DEVILLE: Basketball renaissance in the making

For one brief moment, Baton Rouge was a basketball town.

So it seemed anyway.


No one could have believed that on the same day as the LSU football spring game, few people would be talking about Les Miles and the Tigers but rather focused on some distant basketball game.


Just four short hours after Miles wrapped up spring drills with the annual spring game, usually one of the biggest events of the spring, coach John Brady was to take the court in Indianapolis as his upstart Tigers were to face Final Four regular UCLA. The next day, Pokey Chatman's Lady Tigers would be making thief third straight trip to the national semifinals.


It is not too often one university has two teams reach the Final Four. It has happened only seven times in NCAA history; twice in the SEC.


For each of the last five seasons, the same school has sent both its men's and women's teams to the round of four. LSU accomplished the feat this season preceded by Michigan State (2005), UConn (2004), Texas (2003) and Oklahoma (2002).


Duke pulled the double-dip in 1999 and Georgia became the first team ever to accomplish the feat (and the only other SEC program to do so) in 1983.


Many said the LSU women would make it to Boston so a third straight trip to the Final Four wasn't such surprise. But the Tigers run to the Final Four was what made headlines, especially after Brady's band of unrelenting underclassmen beat top-seeded Duke, then powerhouse Texas to reach the national semifinals.


Needless to say, LSU fans ambled about town with their chests puffed out like football stronghold of Baton Rouge was all of sudden the new Lexington, Chapel Hill or even Durham. Maybe even Westwood.


Well, speaking of Westwood, it was those Bruins that sent the Tigers and their fans hurling back down to Earth after UCLA routed LSU 59-45. The next day, it wasn't the men but the women of Durham that let the remaining air out of LSU's basketball as the Blue Devils hammered the Lady Tigers 64-45.


As quickly as the enthusiasm had generated, it was over in a flash.


All in all, though, the 2005-06 basketball season will be one to be remembered for quite some time. No longer will the men's program be referred to only by the glory days of Dale Brown's pair of magical runs to the Final Four. Sure the greatest team never to make it to the round of four still remains the 1989 Tigers consisting of Stanley Roberts, Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, but LSU basketball is now more than just that.


There is new history, fresh history, accomplishments that young people of this generation can relive and remember.


Also, build on. If things remain in place and barring a Tyrus Thomas jump to the next level, Brady has all the pieces in place to make a few more deep postseason runs in the NCAA Tournament. By that time, the sky is the limit with this program and where its reputation may be at that time. Brady could be on the verge of building LSU back into the powerhouse it was in the 1980s and before the crippling NCAA sanctions of the mid 1990s.


The Lady Tigers' program is at a crossroads of sorts. The Seimone Augustus era is officially in the books.


Arguably the greatest player of the NCAA era (justified by being the only two-time winner of the Wade Trophy) to never win a national title, Augustus was the first overall pick of the WNBA Draft and takes with her the heart and soul (and most of the offense) of the Lady Tigers' team.


Duke gave Chatman and LSU fans a glimpse into the future showing what it would be like without Augustus on the floor by holding the all-American scoreless in the first half of the national semifinal game in Boston. The Lady Tigers struggled to find any points on the offensive end and it was obvious Sylvia Fowles is not prepared to become to focal point of this LSU team.


Star scorer Allison Hightower is heading to Baton Rouge by way of Dallas. She had better be bringing some offense along with her.


In retrospect, it is a period of time which will go down in the LSU history books as one of the best ever. What the LSU men's and women's basketball teams did in a matter of four months is nothing short of amazing.


For the first time in the history of the SEC, one school swept both the men's and women's outright regular season conference titles. Kentucky (1983) and Tennessee (2000) claimed shares to SEC titles but LSU became the first school in the 25 year NCAA era of women's basketball to sweep both titles outright.


On top of that, LSU claimed both the players of the year with Seimone Augustus and Glen Davis taking home the top brass. Plus a little lagniappe, John Brady was named coach of the year and Tyrus Thomas was tabbed the league's top freshman.


As stated above, the Lady Tigers were no doubt a favorite to reach the Final Four. Blessed with the easiest route to the national semifinals, LSU played as if it was the most difficult. Time and again, the Lady Tigers were forced to rebound from poor first half performance relying on athleticism to get them to the next round.


The men, on the other hand, were dealt arguably the toughest road and thrived against the tougher competition. After struggling a bit against Iona and a talented Texas A&M team, Brady's team stepped up their level of play knocking off the tournament's No. 1 overall seed in Duke. Doubters still gave the Tigers little chance against the most athletic tram in the field of 65, but LSU knocked off No. 2 seed Texas to advance to the first Final Four in 20 years.


But in the end, both teams met the same fate. Both the LSU men and women were held to 45 points each, being defeated by teams that were eventual losers in the national championship game. UCLA got drilled by Florid a on the men's side and Duke blew a 14-point lead to lose to Maryland in overtime.


Still though, while Tiger fans dreamed of a possible title sweep and LSU came away without even one victory, the season was one to be remembered and could be the beginning of more good things in the future.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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