Untapped potential

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

LSU basketball has always taken a back seat in Baton Rouge. There's no question about it, this is a football and baseball town.

And if you look at the game-by-game attendance of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, you'll know this to be true. LSU hoops too often gets lost in the shuffle, but it doesn't have to.

This LSU team is loaded with talent. They have good enough personnel to win the SEC West and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Unfortunately, there has been a disconnect the past two seasons. Despite all the talent and potential, the Tigers have faltered at times.

With a team talented enough to reach the Sweet 16 or even further, they're in danger of missing the tournament altogether--which was their exact fate from last year.

They currently sit at 18-8 overall and 7-6 in conference. It's not a bad record but with this year's weakness of the SEC, they'll have to join a long list of teams on the bubble, struggling to earn themselves a spot in the NCAA field of 68.

But it shouldn't have to be that way.

LSU has one of the most talented big men in the nation in sophomore Jarell Martin. He was a McDonald's All-American in high school and standing at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, he could be unstoppable if he wanted.

Too many times in the past two years, I've seen Martin playing outside, taking long jump shots. I've even seen him taking 3-pointers. That should never happen.

He's just not a great shooter. However, with his size, athleticism and raw talent, he could be an unstoppable force down low. That's where he belongs.

He shouldn't be outside taking jump shots. He needs to be posting up in the blocks, using his agility to get past defenders and taking it hard to the goal.

Along with Martin, the Tigers have another sophomore phenom in Jordan Mickey. Mickey is a good rebounder, but he's a superb defender down low. He's a shot-blocking machine.

But once again, many times, we see him taking long jump shots instead of taking his 6-foot-8 frame down low.

Along with that dynamic front court, LSU has 3-point specialist Keith Hornsby, talented point guard Josh Gray, Tim Quarterman and 7-foot-1 center Elbert Robinson III.

With all that talent, there is no way the Tigers should be just 18-8 and sporting five losses in conference.

There is no way they should be losing to Old Dominion or a 15-11 Clemson squad or a Missouri team that is just 7-18. They shouldn't be blowing a 13-point second-half lead to Texas A&M at home . They shouldn't be losing to Mississippi State and Auburn--two teams with losing records.

LSU simply has too much talent to be experiencing those kinds of setbacks.

Inconsistency is their worst enemy right now. They can lose the games mentioned above to inferior competition but then, they show you why there was so much excitement heading into the season.

They crush a good UMass team, beat a ranked West Virginia squad on the road, beat up on Florida away from home and come very close to upsetting top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky just last week.

Those games show you just how much potential this team has. That's why this season has been such a disappointment.

Johnny Jones has proven to be an amazing recruiter, but he has to step it up on the sideline. I will give him the benefit of the doubt being that this is only his third season as head coach.

But next year, it's make or break for Jones. The Tigers should be loaded with talent.

I expect Martin and Mickey to both leave for the NBA after this season but even with their departure, the rest of the Tigers should be back.

And in will come the top recruit in the nation, Ben Simmons, along with the 14th-ranked recruit in Antonio Blakeney and the highly-talented Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

With that kind of personnel, Jones better win and win big. If he doesn't take the Tigers to the tournament and make a respectable run once there, then LSU will need to start looking for a coach that can.