coach K miscalculation.

Hayward’s shot would have been the greatest in NCAA Tournament history – clearing Duke’s Christian Laettner’s foul-line jumper to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional final, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew’s 3-pointer to beat Ole Miss in the first round in 1998 and North Carolina State’s Lorenzo Charles’ rebound and dunk to shock Houston and Lewis in the 1983 national championship game.

It would have even beaten the movies. It would have been life not only imitating art, but slam dunking it to shreds. Jimmy Chitwood hit a top of the key jumper for Hickory High to beat South Bend Central 42-40 in the “Hoosiers” film, which was loosely based on Milan beating Muncie Central 32-30 in the 1954 all-classes Indiana state title game on a jumper by Bobby Plump from the top of the key. Hayward’s shot would have outdistanced Chitwood’s and Plump’s put together. All three shots took place at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus in Indianapolis, which was the site of the 2010 Final Four but at Lucas Oil Stadium. How wild is that?

Sadly, it was all just too good to be true, particularly the part about the could-have-been colossal goof by Coach K, the condescension national champion for all seasons. During the portion of the press conference Monday night reserved for players, Duke's Brian Zoubek was asked about his up-and-down career. Krzyzewski rudely interrupted to say Zoubek did not have an up-and-down career, rather an injury-plagued career. Uh, actually he did have an up-and-down career because of injury.

Finally, Coach K let Zoubek talk, and Zoubek couldn't resist.

"I can say something," he said.

Yes, the almighty one granted Zoubek the power of speech.

Krzyzewski, who never comes out and says it but subtly lets you know he knows all at every opportunity, ordered Brian Zoubek to miss the second of two free throws with 3.6 seconds to play. Zoubek made the first one for the 61-59 lead and missed the second one on purpose as he was told. Coach K’s strategy was that the bouncing missed free throw would kill valuable seconds and force Butler – if it got the rebound which it did - to scramble to get in position for a shot as it was out of timeouts. Had Zoubek made the second free throw for a 62-59 lead, Butler would have had the opportunity to take a breath and inbound with 3.6 seconds to play.

That’s plenty of time for a length-of-the-court pass. There was just 2.1 seconds to go in that Duke-Kentucky game when Grant Hill inbounded to Laettner. Or Butler could have rolled the ball up the court if uncontested to save time. Coach K's strategy made some sense because Butler did only have enough time for Hayward’s desperation shot, but the problem is Duke led only by two. A desperation shot gone good would have won it for Butler. A less desperate but still unlikely shot from 3-point range after a made free throw would have just tied it.

What Coach K should have done was let Zoubek make the free throw for a 62-59 lead, then foul Butler immediately upon the inbounds pass. This would have resulted in just two free throws for Butler. Butler can’t win. Duke gets the ball back after the free throws and runs out the clock or is fouled. This is precisely how Butler edged Michigan State 52-50 on Saturday.

After the game, even Zoubek said he should have made the second free throw.

“They got off a bad shot, not a good one,” Zoubek said. “It almost went in, should have gone in, though.”

Krzyzewski did not give a very good explanation of his strategy. In fact he sounded a bit like LSU football coach Les Miles trying to explain his inner clock malfunction in the Ole Miss game last season.

“If he (Zoubek) missed (the second free throw), I thought it would take a miracle shot, you know,” he said. “Well it almost did, but we were set up to guard it.”

But Duke did not guard Hayward well. He dribbled freely and took an open, though very long, shot.

If Zoubek makes the free throw, it would have taken a “miracle” matriculation down the court and shot as well just to tie – not win. And Duke would have also been “set up to guard it” after getting set for the inbounds pass.

At this point, Krzyzewski seemed to realize his explanation was not really working and changed the subject to a screen by Butler’s Matt Howard that knocked Duke’s Kyle Singler violently to the floor and allowed Hayward to get open on that last play. Singler went flying, but it was a legal screen. Replays show Howard upright like a statue as Hayward dribbles around him. If the screener is stationary, it doesn’t matter how hard the player screened falls. Coach K knows this, but he cried foul.

“They’re not going to call it at that time, but Kyle got killed at half court,” Krzyzewski whined. “So they wouldn’t have got it without that.”

Whatever. Keep reaching, Coach K. You know you were almost 3-5 in national title games.

Then he goes out of his way to praise a sportswriter for noticing Howard’s expert screen. “Pretty good for a press guy to see that stuff,” he said.

Uh, Coach K, I saw the screen on TV. I wasn't there. Surely many writers actually there saw it, too. How stupid do you think those who aren’t you are?

Then he started repeating himself.

“But they would have had to take a half court shot,” Coach K said. “And we were set up to guard that.”

Finally, he gave up.

“And, you know, what the hell? It worked,” he said.

Wow! Coach K does not usually place results over process. When the process is poor yet the result is good, you just got lucky.

Since when does almighty, cerebral Coach K say, “What the hell?”

What’s he doing? Just rolling out the basketballs like Lewis now and letting it ride?

“I mean, you know, we called timeouts at different times that, you know, you wouldn’t normally call timeouts because of being tired,” he said. “We left guys in. I mean, this was a game where things were not, like, by the book necessarily. You know, you had to do things instinctive because guys were fighting so hard, so …”

And, you know, he changed the subject again.

"I'm just glad we're not sitting here talking about how I lost the game," Zoubek said.

The talk would not have been about you losing the game, Zoubek. Please insert a "K" where the "I" is above, and you'll know what I mean.

If Duke would have lost, it would have been on a lucky shot heard 'round the world. But Coach K got just as lucky, and He knows it.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Miles to open "Great Day" restaurant

BATON ROUGE - In the tradition of former LSU football coach Gerry DiNardo, LSU coach Les Miles has decided to open a restaurant here called "Les Miles' Have A Great Day" restaurant.

"We will serve capable and quality food," Miles said Thursday. "It's going to be a damn strong restaurant."

The restaurant's name comes from one of Miles' signature moments as LSU's coach. Amid mistaken reporting by ESPN that he was going to Michigan in 2007, Miles held a hastily called briefing with reporters shortly before the SEC Championship Game in which he said he was staying at LSU and closed with, "Have a great day." A month later, Miles won the national championship.

"Great Day" will be open for lunch and dinner.

"Customers can have a great day and a great night," Miles said.

Great games of the Miles era will be played on video screens throughout the restaurant, but nothing after 2007.
At the moment, Miles was unsure what type of food would be served at the restaurant, which will open next fall at the sight of the old Alex Box Stadium at the corner of Nicholson Drive and Skip Bertman Drive.

"After I decide what I'm going to do with Russell Shepard and how I'm going to divide up the duties of offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who likes to pass, and passing game coordinator Billy Gonzales, who also likes to pass, I'll figure out what type of food we will serve," Miles said. "But it will be winning food in three areas - offense, defense and special orders."

After turning around the LSU program from 1995-97 after six consecutive losing seasons from 1989-94, DiNardo - a New York City native - opened an Italian restaurant under his name before the 1998 season and promptly had two straight losing seasons and was fired.

"I don't see that happening," Miles said. "I'm way too popular."

Miles, who hails from Elyria, Ohio, said he is experimenting with Midwestern food for the restaurant.

"So there will definitely be meat and potatoes and very little flavor," he said. "We are currently studying several of the Applebees and Red Lobsters throughout Ohio. I can't say anymore because of the HIPAA laws."

In order to boost business, current LSU football players will work in the restaurant but may not be able to get paid, according to NCAA rules.

"We're still looking into that," Miles said. "We are already about to be under investigation anyway, so what's the difference?"

Former LSU assistant coach D.J. McCarthy has been named restaurant manager and is looking into getting signees who are not yet eligible and have no place to stay to also work and live in the restaurant.

Waiter tryouts have already started, and Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are neck and neck for the No. 1 server job. Jefferson has had trouble hitting the table with the food, while Lee keeps bringing his dishes to the wrong tables.

"Some of the dishes that we haven't had them serve are dishes that they would've been really good at," Miles said. "We don't want to show the other restaurants what they're doing."

Should "Good Day" get bad reviews, Miles said he would continue to blame Ryan Perrilloux, Crowton and whoever is playing quarterback.

Miles has hired several cooks and other restaurant personnel from the very successful C'est Bon (pronounced Saban) restaurant in Ponchatoula.

"Anybody who has C'est Bon's talent is going to win," said restaurant expert Tom Fitzmorris of New Orleans. "Now the question is will it still be a good restaurant after C'est Bon's players are gone."

April Fool!