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LSU season ticket campaign draws some criticism

LSU’s campaign to attract new season ticket holders for the 2015-16 men’s basketball team attracted some national criticism as well just one day after being launched.

The LSU Athletic Department kicked off its summer season ticket sales campaign Wednesday featuring the nation’s top incoming freshman — power forward Benny Simmons, the cornerstone of coach Johnny Jones’ third-ranked recruiting class.

The pitch is being made throughout Baton Rouge via print, billboard, online and social media advertising, starting with a three-column color ad in The Advocate on Wednesday that featured the message “He’s Coming.”

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The ad asks potential ticket buyers to “lock in season tickets.”

“This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number ‘25,’ ” according to a story that appeared on the LSU Athletic Department’s website. “Through this ‘25’ campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.”

ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas was among those who weighed in on the campaign Thursday.

“LSU designs entire campaign around high school player: NCAA says HS players have no value without NCAA. Yeah, right,” Bilas tweeted.

Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo!Sports wrote a blog that included the headline “LSU’s new ad campaign shamelessly promotes top recruit Ben Simmons.”

In the story, Eisenberg wonders if the ad campaign “was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited.”

He referenced the case of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who won a lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging its commercial use of names, images and likenesses of athletes.

LSU officials declined comment, but ESPN basketball analyst Seth Greenberg, a former college coach, didn’t have a problem with it.

“Marketing Ben Simmons helps both LSU and ben Simmons! This will only help his future marketing by building his brand!” Greenberg tweeted.

Simmons is the headliner of a recruiting class that includes three of the top 39 players in the nation: Simmons, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and Madison Prep guard Brandon Sampson, who was named Louisiana Mr. Basketball.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time in six seasons, will add its heralded class to a group of returnees that includes Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Josh Gray and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

LSU men’s basketball schedule for 2015-16 coming into focus

It’s May and the LSU men’s basketball schedule for the 2015-16 season is beginning to come into better focus — sort of.

A handful of games have already been confirmed — including the school’s participation in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — but the nonconference part of the schedule is weeks away from being completed, LSU associate athletic director Eddie Nunez said Thursday.

“We still have some openings that we’re trying to finalize at this point,” said Nunez, who handles scheduling for men’s basketball. “We hope to have the entire nonconference schedule finished in the next three weeks. That’s our goal, so we can send it off to the SEC office.”

Nunez acknowledged a series with the University of Houston is one that’s in the talking stages although it was reported online Thursday that a four-year home-and-home with Houston has already been set.

Citing a source, Jon Rothstein of CBSSports.com tweeted that LSU and Houston agreed on a four-year series with the first meeting to take place on Dec. 13, 2015 in Houston.

But Nunez told The Advocate the school isn’t interested in a four-year deal.

“We have had conversations, and are having active conversations, with the University of Houston,” Nunez said. “But we’re not looking at a four-year agreement at this time.”

It’s more likely the schools would enter into a two-year home-and-home agreement and then possibly sign off on another two-year deal.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009, will be in the spotlight a lot this year with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes — including five-star prospects Benny Simmons and Antonio Blakeney — joining a solid group of returnees.

One of the highlights of LSU’s schedule is a date in the four-team Legends Classic to be played Nov. 23-24 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The games will be played the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week.

The Tigers’ first opponent hasn’t been announced, but Marquette, Arizona State and North Carolina State, which eliminated LSU from the NCAA tournament in March, will also be in the tournament.

Also, two games that are technically part of the Legends Classic will be played earlier in November in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against teams to be determined.

LSU will also play Wake Forest in the PMAC this season. It will be the first game of a two-year home-and-home with the Demon Deacons, with the Tigers traveling to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in the fall of 2016.

Considering its high profile, LSU is also expected to participate in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge for the third year in a row. If selected, the Tigers could be slotted for a home game this season after traveling to West Virginia last December and Texas Tech in 2013.

Nunez said LSU will also have home games against Gardner-Webb and McNeese State — both for the second year in a row.

The Tigers will travel to Charleston, South Carolina, to meet the College of Charleston in the second game of a two-for-one that began last December in the PMAC. The teams will complete the series in the fall of 2016 in Baton Rouge.

LSU target Malik Newman likely won’t take any official visits

Five-star guard Malik Newman, who lists LSU among his six college choices with just two days to go before the spring signing period begins, likely will not take any officials visits before making his decision, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported Monday.

The paper reported that Newman’s father, former Mississippi State basketball star Horatio Webster, said there isn’t time to take visits to consider his landing spot — considering he’s been pretty busy.

He played in the McDonald’s All-American game on April 1, participated in the Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday night and this Friday will take part in the Jordan Brand Classic all-star contest.

In addition to LSU, Newman’s list includes Kentucky, Kansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and North Carolina State. He is being recruited heavily by Benny Simmons, the nation’s top prospect who signed with LSU in November, and Antonio Blakeney, who committed to Johnny Jones’ program in January.

Newman, who is rated as the nation’s top combo guard and No. 4 overall prospect on the ESPN 100 list, has made unofficial visits to LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State during his senior year at Callaway High School.

“Now that basketball season is over with, I don’t think he’ll take visits,” Webster told the Clarion-Ledger. “If he does, fine. If not, that’s fine too.”

LSU signee Simmons leads World Team to win in Nike Hoop Summit

LSU signee Ben Simmons helped the World Team beat the USA for the third time in four years Saturday in the annual Nike Hoop Summit in Portland.

The World Select Team won 103-101 over the USA Men’s Junior National Select Team as Simmons, a native of Australia, flirted with a triple double with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Summit continued a busy month of April for Simmons, who played in the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, the National High School Championships in New York and the Nike Hoops Summit.

On Friday, Simmons will play in the Jordan Brand Classic at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York.

LSU already showing up in early 2016 polls

With the men’s college basketball season in the books with Duke’s win over Wisconsin in the national championship game on Monday night, it didn’t take long for the 2015-16 season to come to the forefront — sort of.

Early online predictions for next season have LSU among the teams that will likely be in the top 25 in several polls.

LSU, which was 22-11 and in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years, is listed in several polls despite the loss of would-be junior forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey to the NBA draft.

The return of guards Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson, coupled with the arrival of forward Benny Simmons, who is already signed, and guard Antonio Blakeney, a commit who should sign next week, make the Tigers one of the teams to watch.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein has LSU at No. 15, while colleague Gary Parrish had the Tigers 24th on his Top 25 and One poll.

ESPN.com has LSU at No. 18 and USA Today pegs Johnny Jones’ team at No. 28.

Also, ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi has as a No. 7 seed for next year’s tournament.

LSU signee Benny Simmons adds USA Today POY award to list of honors

LSU basketball signee Benny Simmons, who is in Chicago preparing for the McDonald’s All-American game to be played Wednesday night, has earned another national honor.

Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward from Montverde Academy in Clermont, Florida, was named Tuesday as the USA Today Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

The player of the year honor is the fourth for Simmons, who signed with LSU in the early signing period in November after committing to coach Johnny Jones’ program 13 months earlier.

Simmons has already been honored as the Gatorade national player of the year and has won the Naismith Trophy and Wootten Award for high school players.

Simmons, who averaged 28.0 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this year, will play for the East squad in Wednesday night’s McDonald’s game at the United Center. The game, which is set for 8 p.m., will be televised by ESPN.

Simmons will be joined on the East squad by guard Antonio Blakeney, who also plans to be a college teammate of his good friend after committing to LSU on Jan. 2.

They will face a West squad that includes guard Malik Newman, a five-star prospect from Jackson, Mississippi. He lists LSU among the six finalists for his college choice.

Simmons will be the 16th player who has spent at least one season at LSU to play in the McDonald’s All-Star Game.

After the McDonald’s game, Simmons will rejoin his Montverde teammates for the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament in New York.

 Montverde, the two-time defending champion and the No. 2 seed for this year’s event, opens play Thursday with a 3 p.m. quarterfinal matchup against Greensboro Day of North Carolina.

Semifinals will be played Friday and the championship game is on Saturday. All games will be televised on the ESPN family of networks.

LSU forward Mickey on Driesell All-American team

LSU sophomore forward Jordan Mickey has been selected to the Lefty Driesell All-American team that was announced Tuesday morning.

Mickey, who led the nation with 3.64 blocked shots per game, is also a finalist for the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The 2014-15 season marked the second year in a row Mickey has led the SEC in blocked shots. He also topped the conference with 9.9 rebounds per game while averaging 15.4 points in helping LSU  to a 22-11 record and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009.

Also on the list is former LSU guard Anthony Hickey, who played this season at Oklahoma State, and Louisiana-Lafayette guard Jay Wright.

The Driesell Award is named in honor of coaching legend Lefty Driesell, who is the only person to win at least 100 games at four different Division I schools. He chalked up 348 of his 786 career victories at Maryland.

The 2015 Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year Award will be presented at the CollegeInsider.com Awards Banquet on Friday in Indianapolis — site of the Final Four.

2015 LEFTY DRIESELL ALL-AMERICA TEAM

Darion Atkins, Virginia; Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga; Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia; Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky; Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse; Kyle Collinsworth, BYU; Tekele Cotton, Wichita State; Demarcus Daniels North Florida; Nnanna Egwu, Illinois; Jerian Grant, Notre Dame; Jelani Hewitt, Georgia Southern; Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State; Brice Johnson, North Carolina.

Reggie Lynch, Illinois State; T.J. McConnell, Arizona; Jordan Mickey, LSU; Shonn Miller, Cornell; Larry Nance, Wyoming; Josh Richardson, Tennessee; Richard Ross, Old Dominion; Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky; Justin Tuoyo, Chattanooga; Corey Walden, Eastern Kentucky; Julian Washburn, UTEP; Briante Weber, Virginia Commonwealth; Jay Wright, Louisiana-Lafayette.

LSU forward Martin gets honorable mention on AP All-American squad

LSU forward Jarell Martin was named an honorable mention pick on The Associated Press’ All-American team announced Monday afternoon.

Martin, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Madison Prep in Baton Rouge, led the Tigers in scoring at 16.9 points per game and ranked second with 9.2 rebounds per game. He ranked third in the Southeastern Conference in both categories.

Last Wednesday, Martin, a first-team All-SEC pick by the league’s coaches and media, announced he would give up his final two years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

Martin wasn’t the only player with Louisiana ties to earn All-American honorable mention status. Baylor forward Rico Gathers, a La Place native and former Riverside Academy star, also made it along with Louisiana Tech guard Kenneth “Speedy” Smith.

Last week, Martin was chosen as a second-team All-District 21 pick by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, while teammate Jordan Mickey was a first-team choice.

LSU forward Mickey ‘leaning toward draft,’ ESPN.com reports

Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com tweeted that LSU sophomore forward Jordan Mickey is leaning, perhaps double-leaning, toward the NBA draft.

Goodman tweeted: “LSU sophomore big man Jordan Mickey is leaning towards leaning for the NBA Draft, sources told ESPN.”

A tearful Mickey said after LSU’s 66-65 loss to North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night that he would talk with his family and consult with LSU coach Johnny Jones before making any decision on his future.

Mickey, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by the coaches and The Associated Press, led the league in rebounding with 9.9 per game and topped the nation with 3.6 blocked shots per game.

He also ranked second in the conference in scoring this season with 15.4 points per game while connecting on 50.4 percent of his field-goal attempts.

“I don’t have a time frame on that right now,” Mickey said of the draft after the N.C. State loss, nearly echoing comments made by fellow sophomore forward Jarell Martin. “Whenever I decide to think about it, that’s something I’ll talk about with the coaching staff and my family and make the best decision I can.”

Mickey is ranked by CBSSports.com as the 57th overall prospect.

In a couple of mock drafts, both he and Martin are projected as early second-round picks.

NBADraft.net has Mickey going with the second pick of the second round, 32nd overall, to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Martin going on the next pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sam Vecenie of CBSSports.com has Martin going 35th to Philadelphia and Mickey being chosen with the 38th pick to the Utah Jazz.

Opening Tip: LSU vs. North Carolina State

Opening Tip is posted about five hours before each game this season.

General Info

  • What: No. 9 seed LSU (22-10) vs. No. 8 seed North Carolina State (20-13)
  • When: 8:20 p.m. Thursday (approximately)
  • Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • All-time series: First meeting
  • TV: TBS
  • Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
  • In game Twitter updates: @MicklesAdvocate
  • Up next: The LSU-North Carolina State winners will meet the Lafayette-Villanova winner in the third round on Saturday, time to be announced

Starting Five

  • BACK IN THE DANCE: LSU is appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 and 21st time in program history. The Tigers have a 24-23 all-time record. In their last appearance in 2009, LSU defeated Butler (75-71) before being eliminated by North Carolina (84-70).
  • FOR OPENERS: LSU is 11-9 in its first game in the tournament with two victories in a row. The Tigers beat Iona 80-64 in 2006 to begin its run to the Final Four and defeated Butler 75-71 in 2009. LSU’s last loss in its first NCAA tournament game was in 2005 against UAB (82-68).
  • TOURNAMENT SUCCESS: Over the years, LSU has advanced to four Final Fours, six Elite Eights and nine Sweet 16s. The Tigers are 0-6 in the Final Four — including losses in 1953 and 1981 in the consolation game, which is no longer played.
  • DOUBLE-TRIPLE: According to the LSU Sports Information Department, LSU and Arkansas are the only Southeastern Conference schools to play in a bowl game and have their men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA tournament this school year. Only 12 other schools can say that.
  • LOUISIANA PROUD: LSU coach Johnny Jones is only the fifth coach of a Louisiana school to lead his alma mater to the NCAA tournament. The others are Jim McCafferty (Loyola), Mike Vining (UL-Monroe), Tommy Joe Eagles (Louisiana Tech) and Billy Kennedy (Southeastern).

Know Your Opponent

  • North Carolina State relies heavily on a three-guard attack with Trevor Lacey; Ralston Turner, a former LSU player; and Anthony Barber. That three-headed monster combined to average 41.1 of the Wolfpack’s 70.4 points per game for the season. Lacey led the way with 15.8 points, while Turner and Barber got 13.2 and 12.1 points per game, respectively. They were just as consistent in ACC play as they teamed up to average 40.9 points per outing. Even though they aren’t the biggest team around down low, North Carolina State starts a pair of 6-foot-8 forwards in Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman and comes off the bench with 6-9, 300-pound forward BeeJay Anya. North Carolina State has won six of its last eight games after losing six of eight at midseason and falling to 14-11.

The Lineups

LSU (22-10)

Probable Starters

  • G Jalyn Patterson, 6-1, Fr., 6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg
  • G Keith Hornsby, 6-4, Jr., 13.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg
  • G Tim Quarterman, 6-6, So., 11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg
  • F Jarell Martin, 6-10, So., 16.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg
  • F Jordan Mickey, 6-8, So., 15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg

Top reserves

  • G Josh Gray, 6-1, Jr., 7.2 ppg, 3.9 apg
  • C Darcy Malone, 7-0, So., 0.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg
  • F Brian Bridgewater, 6-5, So., 2.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg

North Carolina State (20-13)

Probable Starters

  • G Trevor Lacey, 6-3, Jr., 15.8 ppg, 3.4 apg
  • G Anthony Barber, 6-2, So., 12.1 ppg, 3.8 apg
  • G Ralston Turner, 6-6, Sr., 13.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg
  • F Abdul-Malik Abu, 6-8, Fr., 6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg
  • F Lennard Freeman, 6-8, So., 3.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg

Top reserves

  • F BeeJay Anya, 6-9, So., 4.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
  • F Caleb Martin, 6-6, Fr., 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
  • F Cody Martin, 6-6, Fr., 3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg