In a not-unexpected move, Tulane fired basketball head coach Ed Conroy after a season in which the Green Wave would go 12-22 overall, and only 3-15 in the American Athletic Conference.
The Green Wave entered the season predicted to finish in the lower rung of the conference, and met those expectations – finishing dead last. Coach Conroy led the Wave to only one winning season (20-15 in 2012-13) in his six-year tenure, and finishes with a record of 92-103, and no NCAA or NIT berths.
The unfortunate thing for all those involved, was that while news of his dismissal became official Monday, Coach Conroy and his team had to hear about his imminent firing during the game against Houston. Gary Parrish, of CBS Sports, broke the news via Twitter. That’s embarrassing, and as a writer with over 100 thousand followers – Parrish might want to think about the immediacy of social media. It was that tweet, and some low-rent fans behind the Tulane bench, that caused what had to be an embarrassing moment for Conroy and his players. Of course, in this day and age, one can’t be surprised. And, almost as if it was a Hollywood movie, Tulane – after hearing their coach would be fired – came together for their biggest victory of the season, a 72-69 victory over the Houston Cougars (22-9).
A big thank you to Coach Conroy who, even though on-court success has eluded the team, ran a clean and classy program.
While Tulane entered the season looking up at the rest of the league, LSU’s expectations were through the roof, with some analysts even predicting a Final Four appearance.
But then they had to play the games.
Where to begin? How about the end? Because it’s awful.
As the NCAA brackets were announced on Sunday, LSU’s name was not called. This wasn’t a surprise – not after the season they had in which the team couldn’t string together victories, or win away from their home court (4-11).
The sad surprise came when coach Johnny Jones announced that LSU would decline any other invitation for post-season play, a.k.a. the NIT. So it’s “thanks, but no thanks,” to senior letterman Josh Gray. Coach Jones and Ben Simmons are taking their toys and going home.
The funny thing is, you would think this team would do everything possible to try to wash away the indignity of their last loss of the season – a 71-38 pummeling at the hands of Texas A&M. A game in which the Tigers would roar out to a scintillating 8-3 lead, only to be outscored, outrebounded, outhustled, out tried, out everything’d the rest of the way.
The Tigers would point to foul trouble, and the usual, in their excuse for the punchless effort, but the game was the perfect microcosm of a season that was all talk, and no leadership. When the Tigers needed it most, they got smoked.
Which was par for the course in a season where –
- LSU would lose three games against weak competition in November
- Ben Simmons declared himself the best player in the nation
- LSU, with the best player in the nation, could never win four games in a row
- Ben Simmons would be ruled academically ineligible for the Wooden Award
- Just as the team was looking tournament-bound, they would lose to Alabama (by 9 points), Tennessee (16 points), Arkansas (20 points)
- Ben Simmons would diss UK’s Tyler Ulis, after losing to UK by 17 points
Add to the list, if you like.
Tulane’s coach Ed Conroy put it best, in a post-game interview, when – talking about his players – said, “This is their moment. This is their time.”
Seems Johnny Jones and LSU have a different opinion on the subject.
In the team statement, coach Jones said, "We will be able to utilize this time to get better and start preparations for next season."
It’s a little late for that, coach.
Enough of that March Sadness talk! March Madness is about getting excited, and jumping out of your seat, and – the most magical part of the tourney – rooting for the underdogs to upset the big dogs and enter the national consciousness, if only for a week or two.
The Southern Jaguars (22-12) are a prime candidate to become March Madness’ newest, most-beloved underdogs. The Jaguars will open the tournament against the Holy Cross Crusaders (14-19) in a “First Four” game, Wednesday, March 16th.
Southern has a great opportunity to advance into the first round, against a Crusaders club that only had 10 wins going into the Patriot League conference tournament. The Crusaders rattled off four victories to earn their improbable berth into the Big Dance.
The Jaguars roared into the SWAC Championship with double-digit victories over Alabama State and number-one seeded Texas Southern. In the championship round, they met Jackson State with the automatic berth on the line.
In a back-and-forth affair, Southern’s Adrian Rodgers’ – voted first-team All-SWAC – rebound and put back gave the Jaguars a 54-53 lead with under a minute to play. Jackson State would miss an ensuing three pointer, and watch their own put back rest on the rim, but bounce away into the hands of the Jaguars, for a heart-thumping victory that typifies what March Madness is all about.
If Southern knocks off Holy Cross, they will advance on to play the number one-seeded Oregon Ducks. As every even sorta-fan of March Madness knows, no No. 1 seed has lost to a 16 seed. So, Southern will have a big hill to climb should they make it that far.
But it’s a hill that the Jaguars would love to tackle, and one that coach Roman Banks has been on previously. In 2013, Banks led his team up against No. 1 seeded Gonzaga, in a thrilling game that saw the Jaguars fall 64-58.
So, somebody crank up the Human Jukebox, because the Jags are going dancin’, and maybe, just maybe become America’s newest Cinderella team.
And like a good drink with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Drink Pairing – New Republic Brewing’s “Dammit Jim!” Texas Amber
Playlist Recommendation – The Cajun Playboys – “Johnny Can’t Dance”
*other photos by Associated Press and GoJagSports.com