NCAA Baseball Championships:
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3/12/19 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Tuesday Tidbits: Your Daily Dose of Tiger News Delivered in a Baker’s Dozen Quick Hitters
1. After beating Florida on the road and Vanderbilt at home to win the program’s first SEC title in a decade, LSU basketball (26-5) moved up one spot to No. 9 in this week’s AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll. This marks the first time LSU has been a top-10 team in back-to-back weeks since the start of the 2007 season.
2. As you know all too well, LSU played the game without head coach Will Wade, who was suspended indefinitely by university officials in the wake of his alleged involvement in a college basketball recruiting scandal. Tony Benford took over as interim head coach, and it sounds like he’ll remain in that position for the foreseeable future. During yesterday’s SEC Coaches Teleconference, Benford said that he plans on coaching the team in the SEC Tournament.
3. According to Benford, the team is expecting a status update on Javonté Smart to come by today (Tuesday). He also suggested that Naz Reid will likely return to action this Friday when the Tigers begin SEC Tournament play at noon against either Florida or Arkansas.
4. In other basketball news, congratulations to LSU guard Skylar Mays for being named a First Team Academic All-American. Mays, a Baton Rouge product and one of the leaders of this Tiger team, is averaging in double figures on the court while maintaining a 4.01 GPA average in pre-med/kinesiology. That’s impressive, my friends!
5. Turning to baseball, after defeating Holy Cross and winning two-out-of-three against California, LSU dropped one spot to No. 10 in Collegiate Baseball’s poll and stayed put at 13 and 14 in polls by D1 Baseball and Perfect Game, respectively.
6. Coach Paul Mainieri’s Tigers will begin SEC play later this week, but first, they return to action tonight at Northwestern State and tomorrow against Texas Southern. Here’s a look at this week’s schedule:
March 12 (Tue.) – at Northwestern State, 6 p.m. CT (ESPN+)
March 13 (Wed.) – TEXAS SOUTHERN, 6:30 p.m. CT (SECN+)
March 15 (Fri.) – KENTUCKY, 7 p.m. CT (SECN+)
March 16 (Sat.) – KENTUCKY, 6:30 p.m. CT (SECN+)
March 17 (Sat.) – KENTUCKY, 2 p.m. CT (SECN+)
7. LSU leads the series with Northwestern State, 59-11, and the Tigers have won 21 of the past 22 meetings, including two wins over the Demons last season, but as you might recall, it took a five-run ninth inning rally for LSU to beat the Demons last June in an elimination game at the NCAA Corvallis (Ore.) Regional. You’d better believe the Demons will be fired up to take on the Tigers on their home turf.
Side Note: Let me just slip this in right here: For all of you fans heading out to Natchitoches for tonight’s baseball game, here’s something to note. A buddy of mine is involved with a new brewery, Cane River Brewery on Mill Street, and its taproom will open at 4:00. All are welcome.
8. Freshman Landon Marceaux will get the start on the mound for the Tigers tonight and how he looks could say a lot about how this weekend’s rotation looks. What we should hope to see is Marceaux throw three or four strong, efficient innings and then exit the game. That would likely mean that he’s done enough to regain Mainieri’s confidence in using him as a starter this weekend.
9. Speaking to local media yesterday, Mainieri provided a bit of an update on the team’s health. The frustrating news is that second baseman Brandt Broussard sprained his ankle in the team’s celebratory dog-pile Friday night after Josh Smith’s walk-ff RBI. The good news is that Mainieri reportedly feels good about right-hander Cole Henry's back and said Henry has felt better each day. Henry will probably throw some later this week, and the staff will see how he feels before making any determination on his return to action. Also, reports indicate that catcher Saul Garza is nearing a return behind the plate and the hope is that he can catch his first game next week.
10. In football news, LSU freshman OLB/TE Dantrieze Scott has entered the transfer portal. You always hate to see a player go, but the reality is some attrition is a needed part of roster management. Brody Miller of NOLA.com tweeted that LSU expects to need to lose two more players to meet the 85-man roster limit.
11. A couple of former Tiger football players are about to be crazy rich. Reports indicate that the 49ers are signing linebacker Kwon Alexander to a 4-year deal worth $54M and that safety Tyrann Mathieu intends to sign a three-year, $42M deal with the Chiefs.
12. In other football news, The Athletic reports longtime NFL assistant coach Roy Anderson has joined the LSU staff as an analyst. Anderson, 38, worked as a graduate assistant under former LSU head coach Nick Saban and has spent the last 14 years as an assistant in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and the Bears. He’s worked primarily with safeties throughout his coaching career.
13. Lagniappe: NCAA Champs, SEC Champs, a Perfect 10 and more are all included in this week’s LSU Top Plays video, which you can check out here. Despite all the noise on the basketball front, it’s still a great time to be a Tiger!
Have a great day, Tiger Fans!
3/11/19 5:40 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
As promised, I’ve selected a few of your messages, along with my responses, to share with you today in the form of our Monday Morning Mail Call. I had thought that I would share a couple of questions each about basketball, baseball, and football, but surprisingly I didn’t receive any football questions at all. What I did receive, though, were a whole lot of questions about basketball and a pretty healthy dose on baseball as well. We’ll start with three on baseball, and then jump into the much more difficult topic of what’s going on with Will Wade and the basketball program.
DANDY DON’S MONDAY MORNING MAIL CALL
From Fred: Scott, Having watched all of the LSU baseball games so far, a few comments: 1) Best 3 starting pitchers are Jaden Hill, Cole Henry and given time, Landon Marceaux 2) We miss Andy Cannizzaro as a coach. We are way too conservative with all of the speed we have on the base paths. 3) Right now, this not an Omaha team. ERA way too high, conservative coaching, too many one dimensional position players. Do you agree at least in part and if so, your thoughts on turning it around.
My Response: I agree on all accounts, Fred. Starting with No. 1, it should be noted that Jaden Hill’s health is in question (hopefully we’ll get an update on his arm issue and whether he’s asymptomatic today), and Landon Marceaux has yet to prove that he is up to the challenge. Hopefully, he’ll do so Tuesday in his start against Northwestern. As for your second question, I agree that LSU hasn’t yet fully utilized its speed on the bases. Giovanni DiGiacomo, Zach Watson, Antoine Duplantis, Josh Smith, and Daniel Cabrera have speed to burn and I’d like to see it utilized more aggressively. Lastly, I agree that right now this is “not an Omaha team,” but you probably know as well as I do that Paul Mainieri’s teams are known to begin playing their best ball about midway through the season. And with all the young talent and minor pitching injuries this team is nursing now, that’s exactly what I’m expecting from this group.
From Jacques: As much as I’d love to see Hess be a dominate starter, I just don’t think it’s in the cards. I’d like to see him back as a closer. It just seems to be a better fit.
My Response: I feel he’s better as a closer too, Jacques. But here’s the thing: At this point and time, I don’t see enough healthy, proven, options at starter to justify the move. If Landon Marceaux proves himself this week, and if Jaden Hill returns to full health soon, then I could see Mainieri switching things up. At Media Day, Mainieri said that Hess would be a weekend starter all season long, and I know he would like that to be the case, but I don’t think he’s locked into that.
From Caleb: Hey Scott, long time reader. I’m no where near the point where I’m worried about this LSU baseball team because the season, and this pitching staff for that matter, is still young. But something that has been giving me a bad vibe is the lack of an apparent vocal leader for this team. For the past couple of years, that guy on the mound was Alex Lange, and that guy at the plate was Beau Jordan. That was a key issue last season for the pitching staff, but we still had the Jordan brothers at the plate to even that out. This year, I just don’t see one. Who do you think, if anyone, will mold into that role over the course of this season?
My response: Good question, Caleb. From the outside looking in, the two players who seem to best exemplify leadership are Josh Smith and Chris Reid. They appear to be well-respected, veteran leaders in the dugout and have delivered in big moments on the field. I suspect Coach Mainieri is thanking his lucky stars that Reid accepted his offer to return to the team and that Smith is healthy after missing all of last season. I also feel that if Todd Peterson can get on track, he could become that vocal leader as well, since his demeanor and maturity are perfect for the role.
From Gerald: LSU won the SEC in basketball and that’s no small task, and LSU Nation should be PROUD. That said, there is a cloud around the program with the Will Wade accusations of potential pay for play. What should the administration have done with all of this, since supposedly these accusations were known for a while? So were the recordings new info or just made public info? And supposedly Will Wade would not speak to LSU administration, THUS the suspension was insubordination as much as the issue at hand. QUESTION: How should this been handled - suspend or not suspend?
My Response: You bring up good points, Gerald. I couldn’t be prouder of this resilient group of Fighting Tigers, who will always be one of my favorite Tiger teams to suit up, or should I say, BootUp, in the purple and gold. But to your point… A lot of LSU fans are being emotional about what is happening to this SEC Championship team, rightfully so, but that’s a short term issue. They should also be considering the long term effects on LSU, the school. The newly released wiretapped conversation may not contain any explicit proof of wrongdoing, but it has plenty of potentially damning evidence. The NCAA carefully weighs how the school reacts, and just as important, when it reacts. If LSU takes no action and Wade gets the school on probation, he will lose his job and the school will be hit with serious sanctions. I’d like to think that the sooner LSU acts, the lesser the sanctions. There is plenty of evidence of this from other NCAA investigations, but there’s also recent evidence (North Carolina) of a school not complying with the NCAA and receiving little to no penalties, which makes it easy to understand why some folks think LSU was jumping the gun in suspending Wade so quickly. I get that, but what strikes me as significant here is Wade’s refusal to meet with administration, which really forced LSU’s hand. That’s why the administration acted swiftly but has reportedly left the door open. In a lot of ways, it looks like a no-win situation, but plenty more information will be coming out.
From Walter: I am concerned about the way LSU handled the Will Wade deal. If they think that he is guilty and Smart is part of the phone call, why is he still on the team and not suspended like Wade? How did Yahoo get this call from the FBI? It sounds like the FBI had no intention to charge Wade with anything and the call isn't enough to prove guilt. The championship was wonderful, however it felt empty without Will there to BOOT UP with his kids. I hope LSU does their job fast and well and gets him back with his team.
My Response: First, let’s be clear - the FBI is not investigating Will Wade. Christian Dawkins is on trial but what Will Wade said becomes public if it is entered into evidence. If that happens, the NCAA will investigate Wade, and they already have a notion about him anyway. The reason for sitting Smart is the same for suspending Wade – LSU wants to mitigate any sanctions the NCAA might put on them and believes that the sooner they react, the better. The NCAA understands LSU didn't know about the latest conversation revealed, and has almost certainly been advising the school on how to handle it. Like you, I couldn’t help but think of how sad it was that Will Wade wasn’t able to celebrate the championship with his players. I would love to see a situation where he rejoins the team as soon as possible, but that seems highly unlikely at this time. As for how Yahoo got the information, I have no idea, but the timing of its release seems very suspect.
From Zach: Dick Vitale really needs to shut his mouth and retire. If this were Duke or Kentucky he would be justifying what Wade did.
My Response: I’m with you on Vitale. He overstated the case for which a lot more will come out, and LSU won’t be alone in this. Let's see what he says when some of this stuff lands at Kansas, which has been mentioned, and you may have seen Mark Gottfried has been implicated. Vitale sits at the very top of the college basketball world and knows better than to think Wade is an isolated case. His outrage rings hollow and reeks of hypocrisy, and that’s what burns me up. Look, if Wade is guilty, I’m not the type to say it’s not a crime just because the overwhelming majority of programs are doing it too. But what would be an even bigger crime is if this turns out to be a case of selective enforcement. When all of the hens have a chance to cackle, there will probably be a need for a major overhaul in how the NCAA conducts its business in college basketball.
Have a great day, Tiger Fans.
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