DEVILLE: Tigers face improbable task

The regular season is officially in the books for John Brady and the Tigers. And the end couldn't have come soon enough.

A season which began with a lofty top-five ranking is nearing a merciful end as LSU slumped to 16-14 overall, 5-11 in the SEC. A year after winning the SEC Championship with a 14-2 record in the conference capped off by a trip to the Final Four, the Tigers finished last in the SEC Western Division.

 

There will be no Big Dance for Brady's club this year, that is, unless the Tigers do the unthinkable and win four games in four days this weekend at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.

 

"We have a little momentum going right now and have played pretty well the last couple of weeks," Brady said after LSU's 61-52 win over South Carolina Saturday night. "This win was a good thing from a confidence standpoint. We will have two really good practices Monday and Tuesday and, from what I understand, we will play Tennessee Thursday night."     

 

The last team to win the SEC Tournament by winning four games in four days was Arkansas, who defeated SEC Champion LSU 69-67 in the semifinals. The Razorbacks went on to beat Auburn 75-67 in the championship game to advance to the NCAA Tournament with a 19-15 record.

 

Auburn achieved four victories in four days in 1985, beating Ole Miss, LSU, Florida and finally Alabama in overtime to reach the Big Dance. Auburn went 8-10 in the SEC that season and upset Purdue and Kansas before losing to North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

 

Stranger things have happened, but it would be a long shot for LSU to run the table in the SEC Tournament considering they haven't won back-to-back games since beating Auburn and Ole Miss in consecutive games back on Jan. 13 and 17.

 

But who is to say what could happen?

 

LSU began to slide in the early stages of the SEC schedule. Next, the Tigers lost junior All-American center Glen Davis with a pulled quadriceps muscle. Then the bad luck began. Brady's team lost more close games than you could shake a stick at.

 

At Georgia, LSU lost to a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Tigers lost three-point games at Tennessee and at home versus Alabama. Ole Miss hit a jumper at the buzzer to down the Tigers by one.

 

Ironically, when Davis went down, LSU's play improved and the Tigers beat No. 3 Florida and nearly beat Kentucky in Lexington for the first time in the Brady era.

After missing four games, Davis returned to the lineup Saturday versus South Carolina, a game which LSU won 61-52. But he was far from his old self.

 

"I don't think he is in great shape right now," Brady said after the win over the Gamecocks. "After the Auburn game we took off Thursday, but coach (John) Treloar worked Glen out in the afternoon and at night. He went through the practice on Friday and played today. The team will take off tomorrow, but Glen and coach Treloar will work out in the afternoon."

 

Brady said he expects Davis to play against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament opener on Thursday, but it is unsure what kind of contribution he will make.

 

"I assume he will do everything possible to play against Tennessee because even though he played last time against Tennessee, he didn't do a whole lot," Brady said. "He understands that, and hopefully he has a chance to get some redemption. He should have some incentive to get in the best shape possible."

 

Whether or not LSU has Davis at full strength, the Tigers must beat the Volunteers in Atlanta on Thursday if they want to sniff the postseason air.  At 16-14 overall, the Tigers need 17 wins to get into the NIT, so says longtime LSU basketball SID Kent Lowe.

 

Just maybe, though, if the stars align, LSU could put together an improbable run and join the likes of Arkansas and Auburn in running the table in the SEC Tournament.

 

Could these Tigers go from SEC West flop to the Big Dance?

 

 

From the mailbag:

 

(This is an e-mail one reader sent to Skip Bertman, and he copied Tiger Rag when sending it.)

 

 

Skip,

 

Cowboy, Jr., here, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for a truly wonderful great ride.  I know my Dad, Cowboy Hohmann, would sanction this accolade were he still alive.  Though, as you know, my Dad and me did favor Carl Maddox, of course being a good coach has something to do with being a great AD, so I want you to feel as equal in magnitude.  With some exception, you are leaving the ship (presently the Flag Ship) in the hands of good coaches and that is not an easy task in these times of "moolah mooching."  In addition, you have brought us to new heights in sports facilities and sports faces, including a high ranking in the overall sports program dynasty. 

 

I, like many of my co-hearts want to win, but realize that it is the competition that makes that desire difficult to maintain.  As for the conference we share, there is in my opinion no greater!  This magnifies the job you have done, and, therefore, the magnitude.

 

My best to you and your family in your future plans.

 

W. Neil Hohmann

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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