FEINSWOG: Upsets aplenty

Last Saturday in college basketball was one those midseason days that instantly transported you from January 21 to mid-March.

Upsets followed by upsets and, when the dust cleared, LSU stood alone atop the Southeastern Conference.

Yeah, it was a March Madness kind of day.

The last three unbeaten teams – Duke, Pitt and Florida – went down.

North Dakota State beat Wisconsin.

Heck, in Rome, from where I'm writing (Rome, Georgia, gotcha), Berry College upset Faulkner State.

Back home, LSU improved to 4-0 in the SEC by beating Alabama.

The Rome trip ties in with the release of HoopDaddy, my book about fathers, sons and basketball. My son's career here ended last season, but for a day it was if we never left. Except for the part where he sat in the stands.

But even that was special. Midway through the second half Saturday afternoon he got word that Georgetown had knocked off Duke.

It was a perfect HoopDaddy moment, since there's a chapter in the book about all those players at Duke who were sons of famous basketball people and a chapter about the Georgetown Thompsons. After the Georgetown victory, big John Thompson, the Hall of Famer who was coach at that school for so many years, hugged John Thompson III, his son who is in his second year at the helm.

Later that night, we stood around the restaurant TV watching Tennessee defeat Florida, leaving no unbeaten teams in the country and, more significantly for LSU, just one in the SEC.

Things sure have changed in two weeks.

Two weeks ago Saturday, LSU lost to UConn by one stinking point, its third defeat in four games. The three losses were by a total of six points. For that matter, LSU fell to 8-5 and the five defeats were by a total of 11 points.

You just knew that a schedule that included defeats to Houston, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Northern Iowa would eventually pay off.

It's early – four games into the SEC slate is really, really early – but LSU has road victories at a tough places, Arkansas and Mississippi State, and has beaten the team that beat Florida and now the team picked to win the SEC West.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said this about LSU after Saturday's 68-57 outcome:

" … They've played a tough schedule this year. They could have replaced two of those games with two easier games, and instead of being 12-5 they're sitting there at 14-3 probably ranked in the Top 10 in the country. This is a big-time basketball team. They're very good and very talented, and they're going to be a tough team for everybody to play in our conference."

In the SEC, the schedule never gets easier. Georgia comes to town Wednesday, feeling good about itself after beating Ole Miss, which was unbeaten in the league. And then LSU goes to Ole Miss, which isn't that good but is always tough at home.

LSU has gotten this far largely because of the improved – and surprising – play of its freshmen, specifically Tyrus Thomas and Garrett Temple.

If Thomas is not the best freshman in the country, he's right up there. And Temple has carried a big load since LSU learned it would not have Tack Minor this season.

But the other side of it is that LSU is young. A team with so many freshmen and sophomores will lose some games it shouldn't. That's just a fact of basketball life, especially when January feels like March.

But for now, there are no unbeaten teams in the country and even if it's early, the rest of the SEC is looking up at LSU.


Lee Feinswog is the author of "Tales From The LSU Sidelines," a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com.

His newest book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

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