Don’t underplay this: Being in NIT is massive for LSU basketball

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Let’s talk about LSU basketball

For the first time since 2015, the LSU basketball team will play in a postseason game on Wednesday when the Tigers host in-state rival UL-Lafayette. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be available to stream online through WatchESPN, but won’t be televised.

Earlier in the week, LSU basketball coach Will Wade downplayed the situation, reminding the media that this is “ just the NIT.” Which is true. There’s no reason to celebrate too hard when you’re invited to a tournament for the teams ranked 69th or worse in the nation. Or when you have a top 5 recruiting class in the nation showing up on campus in a few months.

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But let’s take a moment to consider where this program was a year ago. Things couldn’t have been bleaker. Worst in the SEC. Coach fired. Best player headed to the NBA. A roster that didn’t know how to play defense and hadn’t proven it wanted to learn. And for as promising as Wade’s hire was, he was a coach with no SEC experience who could have been mistaken for one of his team managers.

For LSU to turn it around this quickly is worth celebrating. For the team to go from allowing 83 points per game to 73.9 points per game, that alone almost merits a parade. Not to mention the revelation Tremont Waters has been at point guard or how reliable seniors Aaron Epps and Duop Reath have turned out to be.

Of course, this isn’t where LSU basketball wants to be. Wade wants this program in the NCAA Tournament, and he looks poised to get the Tigers close next season. But that doesn’t mean the team’s 2018 accomplishments shouldn’t be lauded. This team didn’t deserve to finish with a winning record or play postseason basketball. But it got there. And that’s an awesome achievement for Year 1.

Meet Jonathan Giles

We in the LSU media corps got to meet and talk with former Texas Tech standout and LSU transfer wide receiver Jonathan Giles for the first time on Tuesday, and he lived up to the hype, at least in the pressroom. I spun out a long story on Giles’ path to LSU, which you can read here. I highly recommend you do. He has a fascinating, fun story.

And in case you’re not familiar with Giles, here are some numbers:

  • He caught 69 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore at Texas Tech in 2016. There was only one Power 5 receiver with at least that many yards and touchdowns in 2017: Oklahoma State’s James Washington.
  • The last Power 5 sophomore before Giles to catch 13 touchdowns in one season was Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds in 2014. No Power 5 underclassman has caught more touchdowns than Giles since Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin in 2013.
  • Maybe Giles’ most notable number is No. 7. That’s the jersey he’ll wear in 2018, following in the footsteps of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette and DJ Chark.

Speaking of Leonard Fournette …

If you feel like saying “awwwww,” here’s a photo former LSU running back Leonard Fournette posted of Ed Orgeron handing his son a football.

Fournette attended LSU’s spring practice on Tuesday, as did former teammates Chark and quarterback Danny Etling.

ICYMI

Every day is a busy one in the LSU news world. In case you missed anything, here’s a recap:

In LSU baseball news

If you don’t feel like watching LSU basketball in the NIT, LSU baseball has a game on Wednesday as well. The Tigers host South Alabama at 6:30 p.m. CT, also available for stream through WatchESPN. Freshman A.J. Labas will make his third start of 2018, hoping to throw around 70 pitches.

Those of you who have good memories might remember LSU played South Alabama last season, blowing an early lead to lose 7-6. Which made people angry. Then, LSU won 17 games in a row on the way to the College World Series. And people were less angry. Maybe that’s an omen. Maybe not. Either way, it’s what happened.

Today in made-up holidays

As anyone who went to middle school knows, March 14 is Pi Day. But I don’t feel like celebrating a long number. That sounds kind of boring.

So, according to the folks at NationalDayCalendar.com, March 14 is also National Learn About Butterflies Day. Which low key sounds kinda awesome. I don’t know anything about butterflies other than:

  1. They look cool
  2. They used to be caterpillars
  3. They scare the bejeezus out of me when they fly in front of my face

So, let’s learn more about butterflies. And spend less time trying to memorize a long number. Deal?

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The post Don’t underplay this: Being in NIT is massive for LSU basketball appeared first on SEC Country.

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