Ben Simmons was supposed to be the best player in college basketball this season, a transcendent talent capable of single-handedly lifting LSU to new heights.
Final Four heights. Heights LSU hasn’t reached since 2006 and, before that, 1986.
As it turns out, though, LSU (16-11, 9-5) is on the bubble.
“You talk about all this hype around Ben Simmons – and rightfully so because he’s very talented,” Westwood One college basketball analyst Dan Dickau said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “But if you’re a No. 1 pick or you’re considered to be a No. 1 pick, you need to be able to really put a team on your shoulders and prove that you can come through in difficult situations. He hasn’t really done that this year, and he hasn’t done it with consistency.”
Simmons, to his credit, has been beyond solid. He’s averaging 19.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steal per game. He’s also shooting 56.1 percent from the floor. Those are impressive numbers.
And yet, LSU has struggled. The Tigers lost three straight in late-November, including an overtime loss to NC State in which Simmons had just four points in 40 minutes. That type of performance doesn’t exactly conjure images of, say, Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade.
“I would be hard-pressed to say he is my clear-cut No. 1 at this moment in time without really diving into all the other players as well,” Dickau said of Simmons. “When you look at his talent, when you look at his size (6-10, 225), when you look at the potential that he has, that’s why you’re looking at a No. 1 pick. But you’re right. They’re an interesting team because I think their RPI as of now is hovering around the 80 mark.”
Even worse, Keith Hornsby – LSU’s second leading scorer (13.1 points) and top three-point shooter (41.5 percent) – could miss the rest of the season with a hernia. Hornsby sustained the injury in the first half against Tennessee this past Saturday and played just 12 scoreless minutes.
The Vols, by the way, beat LSU 81-65 despite playing without their leading scorer, Kevin Punter Jr., who averages 22.2 points per game.
“It looks like Hornsby is going to be out for a bit with an injury,” Dickau said. “You really don’t know what you’re going to get with that team right now.”