I hate to break the bad news to some of you, but LSU football won't be playing another game for at least a month. And after that bowl game, they won't tee it up again for another 8 months or so. We'll all need something else to hold us over and get excited about. Or perhaps something else to gripe and complain about, depending on your perspective of Fightin' Tiger Football.
So what are LSU sports fans supposed to do in the meantime?
Wait, I think I know. We're supposed to lose sleep over star junior college quarterback Zach Mettenberger's impending decision to attend or not attend LSU…right? Find out what he had for lunch today, check his facebook status, maybe text message his buddies to gauge his mood? We're supposed to sit at our computers agonizing over teenage kids and at what college they will choose to play collegiate football…right? We're supposed to monitor the recruiting rankings and see if LSU has risen or fallen…since last checking those same rankings 20 minutes ago? Right?
Not this guy.
With all due respect, I'm kidding to an extent. I understand the vast, undeniable importance of recruiting to the LSU football program. "You can't run, if you don't have the horses" is the tried and true cliche. You must have talented players to win at the highest level. Interest in recruiting is indeed high and some fans feast on it like the turkey and pecan pie they just devoured at Thanksgiving dinner. I have great friends like Mike Scarborough who run tremendous recruiting websites like Tigerbait.com to feed the masses. And yes, we at WAFB-TV do our best to report breaking recruiting news as it happens.
But live and die by it? No sir. Believe it or not, there is another LSU team that's actually playing games for us to cover right now. And they are actually beginning to play pretty well.
Since an embarrassing 62-53 loss at home against Nicholls State on November 16th, Trent Johnson's LSU basketball Tigers have won four of their last five games following a dominating 73-57 triumph over the Houston Cougars. Their only loss during that stretch was 70-61 setback to a Memphis squad that is now ranked #14 in the country. LSU stood toe-to-toe with the powerhouse Tigers program before a partisan, sold-out Memphis crowd of nearly 8,000 fans in Tupelo.
LSU's new, young arsenal of talent is beginning to find their way and digest the speed of the collegiate game. At this point, there may not be any Tigers the caliber of a Tyrus Thomas, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Brandon Bass or even Darrel Mitchell - the kinds of players that have been necessary to reach the NCAA Tournament (and yes, The Final Four) in recent years. However Johnson has his own vision of building a winner…and it's beginning to take shape. Freshman guards Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner are becoming increasingly promising and entertaining to watch. Stringer (who admits he's only 5'8) led LSU scoring during their first six games of the season, including 21-point outbursts in wins over Northwestern State and South Alabama. His range from the outside is lethal; and his body control on the run, when lofting tear drops over much taller defenders, is equally impressive. Stringer is also a guy who knows how to get to the free throw line and is pretty good from the stripe, shooting 81%. Meanwhile, Turner's 12.6 points per game are second on the club only to Stringer's 16.1. Turner led LSU in scoring in the win over Houston with 15, but likewise showed a glimpse into the growing pains all the young Tigers will experience with another team-high of 6 turnovers.
And it's not all about the new guys. There are players who were part of last season's 2-14 SEC nightmare that have improved and are maturing. Junior forward, Storm Warren, had a strong double-double against Houston with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore guard, Aaron Dotson, looks like an entirely different player this year, closer to 100% after a devastating knee injury suffered his senior year of high school. Dotson drove baseline and soared over defenders for a nasty dunk against South Alabama not long ago. This was certainly an emphatic statement that #45 is no longer worried about the knee and is poised for a strong season ahead. Even the big redhead, Eddie Ludwig, is showing what a year of offseason weight training can do - going up strong, getting hammered and still being able to finish with a score against Houston.
So can this LSU team make the NCAA tournament? Most skeptics will emphatically shake their head, chuckle and say "no way." But who says we have to accept it like death, taxes and the traffic on College Drive? Who says he have to say this will be another "rebuilding year?" Let's simply take it game by game and give these guys a chance to do something special. Maybe, just maybe, we'll be excited when March rolls around.
So what are you doing Saturday, December 11th around 7 pm? That's when LSU plays their next home game against Central Michigan at the PMAC. Tickets cost $14 bucks and will probably be more fun than attending another Christmas movie starring Tim Allen. I'm sure Trent & The Tigers would love to see you there. They may not deserve your undivided attention just yet, but I think they deserve some.