Yesterday, LSU freshman standout Ben Simmons was ruled ineligible for the Wooden Award due to academic infractions. This news came as a surprise for many, but it fits the theme this year for LSU- disappointment.
The Tigers came into this season with high expectations, despite losing Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, both of whom left early to pursue NBA dreams. Even with the loss of their two leading scorers, LSU was expected to improve with the addition of number one overall recruit Simmons and other five star recruit Antonio Blakeney. Joining the freshmen would be Craig Victor, a transfer from Arizona who was a top 50 recruit in 2014.
The Tigers were bringing back guards Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman, who were key pieces in last years team that lost in the second round in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
LSU hasn’t lived up to expectations and are probably going to miss the NCAA Tournament. They finished the regular season 18-13 and finished tied for third with Vanderbilt and South Carolina in the SEC. They had an outside shot of making the tournament as an at large bid if they beat Kentucky, but instead they decided to get blown out by 17. Now, the reach the tournament, LSU is going to have to win the SEC tournament, and with the way Kentucky has played recently, that seems highly unlikely.
They’ve had unacceptable losses against the College of Charleston, Wake Forest, Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee, with two standout wins against Texas A&M and Kentucky early in the season when the Wildcats were still finding their stride.
While Simmons has played admirably and will likely win SEC Freshman of the Year, his ineligibility pretty much sums up LSU’s season. Simmons was suspended for a game against Tennessee for an academic issue, and at the time nobody was quite sure what the violations were. He was on the ballot for the Wooden Award last month that listed the 20 most likely players to win the award.
The Wooden Award has their own criteria on and off the court for their recipients, including doing well in the classroom, something Simmons didn’t do. When asked about the situation with his grades he blew it off and said “It is what it is. I’m not fazed by it. I just wanted to win for my team and see how far we could go,” per ESPN. That answer is worrisome because it doesn’t seem as though he cares about his grades. It doesn’t really matter because he’s leaving school in two months but it shows that he’s passive and doesn’t seem to care about anything on and off the court. Simmons never seems to want or demand the ball on offense and never seems to try and get his own shot.
Simmons’ stats speak for themselves. He leads his squad in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He’s been the best player on the roster game in and game out, but his best still hasn’t been enough.
LSU is a talented team, and the fact that they’ll likely be heading to the NIT is embarrassing. Head coach Johnny Jones should honestly be worried for his job, as his talent hasn’t lived up to expectations for a school that had Sweet Sixteen potential.
Cover Photo via WashingtonPost