ICYMI, around Division I college basketball in the piney woods and bayous, as March Madness approaches, here is my version of Cliff’s Notes. Let’s call this Duggie Nuggets. On second thought, let’s don’t. How about Bayou Basketball Bites?
Just like most of our state’s basketball teams, we can do better.
Now that college baseball and softball is underway, with spring football right behind, it’s fair to say the generally tepid interest level in college hoops is fading fast in all but a few locales. But the Big Dance and its brackets are inevitably captivating, and you may find yourself with a rooting (or at least betting) interest.
At LSU, the extremes are mind-blowing. Nobody saw Kim Mulkey’s (Lady) Tigers with only one loss this season, but it’s likely they’ll sail into the SEC Tournament with just that. Nobody saw Matt McMahon’s men with a 14-game losing streak in conference competition, although anyone who expected close to a .500 SEC record was also holding out hope for a Saints playoff run.
Going anything less than unbeaten against a cupcake non-conference schedule would have been disappointing for Mulkey’s squad. They did not disappoint. They haven’t since, either. They’re not quite Final Four caliber, but that will change when Parkway’s Mikayla Williams and her signing class saddle up in Baton Rouge.
As for the LSU men, they’re a recruiting class away, in the new age of the transfer portal, from merely treading water in the SEC. McMahon is a good human and a solid coach, but can he recruit on a Power 5 level? That was the question when he was brought in to clean up the Will Wade cesspool. He’s done that much. Now, to upgrade the talent level and begin notching some Dale Brown-style upsets to make his program relevant.
From off the 318 radar, Tulane requires attention. It’s not just a football school (insert chortle). Be advised, the following may shock you. The men are 17-7, second behind Houston in the American Athletic Conference, and NCAA Tournament-bound. On the women’s side, Greenies coach Lisa Stockton just surpassed legendary Leon Barmore, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Lady Techsters’ coach, as the state’s winningest women’s college coach.
In her 29th Tulane campaign, Stockton has averaged 20 wins and at 16-11 this winter, is near that pace. She notched her 577th victory last Saturday, is trending toward her 21st postseason appearance and hoping for a 12th NCAA Tournament trip. None of that or her commendable career winning percentage scratches the surface of Barmore’s resume’, but it’s pretty salty in its own right. I’m not tuned into Tulane, but while the court-naming talk is still buzzing ….
Speaking of under the radar, UL-Lafayette’s men are 21-7, tied for third in the Sun Belt, headed to unscheduled action in March.
Wish it was a Bayou Blast Tournament. That would be fun and moderately interesting. Tulane, ULL, Grambling (18-8) and Northwestern State (19-9) all have postseason legs, but lack statewide appeal. Any of them could win their conference tournaments. All may have consolation opportunities if they don’t.
There’s the NIT, fit for regular-season champs that don’t cash in at conference tourneys (Grambling and NSU still might fit that description). Then trickle down to the pay-to-play alternatives, the College Basketball Invitational and (maybe) The Basketball Classic (it’s hard to tell online if it survived to 2023).
On the women’s side, there’s a slim chance of extra play for anyone other than LSU and Tulane. Best longshot: Louisiana Tech (16-10), which has battled injuries and inconsistencies, but Brooke Stoehr has an excellent conference tournament track record. Give her the squad that started the season and the Lady Techsters could threaten in the Conference USA Tournament.
That’s Bayou Bracketology, hopefully more useful than beads on Ash Wednesday.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org
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