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SEC Tournament Showdown
The Tigers continued their strong recent play in their first game at the SEC Tournament.
  • All three phases of the game glittered - pitching, hitting, fielding.
  • Watching the other teams in the SEC makes me appreciate how good LSU's defense it. It isn't just a case of making the routine plays inning after inning. The Tigers' infielders and outfielders make plays on balls that other teams don't.

Now the #2-seed Tigers face #3 Kentucky.

  • LSU lost two of three in Lexington April 21-23.
  • But tonight they'll face the Wildcats in the big ballpark at Hoover AL, not the bandbox at UK.
  • Alex Lange gutted out 5 2/3 innings in LSU's lone win in Lexington as Zack Hess first caught our attention with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
  • Because a doubleheader was scheduled that Friday to avoid inclement weather Saturday, Lange didn't face UK's ace Scott Hjelle that day (Poche did). But Alex'll get a crack at him Thursday night.

I expect Lange to continue his solid pitching and lead the Tigers to victory in this "marble game" in their bracket of the tournament.

Surprise in Game 3
No sooner had I posted the article below Sunday evening than the Celtics spoiled my prediction of a Cavaliers sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Boston's 111-108 victory is being called the biggest upset in NBA playoff history. The Celtics were 17-point underdogs playing without star Isaiah Thomas. The betting lines were as high as 45-to-1 for Cleveland.
  • LeBron James played so poorly - a measly 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting with nary a point in the last 16 minutes - that many Internet posters wondered if he was having a bad night on purpose to "spark a fire in his teammates before the Finals." Others were more blunt, raising the possibility of point-shaving.

By contrast, the Celtics enjoyed a remarkable night from Marcus Smart, who is argua­bly the lousiest shooter in NBA history who regularly launches threes.

  • In 2015-16, Marcus registered the worst percentage of anybody ever to attempt at least 200 3s in a season (25.3% on 241 shots).
  • This season, he shot 28.3% from beyond the arc, the 27th-worst mark all time among qualified players.
  • That makes Smart the only player to finish in the bottom 30 in 3-point shooting both the last two years.
  • So what did Smart do Sunday night? He launched ten 3s and hit seven.
  • By contrast, the Cavs' Big Three, James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love along with 3-point specialist Kyle Korver combined to go 0-for-10 from way downtown in the second half.

The chances of the Cavs repeating such a poor performance in any game the rest of the series now that the Celtics have gotten their attention are slim and none.

So now it'll be Cleveland in five instead of four.

NBA Conference Finals Gutted
Injuries have ruined the Conference Final Series.
  • The Western Finals between Golden State and San Antonio would have been compelling, as shown by the fact that the Spurs led Game One in Oakland 62-42 at the half. But Kawhi Leonard, who had scored 26 points, severely sprained his ankle when he landed on an opponent's foot with 7:54 left in Q3 and the Spurs ahead 76-55. With Leonard in the locker room getting treatment, the Warriors rallied for a 113-111 victory.
  • Golden State ran away with Game 2 at home, 136-100.
  • Game 3 in San Antonio, the Spurs kept it close without Leonard but lost 120-108. To make matters worse, F David Lee also got hurt.

Like Golden State, Cleveland swept both their opening round series.

  • The Celtics showed some promise of at least winning a game or two from the Cavs to provide some interest for the Eastern Finals.
  • But Boston star Isaiah Thomas left Game Two with a "right hip strain." Then he was pronounced out for the rest of the Series.

So we will have the first finals in which the two combatants swept all three of their playoff series to win their conferences.

  • Despite each conference final series ending after the minimum four games, we have to wait for June 1 for the finals to begin.
  • It's like the World Series. People from across the country bought tickets and marked their calendars with the dates of the games.

I was watching the playoffs prior to the Leonard and Thomas injuries.

  • I enjoyed the Celtics-Wizards series which went seven games.
  • I also enjoyed Game One of the Western Finals.
  • Game One of the Eastern Finals was OK (Cavs 117, Celtics 104 with Cleveland not pulling away until the last minutes).
  • But since then, I haven't bothered. I'm just biding my time waiting for June 1.
SEC West Champs!
The Tigers won the first two games in Starkville in opposite ways.
  • Thursday night, Alex Lange was at his bulldog best against the Bulldogs. He battled out of jams in the 6th and 7th before turning the mound chores over to Zack Hess for the 8th and Hunter Newman, who got his 9th save in the 9th in the 3-1 victory.
  • Then the Tigers exposed the deficiencies of the MSU pitching staff in Game Two, collecting 11 walks to go with eight hits in the 11-5 victory. Jared Poche got the victory to go 9-3 but lasted only five innings. Hess pitched well again - 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball with six strikeouts.

LSU can win the SEC regular season championship if they beat the Maroons today and Kentucky tops Florida.

  • The Bengals have now won six in a row and 11 of their last 13.
  • As has often happened, Manieri's team is peaking at the right time.

However, some deficiencies are apparent on this Tiger team.

  • The bullpen is thin. Friday night, Caleb Gilbert took the mound in the 6th with a four-run lead and immediately walked the first batter. An error led to an unearned run, but Gilbert never looked comfortable. Manieri lost patience and removed Caleb for Hess. The result was that Zack is "burned" for today's series finale.
  • The fact that Manieri didn't go to veterans Russell Reynolds, Colin Strall, or Austin Bain with a six-run lead going into the bottom of the 7th to save Hess shows how little confidence he has in them.

The Tigers lost a disappointing number of mid-week games because the second-line starters and relievers are subpar.

  • LSU's three weekend starters are a top-notch group, which is why the Tigers have won the West.
  • But having only two reliable relievers in Hess and Newman poses a big problem for going deep into the SEC Tournament next week and then the NCAA Tournament.

Final thought: If Mississippi State could lead the West going into the last weekend of the regular season with an injury-riddled pitching staff, just how strong is the SEC?

Big Series in Starkville
The Tigers and Bulldogs square off in a three-game series to determine the SEC West regular season champion.
  • Tiger hitters look forward to showing their former coach how much they've progressed since October when Andy Canizzaro left to become the head coach at Mississippi State when the previous coach became AD.
  • The series also matches the SEC's top two HR hitters: Brent Rooker (20) of MSU and Greg Deichmann (17). Which one will have the better series may determine the winner.
  • Here's the team statistics comparison.
Category LSU MSU
Batting Avg. .292 .287
Runs Scored 347 310
HR 48 47
ERA 3.74 4.62
Runs allowed 210 266
  • The pitching matchups:
    Game 1
    LSU - Alex Lange (2.92 ERA, 100 K, 28 W)
    MSU - Konnor Pilkington (3.44, 91 K, 35 W)
    Game 2
    LSU - Jared Poche (3.16, 50 K, 25 W)
    MSU - Denver McQuary (3.89, 31 K, 32 W)
    Game 3
    LSU - Eric Walker (3.77, 58 K, 19 W)
    MSU - TBA
  • The team stats and the pitcher-vs-pitcher numbers all favor LSU.
  • But Dudy Noble Field is perhaps second only to Alex Box Stadium for a home field advantage. Here's the Bulldogs record at home:
    Non-SEC foes: 12-6
    SEC: 9-3
    The .667 SEC winning % is skewed by sweeps against the two worst teams in the league: Tennessee and Alabama.

Bottom line: I'll be disappointed if LSU doesn't win 2 of 3 and take the West.

From the Archives
Here's another article I've updated. In this case, it's the story of the 1939 Rose Bowl when USC took on undefeated and unscored on Duke.

The new book I'm reading that gave me more information about the game is Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War, Brian Curtis (2016). The book begins with a chapter on Wallace Wade, the coach of the Duke team that hosted Oregon State in the 1942 Rose Bowl when the game was moved from California to North Carolina out of fear of a Japanese attack on the mainland less than a month after Pearl Harbor.

My article from years ago on that Rose Bowl game will also be updated in due time.

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This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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