Georgia Bulldogs v. LSU Tigers: The Haphazard Ill-Informed Roundball Preview

I’m just going to let you know from the outset that, if you came here expecting me to rip on the LSU Tigers, who will be facing Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs in Stegeman Coliseum for the season’s final home game on Wednesday night, you’re going to be disappointed. My sister-in-law and her husband are Ole Miss alumni, so I understand that, and why, some folks hate on Louisiana State, but I am not one of them. Bayou Bengals fans love college baseball, are fanatical football fans even by SEC standards, and write nice things like this about me on Twitter:

Don’t get me wrong; I want my alma mater’s men’s basketball team to beat the Pelican State Panthers to a bloody pulp in the Classic City on Wednesday, but it’s nothing personal. LSU, we’re good.

Well, except for that one time y’all referred to Eddie Ludwig as the Ginger Assassin. Dudes, that’s our thing, and y’all know it, too. We may all wish Joe Cox had been frozen in Carbonite after the 2006 Colorado game, but don’t you go stealing our nickname, all right?

O.K., we’re cool now, so what do you want to know about Louisiana State? Well, for one thing, the Tigers play their home games in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. This is noteworthy because the Maravich Center is, with the arguable exception of Rupp Arena (about which more anon), the only basketball court in the conference named after someone who is a household name to every fan in the league.

Let’s face it; few folks who aren’t Georgia fans have the slightest idea who Herman Stegeman was. Heck, far too many people who are Georgia fans don’t know who Coach Stegeman was, or the impact that he had in Athens. If I told you Fred Thompson was one of the namesakes of the Tennessee Volunteers’ Thompson-Boling Arena, could you tell me you were 100 per cent certain he wasn’t? (He isn’t.) If I told you the Arkansas Razorbacks’ Bud Walton Arena was christened in honor of a forgotten younger brother who ended every episode by telling John Boy, Jim Bob, and Mary Ellen "good night," could you tell me for sure I’m lying? (I am.)

Likewise, you have to allow for the possibilities that the Mississippi St. Bulldogs’ Humphrey Coliseum was named for Hubert Humphrey in an effort to curry favor with Midwesterners who are still irate over the fact that the Magnolia State failed to ratify the Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery until 1995, the nomenclature of the South Carolina Gamecocks’ Colonial Life Arena honors the original inhabitants of Charleston, and the Florida Gators’ Stephen C. O’Connell Center pays homage to the producer of "The Rockford Files" and "The A-Team." It’s not even entirely outlandish to believe that an SEC fan who is too young to know that Bear Bryant once coached in the Bluegrass State might confuse Rupp Arena with the unbelievably annoying 1995 hit by Los del Río. (Say . . . two 1995 references in a single paragraph. Apparently, I’m seven years hipper than Scott Marchand!)

Pete Maravich, though? That’s a name you know. Pistol Pete remains Division I basketball’s all-time leading scorer, more than four decades after his last collegiate game. The fact that his 3,667-point career remains uneclipsed is pretty remarkable, considering the subsequent advent of freshman eligibility and the three-point arc, neither of which was an advantage available to Maravich. The former Louisiana State guard, who was ineligible for induction into the university’s hall of fame because he left school early and did not graduate, was the first-round selection of the Atlanta Hawks in 1970, and his abbreviated NBA career still was stellar enough that his jersey number has been retired by teams for which he didn’t play. (Maravich suited up for the New Orleans Jazz, which subsequently, and preposterously, became the Utah Jazz; both the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Hornets have hung his No. 7 jersey from the rafters.) Peter Press Maravich---it has always struck me as odd that one of basketball’s greatest offensive stars had a defensive strategy for a middle name---died suddenly in 1988, at age 40. A late-life convert to Christianity, Maravich passed away on the basketball court of a church gymnasium during a pickup game.

Oh, wait, this was supposed to be about this year’s edition of the Bayou Bengals, wasn’t it? Yeah, well, LSU sucks.

How does LSU suck? Let me count the ways.

The Bayou Bengals have lost eleven of their last twelve games to post records of 11-18 overall, 3-11 in conference play, and 3-7 in road games. They are eleventh in the conference standings (ahead of only the Auburn Tigers) and eleventh in the latest SEC Power Poll. After 29 games, the Tigers rank next to last in the league in scoring offense, scoring margin, blocked shots, and defensive rebounds. Opposing bloggers authoring game previews before their teams’ matchups with LSU come as close to guaranteeing victory as superstitious fans are capable of coming.

Matters have gotten so bad that the Louisiana State athletic director recently observed of his school’s moribund basketball program: "I don't care if we lose 20 games in a row this year." Although the Tigers won’t lose 20 games in a row this year, their otherwise rabid fans sometimes haven’t generated 20 comments in a basketball game thread this year, and they don’t turn on Tiger basketball games until being told their team has a halftime lead.

For the record, no, that wasn’t ripping on LSU; that was reporting reality accurately. There’s a difference. As MaconDawg put it, "That's not an insult, it's a fact. Ok, I guess it's an insulting fact." When the squad coached by Mark Fox crosses paths with the club coached by Trent Johnson, under whom Coach Fox served as an assistant when both men were with the Nevada Wolf Pack, the result should be the same as when the football team coached by Mark Richt matched up against the gridiron outfit nominally headed by Bobby Bowden in the 2003 Sugar Bowl.

Wednesday night’s contest is set to tip off at 8:00 Eastern and be televised on the SEC Network. Tickets are available at a discount.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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