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Opening Tip: Tennessee vs. LSU (SEC tournament quarterfinals)

Opening Tip is posted about five hours before each game.

General Info

  • What: No. 12 seed Tennessee (15-18, 8-12 SEC) vs. No. 4 seed LSU (18-13, 11-7 SEC)
  • When: About 2:30 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Streaking: Tennessee (W2), LSU (L1)
  • All-time series: Tennessee leads 64-44
  • Last meeting: Tennessee 81, LSU 65 (Feb. 20, 2016 in Knoxville)
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
  • In game Twitter updates: @MicklesAdvocate
  • Up next: If LSU wins, it would play the winner of the Florida-Texas A&M game in the semifinals at noon Saturday (ESPN).

Starting Five

  • FOR STARTERS: Since the Southeastern Conference tournament was revived in 1979 after a 26-year hiatus, LSU has posted an 18-19 record in its first game. In its 2015 opener in the quarterfinals against Auburn, LSU gave up a late 3-point basket that tied the game and went on to fall 73-70 in overtime.
  • ALL-TIME AT THE TOURNAMENT: With the loss to Auburn last season, LSU’s record all-time at the SEC tournament fell to 46-55 in 56 total appearances. With a victory against Tennessee on Friday afternoon, LSU would earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals for the 26th time.
  • TIGERS VS. VOLUNTEERS: LSU is 3-7 against Tennessee at the SEC tournament, with their last postseason meeting coming on March 11, 2010 — exactly six years to the day of Friday’s matchup. The Volunteers won that one 59-49, bringing to a close Trent Johnson’s second season with the Tigers.
  • SCORING MACHINE: When LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons scored 17 points in last Saturday’s setback at Kentucky, he quietly surpassed the 600-point mark for the season. Simmons now has 607 points (19.6 average). He needs 62 more points to get into the single-season top-10.
  • IMPROVING AT THE LINE: LSU sophomore Craig Victor is 27-of-35 (77.1 percent) from the free-throw line in his last eight games and 41-of-54 (77.8 percent) in the last 14 games and is up to 60.7 percent for the season after going 2-of-12 in his first two games.

The Lineups

Tennessee (15-18, 8-12 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Shembari Phillips, 6-2, Fr., 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg
  • G Devon Baulkman, 6-4, Sr., 9.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
  • G/FArmani Moore, 6-4, Sr., 12.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
  • FAdmiral Schofield, 6-5, Fr., 7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
  • FDerek Reese, 6-7, Sr., 3.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Top reserves

  • G Robert Hubbs, 6-4, Jr., 10.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg
  • G Detrick Mostella, 6-1, So., 8.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg
  • F Kyle Alexander, 6-9, Fr., 1.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg

LSU (18-13, 11-7 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Tim Quarterman, 6-6, Jr., 11.1 ppg, 3.6 apg
  • G Jalyn Patterson, 6-1, So., 5.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg
  • G Antonio Blakeney, 6-4, Fr., 12.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg
  • F Ben Simmons, 6-10, Fr., 19.6 ppg, 11.9 rpg
  • F Craig Victor, 6-9, So., 12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg

Top reserves

  • G Josh Gray, 6-1, Sr., 5.2 ppg, 1.8 apg
  • G Brandon Sampson, 6-5, Fr., 4.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg
  • C Darcy Malone, 7-0, Jr., 0.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg


LSU star Ben Simmons named top freshman by The Sporting News

After being named the top freshman in the nation by USA Today on Tuesday, LSU forward Ben Simmons earned the same honor from The Sporting News on Wednesday.

Simmons was also named to The Sporting News’ All-Freshman team and was a second-team All-America pick. He was also chosen as the SEC Freshman of the Year by the league’s coaches on Tuesday.

Also Wednesday, Simmons was named one of five finalists for the Julius Erving Award, which goes to the nation’s top small forward.

Simmons is already a candidate for the Naismith Trophy as well as two awards that are presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association: the Oscar Robertson Trophy for the nation’s top player and Wayman Tisdale Award for the nation’s top freshman.


ESPN Films’ new ’30 For 30′ short examines 1981 Final Four consolation game after attempted assassination of President Reagan

In a new 30 For 30 Short from ESPN Films released Tuesday, director Marc Kinderman examines the last consolation game played at the NCAA Final Four in 1981 — just hours after an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in the nation’s capital.

LSU, which lost in the national semifinals, played Virginia in Philadelphia and Tigers’ All-American Durand “Rudy” Macklin was the subject of a backlash when asked after a 78-74 loss if his game was affected by the attempt on Reagan’s life.

“No Kin to Me” looks at how Macklin, one of only four LSU men’s basketball players to have their jersey retired, carried the Tigers to their first Final Four in 28 years only to have it end with back-to-back losses — in part because of an injured pinky-finger on Macklin’s shooting hand.

Many questioned why the game was played at all, much less after President Reagan was shot. Macklin was among them, but he didn’t want to play because he still was reeling from his team’s semifinals loss to Indiana 48 hours earlier.

“I couldn’t get over what happened that Saturday night … couldn’t get over it,” he says in the film. “As much as I loved the game, (the consolation game) just didn’t seem necessary.”

Macklin, who remains the program’s all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was asked by a journalist if the events a few hours earlier had affected him. He didn’t score and fouled out of the game.

Macklin responded by saying, “If he was kin to me, I could understand.”

When pressed further, Macklin said, “He’s not kin to me, OK?” He said that led to headlines and calls and vulgar letters sent to his dorm room in Baton Rouge and his family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kinderman said redemption is a major theme in the film, which concludes with Macklin having his jersey retired to the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a ceremony during the 2009-10 season.

“Communication is another theme to look at,” Kinderman said. “This is something that might have been taken care of in a couple of hours in social media today. … He might have apologized or clarified (what he said) on SportsCenter and the whole thing would have been over the next day.

“I don’t think anyone knows how hot-button an issue it was at the time and the fact that Rudy was able to tell the story with such emotion in a way he hadn’t for anyone before was big in this show.”

LSU forward Simmons tabbed third-team USA Today All-American

LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons was a third-team pick on the USA Today All-American team announced Monday morning.

Simmons was one of three Southeastern Conference players who made the teams. Kentucky sophomore guard Tyler Ulis was included on the first team and teammate Jamal Murray, a freshman guard, was a second-team pick.

The teams were picked without regard to position.

Joining Ulis on the first team was Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, North Carolina forward Brice Johnson, Utah forward Jakob Poeltl and Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine.

On the second team with Murray are Duke guard Grayson Allen, Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, Kansas forward Perry Ellis and Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell.

Simmons shared third-team honors with Providence guard Kris Dunn, Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett, Iowa State forward Georges Niang and Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff.


LSU freshman Simmons named semifinalist for Sullivan Award

LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons has been named a semifinalist for the James E. Sullivan Award, which has been presented by the Amateur Athletic Union since 1930 to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.

Simmons is the only men’s basketball player among the 17 semifinalists released Monday by the AAU, which created the award to recognize amateur contributions and achievements from non-professional athletes across the country.

Fans can help pick the finalists for the 86th annual award at Voting closes on March 14 and finalists will be announced March 17.

Simmons, who was named the Southeastern Conference preseason player of the year, was also on The Associated Press’ preseason All-American team.

“The AAU James E. Sullivan Award is a one-of-a-kind honor for all of our semifinalists,” said Melissa Willis, AAU Sullivan Award National Chair. “It is remarkably unique in that it allows us the opportunity to recognize the most elite amateur athletes across every sport imaginable.”

Among the athletes who have won the coveted honor since its inception are Bobby Jones, Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Phelps, Bill Walton and Peyton Manning.

Among the other semifinalists are Derrick Henry (Alabama football), Deshaun Watson (Clemson football), Christian McCaffrey (Stanford football), Keenan Reynolds (Navy football), Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas baseball), Nirra Fields (UCLA basketball) and Breanna Stewart (UConn basketball).


LSU seed possibilities for SEC men’s tournament

Three Saturday games — Vanderbilt (11-6) at Texas A&M (12-5), LSU (11-6) at Kentucky (12-5) and South Carolina (10-7) at Arkansas (9-8) — will have a bearing on the top five SEC tournament seedings. LSU could wind up anywhere from the No. 1 seed to No. 5.

Here are the Tigers’ scenarios:

  • No. 1 seed: Vanderbilt win + LSU win

(LSU wins four-team tiebreaker for first)

  • No. 2 seed: Texas A&M win + LSU win

(LSU wins tiebreaker over Kentucky)

  • No. 3 seed: Texas A&M win + LSU loss + South Carolina loss

(LSU wins tiebreaker over Vanderbilt)

  • No. 4 seed: Vanderbilt loss + LSU loss + South Carolina win

(LSU gets the second spot in a three-team tiebreaker with South Carolina and Vanderbilt)

  • No. 4 seed: Vanderbilt win + LSU loss + South Carolina loss

(LSU finishes in solo fourth)

  • No. 5 seed: Vanderbilt win + LSU loss + South Carolina win

(LSU loses a two-team tiebreaker with South Carolina)


Opening Tip: LSU at No. 22 Kentucky

Opening Tip is posted about five hours before each game.

General Info

  • What: LSU (18-12, 11-6 SEC) at No. 22 Kentucky (22-8, 12-5 SEC)
  • When: 1 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
  • Streaking: LSU (W2), Kentucky (W1)
  • All-time series: Kentucky leads 86-26
  • Last meeting: LSU 85, Kentucky 67 (Jan. 5, 2016 in Baton Rouge)
  • TV: CBS
  • Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
  • In game Twitter updates: @MicklesAdvocate
  • Up next: LSU will play Thursday or Friday against an opponent to be determined in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn. (SEC Network)

Starting Five

  • SCORING MACHINE: After scoring 22 points in two of his first three college games, LSU freshman guard Antonio Blakeney played 19 consecutive games without scoring 20 points. But he has five 20-point games in his last eight outings, including outbursts of 31 and 32 points.
  • THREE IN A ROW: LSU forward Ben Simmons has at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the Tigers’ last three games. That gives him six for the season — four fewer than current NBA star Draymond Green had during the 2011-12 season for Michigan State.
  • DOUBLE DIGITS: Simmons, who’s scored in double digits in 29 of 30 games, has doubled up at the free=throw line recently as well. He’s made 10 or more free throws in each of the past three games (11-of-18 at Arkansas, 10-of-12 vs. Florida, 10-of-11 vs. Missouri) — going 31-of-41 for 75.6 percent.
  • HOUSE OF HORRORS: The LSU basketball team hasn’t had a lot of success in Rupp Arena over the years, but then again, not many people have. The Tigers have lost in 14 of their last 15 visits to the downtown venue with the lone victory coming Feb. 28, 2009 (73-70).
  • SENIOR DAY: It’s especially challenging to play Kentucky in its final home game as the Wildcats have an astounding 92-19 all-time record on Senior Day. Forward Alex Poythress will be honored this afternoon in ceremony in which 23,000 fans will join in the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The Lineups

LSU (18-12, 11-6 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Tim Quarterman, 6-6, Jr., 10.7 ppg, 3.7 apg
  • G Jalyn Patterson, 6-1, So., 5.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg
  • G Antonio Blakeney, 6-4, Fr., 12.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg
  • F Ben Simmons, 6-10, Fr., 19.7 ppg, 11.9 rpg
  • F Craig Victor, 6-9, So., 12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg

Top reserves

  • G Josh Gray, 6-1, Sr., 5.3 ppg, 1.9 apg
  • G Brandon Sampson, 6-5, Fr., 4.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg
  • C Darcy Malone, 7-0, Jr., 0.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Kentucky (22-8, 12-5 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Tyler Ulis, 5-9, So., 16.7 ppg, 7.1 apg
  • G Jamal Murray, 6-4, Fr., 19.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg
  • G Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, Fr., 9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg
  • F Alex Poythress, 6-8, Sr., 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg
  • F Skal Labissiere, 6-11, Fr., 6.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg

Top reserves

  • F Marcus Lee, 6-9, Jr., 6.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg
  • G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, Jr., 2.2 ppg, 0.5 rpg
  • F Isaac Humphries, 7-0, Fr., 2.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg


LSU can earn spot in NCAA tournament, ESPN’s Dick Vitale says

ESPN analyst Dick Vitale believes the LSU basketball team still has some time to make a run to an NCAA tournament appearance, but anything short of that would be a “major disappointment.”

Speaking with reporters on a conference call Thursday, Vitale, who will call the semifinal games and championship game in the SEC tournament next weekend, said LSU has a chance take a big step toward its goal in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Kentucky.

Vitale said he thinks LSU will be in the NCAA tournament with an upset of Kentucky at Rupp Arena. If they can’t pull that off, he said the Tigers could still get in with two wins in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.

But winning at Rupp will be tricky, he said, considering Kentucky is 16-0 there this season and has won 37 consecutive games at home.

“I think LSU’s still got to do some winning,” said Vitale, who was on hand when LSU dropped a heartbreaker to then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Jan. 30 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “What they have to do is right in front of them; they have to do something no one has done.

“Think about it, no one has beaten Kentucky at Rupp. Well, they have a date with Kentucky at Rupp this weekend. That’s it right there … you have got to go out and spring the upset.”

Vitale said he likes what freshman Antonio Blakeney has done lately in averaging just under 20 points a game in his last eight outings, but that fellow freshman Ben Simmons will need to take the Tigers where they want to go.

“He’s got to carry them on his shoulder in a big moment,” Vitale said. “If they don’t win that game, they have to win a minimum — a minimum — of two games in the SEC tournament to really be up there.”

Vitale said there’s no doubt LSU, which is 18-12 overall and just a game off the SEC lead at 11-6, has the talent to be in the Big Dance — especially with Simmons, who Vitale last week named to his five-man “All-Rolls Royce” team.

“They’re dangerous. … Any time you go on the floor with a kid like Simmons, he’s capable of going off for a big, big game and his game will help because it stretches the defense,” he said. “When defenses pack it in on him, there are better angles for guys on the perimeter.

“Certainly, losing (Keith) Hornsby doesn’t help them at all. They definitely have a chance with Simmons and if a kid like Blakeney gets hot. And (Tim) Quarterman, to me, can be so good. That Oklahoma game, he nearly carried them in that game.”


Opening Tip: Missouri at LSU

Opening Tip is posted about five hours before each game.

General Info

  • What: Missouri (10-19, 3-13 SEC) at LSU (17-12, 10-6 SEC)
  • When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
  • Streaking: Missouri (L3), LSU (W1)
  • All-time series: LSU leads 3-2
  • Last meeting: Missouri 74, LSU 67, OT (Jan. 8, 2015 in Columbia)
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
  • In game Twitter updates: @MicklesAdvocate
  • Up next: LSU will play at Kentucky on Saturday at 1 p.m. (CBS)

Starting Five

  • STAYING CLOSE: LSU will be trying to stay within one game of the top spot in the SEC race when it faces Missouri. LSU begins play tonight in a three-way logjam with South Carolina and Vanderbilt — all with 10-6 league marks. Kentucky and Texas A&M enter the second-to-last SEC playing date with 11-4 marks.
  • SHOOTING STAR: LSU guard Antonio Blakeney has been on a tear the last 3½ weeks and is averaging exactly 20 points a game over his last seven-game stretch. The hot streak started with a career-high 31 vs. Mississippi State on Feb. 6, which he bettered Saturday night with 32 against Florida.
  • BEING PRODUCTIVE: Forward Ben Simmons now has five games of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists after he recorded a 22/11/5 game in Saturday night’s victory against the Gators. In those five outings, Simmons is averaging 26.0 points, 14.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.
  •  PILING UP POINTS: In the victory over Florida, LSU scored at least 90 points for the seventh time this season after doing that only five times in Jones’ first four seasons. The Tigers are 6-1 this season with the only loss being a 105-98 overtime setback at Houston and are 10-2 overall during Jones’ tenure.
  • SENIOR/JUNIOR NIGHT: LSU will honor three players during a “Senior Night” ceremony at 7:45 p.m. Guards Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray are the two seniors on squad who will be recognized, but junior Henry Shortess, a former walk-on guard, will also participate because he’s graduating in May.

The Lineups

Missouri (10-19, 3-13 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Terrence Phillips, 5-11, Fr., 7.6 ppg, 3.3 apg
  • G Tramaine Isabell, 6-0, So., 6.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg
  • G Namon Wright, 6-5, So., 9.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
  • F Kevin Puryear, 6-7, Fr., 11.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg
  • F Ryan Rosburg, 6-10, Sr., 7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg

Top reserves

  • F Jakeenan Gant, 6-8, So., 5.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
  • G Cullen VanLeer, 6-4, Fr., 4.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg
  • G K.J. Walton, 6-3, Fr., 5.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg

LSU (17-12, 10-6 SEC)

Probable Starters

  • G Tim Quarterman, 6-6, Jr., 10.7 ppg, 3.6 apg
  • G Jalyn Patterson, 6-1, So., 5.1 ppg, 1.9 apg
  • G Antonio Blakeney, 6-4, Fr., 12.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg
  • F Ben Simmons, 6-10, Fr., 19.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg
  • F Craig Victor, 6-9, So., 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Top reserves

  • G Josh Gray, 6-1, Sr., 5.4 ppg, 1.8 apg
  • F Brian Bridgewater, 6-5, Jr., 2.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg
  • C Darcy Malone, 7-0, Jr., 0.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg


Jenna Deemer to miss SEC women’s tournament for LSU

LSU coach Nikki Fargas said sophomore guard Jenna Deemer will miss this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament, which likely means she’s being shut down for the remainder of the season.

Deemer missed nine straight games with an undisclosed illness, came back and hit some key buckets in a 57-56 upset of Tennessee on Feb. 21. But she played sparingly Thursday against Florida and not at all Sunday at South Carolina.

A graduate of Ursuline in New Orleans, Deemer averaged 9.5 points per game in 19 contests with nine starts. LSU’s only consistent 3-point threat, Deemer shot 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, making 32 of 83 attempts. The rest of the Lady Tigers combined have made just 17 3-pointers.

The No. 13 seed in the SEC tournament, LSU (9-20, 3-13 SEC) will play No. 12 Alabama (15-14, 4-12) at 10 a.m. CST Wednesday in the first game of the week in Jacksonville, Florida. The winner meets No. 5-seeded Kentucky on Thursday afternoon.