Sunday, March 15, 2009

SOAPBOX: Expectations

Basketball: MSU 67, LSU 57. LSU's loss to Miss St in the semi-finals of the SEC tourny was disappointing. But not unexpected. Miss St has a good team and a good coach and they match up well to LSU's weakness (power in the paint). LSU is not playing well offensively of late. So, I honestly didn't expect LSU to win this one.

As for the NCAA tourny, my expectations are a #6 or 7 seed, a win in the first round, then a slightly ungraceful exit. LSU has: talent, but not loads of it; experience, but not on the bench; and most critically, a well-established achilles heel. A good team will be able to play solid defense against Marcus Thornton and take advantage of LSU's lack of power in the paint.

With Marcus and Quinton Thornton, Garrett Temple, Terry Martin and Chris Johnson graduating, LSU will have a big challenge rebuilding next year. Trent Johnson has not been able to recruit to fill the "big man" need. So, don't expect another run at the SEC in 2010. But recruiting looks to be more solid in the coming years with LA talent. So the short term isn't great, but the futue looks bright. Will require some patience, though. LSU fans aren't exactly good at patience these days, me included.

Basketball Expectations: 2nd round defeat in NCAA, tough year in 2010 but awesome recruiting year. 2011 will be the year for this team, especially if Bo Spencer stays for 4 years.

Baseball. LSU 5, Kentucky 3. The #3 Tigers won a pitching duel on Friday, with Anthony Ranaudo hurling 13 strikeouts in about 6 innings. The UK starter had 14 Ks. Louis Coleman got the win as closer by coming into a tied ballgame and shutting Kentucky down.

Although the Tigers are still playing good baseball, there have been a couple of disappointing outings that make me wonder if expectations aren't just a tad high for this year. For instance, LSU lost the home series to Illinois. The Illini are not an SEC or ACC or PAC-10 caliber baseball team. Neither is ULL, who beat LSU last week.

LSU's schedule includes much tougher series than Illinois. Georgia, Arkansas and Ole Miss are all Top-25 teams. South Carolina and Kentucky are good teams as well.

The team entered SEC play (or just prior) with an aura of dominance around it. The pitching staff looked brutal, and the bats looked simian. So, I think thos of us who follow baseball at least a little have begun to think the team would waltz into the CWS this year.

Well, what we're finding out is that the pitching rotation has holes in it. Not big ones. And not permanent ones. But the Tiger pitching staff is still incomplete.

This isn't a doom/gloom thing. This is just resetting expectations (mine if noone elses). A CWS run is easily within the reach of this team, but it won't be quite the cakewalk that the early non-conference scores hinted at. There will be plenty of drama on the way. Unless the pitching staff solidifies. If that happens? Then this could get ugly for LSU's opponents. Because the hitting is there to win lots of ballgames.

Baseball Expectations: SEC Champs, CWS run. They have the talent to win it all this year (and next year). We'll see.

Football. Spring practice is underway and the early reports look good for LSU. There's a lot of talent - an embarassment of talent, really. And, some of that talent is very experienced, like Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, Brandon LaFell, Rahim Alem and Richard Dickson. A few of the younger players are getting early mention from the coaches, like Patrick Peterson (CB), Tim Molton (WR), and Josh Dworaczyk (OL). I think, in terms of expectations, what I'm hearing and reading from the LSU fanatics out there is exactly correct. Guarded optimism.

LSU has a very high quality, but nonetheless FIRST YEAR, defensive coaching staff. And there is a ton of talent on the defensive side of the football. Last year's weakest link (defensive backfield) promises to be a very bright spot for LSU this year. Patrick Peterson has lived up to his recruiting billing. Chris Hawkins is talented and experienced (though he didn't practice on Fri, which is concerning). Behind these two corners, the depth is awesome, including last year's starter on the left - Jai Eugene. Safeties are deep and talented as well, and there's some talk that Chad Jones will be an every down free safety next season. The LB corps is young but, in my opinion, better than last year - the reserves (Baker and Minter) have me excited about depth here. And the DL is always at least competent. There's a lot of great talent and experience there as well, though the experienced depth is down a bit from last year.

The big topic on offense again this spring is QB. Jordan Jefferson ended on a huge high note last year, leading the team very competently in LSU's spanking of Georgia Tech. All accounts from practice point to a confident, poised JJ ready to take the job next year. Jarrett Lee has not transferred as some have suggested (maybe even hoped?) and so far is looking very good in practice as well. Haven't heard any comments about his leadership of the team yet, but it's early. I'll address the Lee situation in a bit. Russell Shepard is practicing. Not much else to say at this point. His passes haven't looked awesome, but hell - his buddies are still in high school. We'll give him a break. Chris Garrett has been impressing observers. Comments similar to: "If you didn't know who he was, you'd think he was a veteran." I think Garrett will redshirt if injuries allow, but I am very excited about this kid. Bookmark his name. The rest of the offense is going to be really good this year. Question marks exist at center and fullback. But the rest of the roster is very, very deep and talented.

Football Expectation: 3 losses, SEC West contender. I think 2 of the losses will be at the hands of some mix of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss. And one of the losses likely to a team LSU should have beaten. Why 3 losses? First of all, because the SEC West is strong next year, and we play the two strongest teams in the East. Second, the QBs are still young. Could we have another 1 or 2 loss season? Absolutely. I'm just not expecting it.

Finally, a few thoughts on Jarrett Lee. It's really embarassing and disheartening to read and listen to some of the asinine, classless bullshit out there regarding Lee. No doubt, he had a terrible, terrible season last year. But he also had some very bright moments, specifically against Auburn and South Carolina. And he's a tough, tough kid who seems like a team player. I think his experience fighting for the job with Andrew Hatch last year makes him a huge asset to the team regardless of whether he's the starter. I also think he has a chance to win the starting job next year. That thought illicits emotional responses from the Lee haters out there, but stand by folks. I'm not saying he WILL win the job. I don't even EXPECT him to win the job. I'm just saying he's a very talented QB (mechanically) and if he gets his head in the game and progresses in the off season, he will push Jefferson very, very hard for the starting job.

What pisses me off is the near certainty that, if Jefferson gets hurt, or Lee just flat out beats him out for the job, a good portion of the fan base is going to lose it's collective mind and hang Lee from the yard arm before the season even begins. It hasn't even happened yet, and I'm already dreading it. So, I'm asking all you Lee haters out there (and you know who you are) to take a deep breath and give the kid a break.

What would really benefit LSU is JJ and Lee working as a #1 and #2 team, providing the Tigers with a potent and experienced backup option. Without Lee (transfer), LSU is a much less stable team next season.

Thanks to Joshua for keeping the Blog going - I've enjoyed reading your posts, brother. I'm not sure if I'm back regularly yet, but I will be. In the meantime, keep it up!

1 comment:

Don't be rude. Or I will delete your comment. Questions?