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Ben Simmons becomes LSU’s second-ever top overall draft pick

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Thursday night the worst-kept secret in the 2016 NBA Draft became official news, as the Philadelphia 76ers selected former LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick. Simmons was expected by many to be taken first overall, and with his selection he becomes the second LSU product to be taken first overall in an NBA Draft.

The first was Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who was taken by the Orlando Magic in 1992. In total nine former LSU players have been top five draft picks in program history, with Bob Pettit (1954) and Stromile Swift (2000) going second overall in their respective drafts.

Simmons posted gaudy numbers in his lone season at LSU, averaging 22.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game despite the absence of a perimeter shot. And the team wasn’t as successful as expected either, as the Tigers failed to qualify for the 2016 NCAA tournament and sat out postseason play.

LSU coach: Tigers won’t play in any postseason tourneys

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU freshman Ben Simmons’ college career could be finished.

Coach Johnny Jones announced Sunday that the Tigers will not participate in a postseason tournament after being left out of the NCAA field.

The Tigers (19-14) finished in a tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference for the second straight year. They failed to play up to expectations created by the arrival of Simmons, who might declare for the upcoming NBA draft.

Jones says LSU “will be able to utilize this time to get better and start preparations for next season.” The coach says the Tigers fell short of their mark of getting to the NCAA Tournament and he takes full responsibility, adding he’ll do what is necessary to ensure LSU accomplishes one of its main goals in the future.

LSU’s Ben Simmons playing with finger injury on shooting hand

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In the aftermath of LSU’s home loss to Alabama Wednesday night, head coach Johnny Jones noted that his best player has been playing at less than full strength.

Thursday afternoon Jones stated to the media that freshman forward Ben Simmons has been playing with an injured finger on his left hand according to Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. It’s unknown which finger Simmons injured and when the injury occurred, with Jones not providing any clarity on either front Thursday.

When asked during his twice-weekly media availability if Simmons was playing with an injury, Jones said, “Yes, it happened a couple of games ago. It’s on his shooting hand.”

Jones did not elaborate on which finger was affected and whether it hindered his shooting touch, and Simmons did not attend the media session.

Simmons has shot 50 percent or better from the field in seven of LSU’s last eight games, with the Tigers’ loss to South Carolina being the only exception. Wednesday night Simmons scored 20 points, shooting 5-for-10 from the field and 10-for-19 from the foul line.

LSU, which is part of the bubble conversation while also just a game behind Kentucky in the SEC standings, plays its next two games on the road beginning with Saturday’s contest at Tennessee.

No. 1 Oklahoma denies LSU a much-needed signature win

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With a front court rotation that consists largely of senior Ryan Spangler and sophomore Khadeem Lattin, No. 1 Oklahoma doesn’t have the elite post players that many recent national champions have called upon. However they’ve got the nation’s best player in Buddy Hield leading a deep perimeter rotation, and that’s what makes Lon Kruger’s team a serious threat to not only reach the Final Four but win two more games once there.

Saturday evening the Sooners shook off some cold (by their standards) shooting to beat LSU 77-75 in Baton Rouge. Not only did the Tigers enter the game with freshman phenom Ben Simmons and some other talents capable of hurting the opposition, but they were in a position where this was a critical game for their NCAA tournament hopes. LSU didn’t accomplish a whole lot in non-conference play, and Saturday represented the opportunity that could have made up for all of that.

Instead, it was Isaiah Cousins who took advantage, as his shot with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Oklahoma the victory.

Hield, who scored 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds in another outstanding performance, has received most of the attention when it comes to Oklahoma and rightfully so. He’s put in the work throughout his career in Norman, and shooting better than 50 percent both from the field and from three the senior from the Bahamas has turned into a player who’s damn near impossible to limit for a full 40 minutes.

But he doesn’t lack for help offensively either. Cousins added 18 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field, and Spangler held his own in the post to the tune of 16 points and ten rebounds. The Sooners can attack teams from multiple areas, and in the game’s decisive sequence it was Cousins who was entrusted with making a play. And at different points this season if it wasn’t Cousins or Hield, Jordan Woodard proved himself capable of stepping forward as well.

Oklahoma’s ability to take advantage of LSU mistakes, be it turnovers or second-chance scoring opportunities, helped the visitors get back into the game in the second half. Oklahoma scored 18 of its 41 second-half points off of LSU turnovers or offensive rebounds, and that combined with Hield getting hot set the stage for the climactic finish.

The Tigers have some positives to take from this game, most notably the play of Tim Quarterman as he led four player in double figures with 18 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists (two of which were on key Antonio Blakeney three-pointers). But ultimately this game will be about missed opportunities, be it their inability to get a stop down the stretch or the many questions as to why Ben Simmons (14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five turnovers) didn’t have the ball in his hands more down the stretch.

LSU has the potential to be a dangerous team should they get into the NCAA tournament. But “potential” isn’t about a finished product. Oklahoma’s farther along in that regard, which enabled them to make the plays that needed to be made regardless of who had the ball in his hands.

Hield, Simmons among 25 on midseason Wooden Award list

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Wednesday evening the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list was released, and many of the names on the list should come as no surprise. Among those are LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons and Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield, two of the top candidates for national player of the year honors in the eyes of many. The same can be said of Providence guard Kris Dunn and Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, who also made the cut.

Twenty of the 25 players on this list were on the award’s preseason top 50 list. The exceptions are Arizona senior forward Ryan Anderson, Oakland junior guard Kay Felder, Louisville senior guard Damion Lee, Kansas junior guard Wayne Selden Jr. and Iowa senior forward Jarrod Uthoff.

Below are the 25 players on the midseason list, and it should be noted that not making this list does not prohibit a player from winning the Wooden Award.

G Grayson Allen (Duke)
F Ryan Anderson (Arizona)
G Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia)
G Kris Dunn (Providence)
F Perry Ellis (Kansas)
G Kay Felder (Oakland)
G/F Daniel Hamilton (Connecticut)
G Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
F Brice Johnson (North Carolina)
G Damion Lee (Louisville)
G Caris LeVert (Michigan)
G Nic Moore (SMU)
G Jamal Murray (Kentucky)
F Georges Niang (Iowa State)
G Marcus Paige (North Carolina)
G Gary Payton II (Oregon State)
F Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
F Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga)
G Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas)
F Ben Simmons (LSU)
G Melo Trimble (Maryland)
G Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)
F Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa)
G Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
F Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)

Former Oregon commit Ray Kasongo down to Indiana and LSU

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It’s been an eventful two weeks for 2014 power forward Ray Kasongo. It began on July 30 when he was not admitted to the University of Oregon. As his recruitment reopened he keyed in on three programs. A week later and none of those teams remain in the picture. However, according to a report on Tuesday, the former Duck commit is down to two schools.

Kasongo is down to Indiana and LSU, Kasongo’s mentor, Brandon Bender, told Jordan Littman of InsidetheHall.com.

The 6-foot-9 power forward will visit Indiana as early as Sunday. The Hoosiers are wrapping up their five-game Canadian tour in Quebec this week. Indiana is playing without its only inside presence, Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Tom Crean still has a scholarship offer available for this season and is looking to add a player to his frontline. On Tuesday, it was reported that Emmitt Holt, a 6-foot-7 forward, intends to visit Indiana next week. Holt had elected to do a postgraduate year at Vermont Academy, but is still a member of the Class of 2014.

Kasongo could visit LSU this week, a source to Adam Zagoria. The Tigers lost leading scorer Johnny O’Bryant to an early entry. However, head coach Johnny Jones brings back rising sophomores Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, both of whom averaged double figures last season. Elbert Robinson, a four-star 7-foot-1 center, joins the program, and has slimmed down considerably this summer.

After being denied admission to Oregon, Kasongo visited Kansas while Cal and Memphis were reportedly in the mix.

Kasongo was rated as a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.