BATON ROUGE, La. — The end of Les Miles’ tenure with the LSU football team was frustrating. But that’s nothing compared to what the LSU basketball team is going through.
After years of alternating between above average and mediocre, the LSU basketball program seems to have hit its lowest point in the Johnny Jones era, floundering to a 1-3 start in SEC play and having allowed 90 or more points in four of its last five games, all losses.
Wednesday night might’ve been LSU basketball’s worst loss of them all this season, as the Texas A&M crushed the Tigers, 92-62, in a game where the Aggies shot 57 percent from the field and at one point led 19-3. Coming off a season where LSU failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament despite featuring No. 1 recruit and No. 1 NBA draft pick Ben Simmons, LSU seems to have ventured away from the realm of the disappointing and into the cellar of the SEC alongside Missouri.
As is often the case in a situation such as this, the obvious fan solution is to fire Jones. And I understand where that logic stems from. Based purely on talent and pedigree, LSU should never finish in the bottom half of the SEC, let alone in 13th like it is now.
But here’s the thing: Prior to this season, a Jones-coached LSU team has never finished worse than eighth in the SEC. In each of the last two seasons, LSU finished tied for third in the conference and two years ago Jones led LSU to the NCAA tournament.
I’m not saying that’s enough to earn a contract extension. But in the state of the modern SEC, where the conference struggles to earn four bids to the NCAA tournament, a coach that can consistently finish in the top half of the conference isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong: LSU needs to make some changes. Jones needs to make some changes. Something needs to be done about the way this program plays defense. Wasting Simmons is a black mark that this program will forever have to wear and probably hurt LSU’s chances of ever bringing in another recruit of that caliber.
If Jones isn’t the guy to fix these wholesale issues, I could understand why LSU athletic director Joe Alleva might want to make a change. But if LSU can bring in the right assistant coaches to teach sound technical defense and the right kinds of recruits to buy in to a program that has enough history to rival every school in the SEC other than Kentucky, this team might only be two years away from a true turnaround.
Whether Jones is there to lead it, we’ll have to see.
OK. That’s enough about basketball. Let’s get back to LSU football and, one of my favorite topics, advanced metrics.
On Thursdays throughout the regular season, I broke down predictions, comparisons and rankings from numberFire.com, a sports analytics website that seeks to properly rate teams based on how they perform on the field and in the areas that matter most.
One of the reasons I find numberFire’s data so interesting is that it looks beyond wins and losses and evaluates teams based on what they showed. And, based off numberFire’s end-of-the-year rankings, LSU showed a lot.
LSU finishes the regular and postseason as numberFire’s sixth-ranked team in the FBS, trailing only Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson and Washington. This includes ranking as the nation’s third-most efficient run offense and second-most efficient rush defense.
But perhaps even more interesting than LSU’s overall rankings is how numberFire compared LSU’s 2016 campaign to its previous 15. By overall rating, numberFire ranked 2016 as one of the top 5 LSU football seasons since the turn of the century and the Tigers’ best season as a rush offense.
Even more interestingly, LSU’s pass offense — a perceived weakness of the team this season — graded better in 2016 than it did in 2003 and 2007, two years LSU won national championships, but LSU’s pass defense — always the strength of DBU — ranked in the bottom third of LSU seasons since 2000.
Numbers are fun sometimes. Even if you have no clue how they’re calculated.
In this week’s edition of “How far would Les Miles be willing to sink?,” the former LSU football coach was asked about his interest in the recently vacated Western Michigan job. Miles had this to say:
“I enjoy the grind,” Miles said of coaching at smaller schools. “I enjoy coming in early, I enjoy seeing guys that are working hard. It’s a part of my culture, it’s a part of the culture of the teams I’ve coached. We like to work hard. We approach the game in a matter-of-fact way and we figure that we’re going to win.”
This is pretty consistent with what Miles said last week when asked about his willingness to take a demotion from LSU to a smaller gig. But Western Michigan is quite a demotion.
Sure, P.J. Fleck led the Broncos to an undefeated regular season in 2016 before leaving for Minnesota. But you don’t leave a cushy job to try to turn around Minnesota from 75 years of failure unless you’re really confident that it’s a promotion.
It’s not easy to win at Western Michigan. Les might have it in him, but I think he might be better off sitting out a year and waiting for a job next offseason. He’s bound to get something better than Western Michigan.
Do you like reading about LSU football? Go ahead, read stuff:
- SEC Country’s LSU recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman talked recruiting. Watch the full video above.
- Don’t worry. LSU’s sixth early enrollee is on his way. His high school just messed some things up.
- Might LSU flip a 4-star linebacker? Things are getting interesting.
- The LSU baseball team is ranked very high in Perfect Game’s preseason poll.
- We talked to an NFL Draft expert about Malachi Dupre’s draft stock. Here are his thoughts.
- LSU is changing the way its football team does winter workouts.
- LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux talked about being ranked No. 1 and beating Georgia.
That’s one confident LSU football freshman …
As I’ve mentioned a couple times throughout the week in the Bayou Bengal Briefing, freshman early enrollees reported to campus on Monday and officially began classes Wednesday.
5-star safety JaCoby Stevens is the most notable player in the bunch, but quarterback Lowell Narcisse might be the most talked about recruit. It’s impossible not to talk about quarterbacks, especially when LSU never seems to not be in the middle of a quarterback controversy.
Even though he’s coming off of back-to-back knee injuries, Narcisse seems confident that he’ll not only be a part of the competition, but that he’ll also win it.
Time to silence all the critics, have way to many people doubting me to win this job
— Lowell Narcisse Jr. (@L_Narcisse2) January 11, 2017
That’s one way to make friends on your first day of college, Lowell. When I was in school, I did it by introducing myself to my neighbors in my dorm. But calling out your haters seems like a good strategy, too.
Watch out, haters. Narcisse is coming to silence you.
Speaking of LSU football tweets …
This isn’t really news, but I’m just really intrigued by it: Three of LSU’s graduating senior defenders tweet a lot about Prison Break.
A new trailer for the reboot of the FOX show that ran from 2005 to 2009 dropped Wednesday and Rickey Jefferson, Tre’Davious White and Duke Riley are all way more excited than you’d expect.
— RAMBO (@Self_Made8_) January 12, 2017
— Duke Riley (@1Goal1Dream) January 12, 2017
— Tre'Davious White (@TreWhite16) January 12, 2017
This series of tweets comes on the heels of Monday when, as I wrote about here, White chose to watch Prison Break reruns on Netflix instead of the national championship between Alabama and Clemson.
I’ve never watched Prison Break. It seemed like too simple of a show. After one season when they break out of prison, what’s there left to do? But these guys seem to love it.
So, maybe, I should watch it. Let me know if I should. Or else I’ll just see a bunch of tweets about it for the next six months.
Today in made-up holidays
According to the wizards at NationalDayCalendar.com, Thursday is “Kiss a Ginger Day.” For those of you who might not know, “ginger” is a slang term for redheads, probably derived from Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. (I just looked it up. The term predates Gilligan’s Island by a century. I was wrong.)
Anyway, Thursday is a day where we’re supposed to be nice to redheads. So, let’s end Bayou Bengal Briefing today by giving some love to LSU football’s most popular graduating ginger: Ethan Pocic.
Depending on where you look, Pocic is either the top-ranked or second-ranked center in the 2017 NFL Draft class alongside Ohio State alum Pat Elflein.
Pocic has rare size for a center. At 6-foot-6, Pocic will enter the NFL tied with Seattle’s Justin Britt and Jacksonville’s Brandon Linder as the tallest starting centers in the league.
Because of this size, Pocic might be asked to bump outside to offensive tackle, something Pocic did sparingly for LSU in 2016 when starting right tackle Toby Weathersby and starting left guard Will Clapp both went down with injuries early in the season.
Expect Pocic to be picked between the late first and mid-second rounds in the NFL Draft this year. Dating back to 2000, nine centers have been picked in the first round, with former Alabama center Ryan Kelly and former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey tying for the earliest at No. 18.
Centers (Travis Frederick, Cameron Erving and Kelly) have been picked in the first round in three of the last four seasons. If Pocic is the first center of the board this year, that’s the company he’ll be joining.
Oh, and if you see him around campus or walking down the street on Thursday, you’re supposed to kiss him.