For some reason, college basketball teams this season are having a little difficulty navigating their way through some games against teams from the lower- and mid-major ranks.
The madness really began in mid-November when then-No. 1 Kentucky fell to Evansville in Rupp Arena, an upset heard all around the college basketball world.
The Southland Conference has also made its share of noise as Nicholls State stunned Pittsburgh, and, of course, Stephen F. Austin ambushed of Duke, which came after the Blue Devils ascended to the top spot in the AP poll with Kentucky’s loss to Evansville.
Then, there was McNeese State’s near-upset of Texas on Saturday, when the Cowboys’ game-winning 3-point field-goal attempt failed to connect and the Longhorns, who were in the Top 25 a couple of weeks ago, managed to survive.
Even though LSU plays its next two games against Southland members UNO and Northwestern State, Tigers coach Will Wade wasn’t ready to send up flares Monday, though he respects what that league has already done this season.
LSU (5-2) takes on UNO (3-4) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center before hosting Northwestern State at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Wade said he was recruiting in Dallas on Saturday when he took a break to watch the end of McNeese State’s near-miss against Texas, a team LSU will play in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in late January.
“It nearly gave me a nightmare,” Wade said. “McNeese played a very, very tight game at Texas and had a 3 on the rim to win the game at the end of the game. The point guard just missed it.
“But Nicholls played us close and played Rhode Island close, and they were picked 11th in the (Southland),” he said. “New Orleans is picked to win the league and Stephen F. Austin is a really good team. … It’s a really good league.”
So, getting through these next two games against SLC competition unscathed is the goal for LSU going into its annual 10-day break for final exams.
Wade said his team has to know what it’s going against, but won’t necessarily be warning them about the upset bug that bit Duke and Pitt and very nearly got Texas.
“I don’t like to talk to our guys about what other teams are going through, because sometimes that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “If you say, ‘This is a trap game, or this is this and this is that,’ what is that? You’re either prepared, or you’re not.”
Simply put, having already stumbled twice by two points each against VCU and Utah State, Wade has to make sure his team is focused on one thing: itself.
“Let’s prepare and let’s do what we do,” he said, “but you do have to be cognizant of the national landscape. You just don’t want to put (the upsets) in your guys’ minds.”
In its most recent outing Friday night, LSU was challenged for about 30 minutes before pulling away and grinding out a 73-58 win over Missouri State.
But Wade said the Tigers will have to continue to make strides against UNO.
Three of the Privateers’ four losses have come against SMU, Mississippi State and undefeated Butler, which made its season debut in the AP rankings Monday at No. 24.
“This game, we’ve got to continue to get better,” Wade said. “New Orleans plays extremely hard in terms of how they get after it, how hard they play, how scrappy they are.
“So, it’s about us. Can we play as hard, can we be as tough, can we be as scrappy as they are? If we take care of those things, I think we’ll be fine.”
Wade said guard Marlon Taylor, who has not played yet after having foot surgery in June, which was followed by a setback in early November and a second surgery two weeks ago, could make his season debut in a couple of weeks.
Wade said Taylor, who started 24 games last season and averaged 6.7 points and 3.6 rebounds, has begun conditioning work, and he hopes to have him back when the team returns from a break for final exams. The target date is Dec. 18 against East Tennessee State.
“Hopefully, we’ll get him some minutes in that game,” Wade said. “But we feel very good about his progress. The foot is reacting a lot better to this surgery than the (first) one.”
WHAT: UNO at LSU
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WTGE-FM, 100.7; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: vs. Northwestern State, 3 p.m. Sunday
• Darius Days' 20-point, 10-rebound game vs. Missouri State was the fifth under Will Wade. The others: Duop Reath (two), Aaron Epps and Naz Reid.
• As of Monday, LSU led the SEC in shooting accuracy at 50.6% and has knocked down 35 more field goals than its seven opponents.
• LSU holds an 11-4 edge over UNO in a series that started in 1977. The Tigers won their last meeting 81-54 on Nov. 19, 2013.
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Damion Rosser 6-4 Jr. 11.3 3.7*
G Troy Green 6-3 Jr. 12.0 3.4
G Bryson Robinson 6-4 Sr. 14.1 3.3
F Gerrale Gates 6-6 So. 10.1 6.4
F Jaylen Key 6-8 Sr. 7.0 4.4
F Jahmel Myers 6-6 So. 4.8 2.0
G Rodney Carson 6-3 Fr. 3.9 2.1
G Lamont Berzat 5-6 Jr. 3.0 1.0
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Javonte Smart 6-4 So. 9.9 4.9*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 Sr. 17.7 5.4
F Darius Days 6-6 So. 14.3 8.3
F Emmitt Williams 6-6 So. 15.0 7.3
F Trendon Watford 6-9 Fr. 12.3 6.0
G Charles Manning 6-5 Jr. 8.1 4.1
G James Bishop 6-2 Fr. 2.7 0.3
G Aundre Hyatt 6-5 Fr. 0.3 2.4