Grambling Athletics

Monday’s Pregame Shootaround: Can Grambling finally break their 32 game losing streak?

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Central Baptist at Grambling, 8:30 p.m.

This isn’t really the game of the night.

In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.

Grambling has lost 32 straight games. They are 0-4 this season. They were 0-28 last season. They have dropped 41 of their last 42 games and are winless since beating Alabama A&M on March 3rd, 2012. The one year, nine months and two days. A little more than 93 weeks, or 653 days to be exact.

But tonight, the Grambling State Tigers will finally — mercifully — have a chance to end that streak as they host Central Baptist, an NAIA program that has started off the season 1-7.

“We’re at home for the first time non-conference in front of our fans and we want to come out and play great basketball and get the win,” head coach Joseph Price said. I’m sure he does. Lose to Central Baptist, and Grambling will have three chances — at TCU, at Evansville and at Arkansas-Little Rock — to try and avoid going an entire calendar year without winning a basketball game.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Delaware at North Dakota State, 8:00 p.m.

NDSU is one week removed from a win at Notre Dame. Marshall Bjorklund is a beast in the post, good enough that people are forgetting to mention the fact that this team has Taylor Braun on their roster. The Bison are good, but Delaware has got a team as well. Throw in the fact that Devon Saddler will be returning to the lineup for the Blue Hens tonight, and we should see a pretty good basketball game in the frozen tundra of Fargo, ND.


1) No. 8 Duke returns to the court after 13 days off for finals by taking on Gardner-Webb at Cameron Indoor.

2) In another interesting game between strong mid-major programs, Oral Roberts heads to Ohio to take on Akron.

3) Georgia Tech, who has been a bit of a disappointment this season, will host Kennesaw State.

4) Chris Collins will lead Northwestern into battle with Mississippi Valley State.

5) Illinois State is coming off of a win over Dayton. Can the Redbirds string together two wins and take out Oakland and Travis Bader tonight?

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Leave a comment

Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.