ESPN can’t produce a “30-for-30” documentary on this LSU men’s basketball team quick enough.
From winning five overtime games to losing Wayde Sims in a tragic shooting just before the season to having its head coach Will Wade caught on an FBI wiretap, the most difficult part of this documentary process will be choosing what to cut.
Like the 2008 blockbuster “The Fighter” devoted a minute at-best to Micky Ward’s legendary fights with Arturo Gatti, an LSU basketball “30-for-30” would have to trim classic games because there are simply too many of them. And the Tigers aren’t done yet.
Last Saturday, when LSU defeated Maryland in the round of 32 to clinch the school’s eighth Sweet 16 appearance, you could tell who has paid attention to this team all season long. Some were dumbfounded that LSU could lead by 15 and trail late when others, like myself, thought it was par for the course.
But LSU did what it’s done more often than not — figure out a way to pull off a memorable victory. You had the moments where LSU looked like the best team in the country to moments were the Tigers made plays that made you want to pull your hair out. But by the end, you left happy with some unintended cardiovascular exercise.
And what’s funny about that game is interim coach Tony Benford deserved criticism in the second half for the way LSU attacked Maryland’s zone.
The Tigers stopped getting it inside and began settling for outside shots, which has been LSU’s Achilles heel in 2019 (32-percent 3-point shooting team).
But after Tiger fans were ready to blame the loss on Benford, he calls a timeout with the game tied, 67-67, and made the only decision that made sense in that moment — give it to Tremont Waters and let him drive.
The rest, as they say, is history.
And Benford is now the unlikeliest Sweet 16 coach, as he struggled to stay competitive at North Texas (42-53).
Yet here he is, leading one of the most talented groups in the field.
The fact Benford will go toe-to-toe with tournament wizard Tom Izzo and Michigan State is only fitting.
LSU basketball fans have come to expect the unexpected this basketball season.
And we’re not even talking about on the court. Forget Wade getting caught on an FBI wiretap. Who saw this LSU vs. Dick Vitale feud coming? Vitale makes more enemies by the day with his steady onslaught (and hypocritical) opinions of LSU’s basketball program.
Heck, he couldn’t even congratulate LSU’s team without bringing up the wiretap scandal.
He tweeted the following (adjusted for grammar) at halftime: “The LSU Tigers are so athletic and talented. Too bad playing with a dark cloud over their head due to the inexcusable comments on FBI wiretap by Coach Wade. Up 38-29 at half.”
The fans started handing one another their social media pitchforks and went right back at Vitale.
Right, wrong or indifferent, Vitale can’t let that point go even though he’s been made to look like a hypocrite.
And whether he’s trolling fans or not, I find it to be absolutely hilarious.
Because I get it. This whole situation is foreign and downright fascinating. We’ve never seen the FBI interrupt one of the best seasons in school history before. And whether you want to admit it or not, it’s caused most reasonable fans to celebrate this team’s achievements with a grain of salt.
But then again, it might make a win against Michigan State that much sweeter. This season has become an “us against the world” tale full of unexpected twists and turns.
And that, my friends, is worth documenting.