Lowe: Time For NCAA Business After Selection Joy
Communications Sr. Associate
WACO, Texas – The joy was so real on Monday night when the pairings for the NCAA Women’s Tournament were revealed and LSU was back in the big dance.
One year removed from an injury-riddled season that was forgettable and in many respects just plain sad as player-after-player seemed to fall by the wayside for the Lady Tigers, LSU (20-11, 8-8 in SEC) finds itself one year later at full speed practicing in the Ferrell Center/Paul J. Meyer Arena Friday afternoon as it prepared for a Saturday night meeting with California (approximately 8 p.m. CT, ESPN2, LSU Sports Radio Network, LSUsports.net/live).
Nikki Fargas and staff has done what it does best this year -- coach hard and try to put their players in the best possible spots offensively and defensively to succeed. Now granted, every time you think this team can’t make a three-pointer to save its life, someone will step out and make one or two. But there are shooters on this team who make the mid-range jumper look easy and there are players on this roster with speed and quickness that have made opponents' point guards look like a turnover and steal waiting to happen.
That’s what they do. That’s what LSU has done 20 times this season to win. Throw in a couple of other losses in the final seconds and maybe LSU wouldn’t be in this sea of green arena (ironic on St. Patrick’s Day isn’t it?) as an eighth-seed playing one of those eight-nine games where the winner gets the No. 1 seed in the Region, Baylor.
But the hand you're dealt has you back in the NCAA Championships with one of the greatest improvements this season in women’s college basketball. You are one of the 64. Doesn't matter where or when. Show up and play. The plane can be late. The bus might show up on time. Maybe the routine is different and things aren’t quite what you are used to when it comes to scheduling. Doesn’t matter. This is the NCAA Championships.
For these ladies of LSU, the joy of Monday has slowly turned into hard work and repetition. Learning and relearning the scouting report on California (19-13, 6-12 in the Pac-12). Watch coaches all over the floor working with individual players to find the right things at the right time to do to disrupt Cal and then Coach Fargas slowly and deliberately explains the passes that need to be made to make the LSU offense that much better against the defense that Cal will run.
“Run it again,” she says over and over as she looks for what she wants.
They are a loose bunch of Lady Tigers. Hopefully the right mix of loose and businesslike combines about 8 p.m. Saturday. That’s what you want to see – A team that has no worries and knows it is good enough to win the game.
Look Waco is nice and it’s crowded around here even though the school is on spring break. There’s some home reality show called “Fixer Upper” whose stars own Magnolia Market at The Silos in town and they are having a spring festival and people have flocked here for miles around. The ESPN crew is having to stay in Temple because there are no hotel rooms to be found. Television news Friday called it the busiest Waco weekend in years.
But in the end in this place here, LSU’s attitude has to be the same as everyone else in this tournament: It’s nothing more than a business trip. The joy of Monday needs to be more than the “we are happy to be here” attitude that gets teams in trouble year-after-year. LSU has to not just want to play Saturday. They have to want to play Monday. They have to want to play beyond Monday.
If the Lady Tigers show up wanting to play beyond Saturday, if they have put the joy of selection behind them and put their mind in the right spot, this should be one heck of a basketball game.
Hopefully sometime just after 10 p.m. when the post-season media obligations begin, the Lady Tigers will be talking about the future of a Monday game, not looking back at what a successful 20-win season.
It is all in their minds, their hearts, their hands and, in the NCAA Tournament, a few lucky bounces of an orange ball on a glass backboard and an orange rim that determine success. May the bounce be with LSU on Saturday night.