LSU’s Dreadful Performance Could Put Johnny Jones’ Future in Doubt

Posted by David Changas on March 12th, 2016

In Saturday’s first semifinal matchup at the SEC Tournament, things started out well enough for LSU. The Tigers got to the first media timeout with an 8-3 lead and otherwise looked ready to play. From there, things were, to put it mildly, a disaster for Johnny Jones‘ team. Over the last 15:47 of the half, the Bayou Bengals registered just one field goal — an Antonio Blakeney three-pointer at the 1:18 mark — and were outscored 32-5 on their way to a 35-13 halftime deficit. Ben Simmons picked up three fouls and sat for most of the frame, but using that as an excuse for the putrid effort his team collectively put forward would not be fair. LSU was outhustled in every way by a Texas A&M team that looked like it actually wanted to be in Nashville. The Aggies coasted to an astonishing 71-38 victory that puts them in Sunday’s championship game against the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between Kentucky and Georgia.

After Saturday's 71-38 loss to Texas A&M, the case can be made that it's time for LSU to move on from Johnny Jones (

After Saturday’s 71-38 loss to Texas A&M, the case can be made that it’s time for LSU to move on from Johnny Jones (

The first half was in many ways a microcosm of LSU’s entire season. This is a team from which much was expected but could not deliver on the hype. Simmons is regarded by many as the likely first overall pick in the NBA Draft, and while he showed why he’s so highly-regarded at times this season, there were plenty of moments when he did not. On Saturday, after sitting much of the first half, he essentially was a non-factor on his way to a 10-point, 12-rebound performance. After the game, Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said he felt sorry for Simmons. “He’s a 19-year-old kid. He’s put on this pedestal; it’s just a lot to ask,” he said. For his part, Simmons said he wasn’t burdened by the pressure so many put on him. “For me, I just wanted to play. I didn’t tell myself where I was going to be, where our team was going to be,” he said after the game.

To get to the NCAA Tournament, LSU needed to win the SEC Tournament. That didn’t happen, and speculation can now begin as to what that means for the head coach and his future at the school. This season, regardless of what lesser tournament the Tigers play in, can be looked as nothing other than a colossal disappointment. With Simmons, guards Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby, as well as former five-star recruit and Arizona transfer Craig Victor, optimism for a special season was high in Baton Rouge. Hornsby missed much of the campaign, including the last six games, and that certainly did not help. Victor was only eligible after sitting out the first semester, and LSU took some ugly losses early. In the first half of SEC play, though, the Tigers looked like they had turned a corner. That brief window of good play didn’t last, as LSU lost five of their last eight coming into this week’s tournament.

Jones admitted that Saturday’s showing was a disappointment — the Tigers’ total output of 38 points were the fewest any power conference team has scored all year — but instead of taking personal blame, he thinks it was all attributable to Victor’s and Simmons’ foul trouble and the team’s inability to make shots. “I thought the guys came out ready to play.  I thought we did a great job getting out of the gate. Offensively, we just couldn’t get things to click. We sit there in the first half — we got a couple of guys in foul trouble and we lost some of our edge.  The second half was more of the same.  It’s very disappointing for us to pick today to have a bad shooting day,” Jones said after the game.

In the bigger picture, it’s unclear what Saturday’s result means for Jones’ future. He has not exactly blown people away with this basketball acumen since he arrived in Baton Rouge four years ago, and his inability to get much out of what have been some very talented rosters has subjected him to great ridicule among college basketball fans. But Saturday’s performance was a new level of futility. That he did not seem to understand after the game it was indicative of a bigger problem than simply missing too many shots or allowing the opponent to make too many is not a surprise to anyone. The argument can be made that if he couldn’t have success with a future NBA star, why should anyone expect him to have success with less? Assuming he returns next season, Jones will be on the hottest of hot seats, and if Saturday’s result is any indication, his long-term future at LSU is in serious doubt.

David Changas (166 Posts)

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