The LSU Tigers are not a team in crisis because they lost to the Florida Gators on Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. They are in crisis for reasons which flow from the fact that they lost to Florida.
The loss itself isn’t a sign of impending doom. Skylar Mays had a terrible day. It happens. Tremont Waters wasn’t at his best. LSU is talented enough to shrug off a bad day at the office.
The surrounding details of the loss should concern the Tigers and their fans more than the loss itself.
Tony Benford is trying to lead the team as the interim head coach who has replaced Will Wade. Benford might not be a limitation for this team. The NCAA Tournament is a small-sample-size paradise, and as the 1989 NCAA Tournament showed, an interim coach can ride his team to the title. Hello, Steve Fisher!
The more realistic problem for Benford is not the fact that he lost to Florida; the urgent issue confronting LSU is simply that Benford and his players could have used a second (or third) game together, so that they could learn from each other and acquire a greater comfort zone. Maybe LSU would have lost to Auburn in an SEC semifinal on Saturday. That’s fine. Merely having a second game in which to evaluate situations and gain information before the NCAA Tournament would have been valuable.
Now, LSU carries only one neutral-site game into the Big Dance. The resources this team needs in order to cope with the absence of Will Wade have become more limited. Benford won’t be able to process a game one day (Friday) and come back to the bench the next day in another live-game situation. LSU needed more time on the court, more time to learn about itself in these adjusted circumstances.
Now, the Tigers won’t have that extra stash of time.
The talent is there to make the Final Four. Benford could prove to be an agile, able bench boss. Everything could still come together for LSU. Yet, the Tigers could have used another game. The uncertainties enveloping them before the round of 64 will now be more pronounced.
The Tigers better hope they get a bracket which enables them to ease their way into the tournament.
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