Friday, January 31, 2020

Is LSU Making a Historic Run in Football, Men's Basketball, and Baseball?

As the LSU basketball team continues to win games, I think it's possible that we could be in the middle of one of the greatest overall collective performances in football, men's basketball, and baseball by one college throughout one school year.

We all know by now about how dominant the LSU football team was in the fall, wrapping up a National Championship with a 42-25 win over Clemson in the championship game earlier this month and ending with a perfect 15-0 record, including wins over the preseason's top four teams (Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma) along the way.

And although no team has won national titles in all three sports in the same school year, the Florida Gators did secure national championships in both football and basketball in 2006-07, becoming the first team to win two of the three titles in one school year. (In fact, only Florida, Ohio State, California, and Michigan own titles in all three sports across different years.)

Now, I'm not predicting a March Madness crown for my Tigers, but I think they have as good of a shot as most other teams. The starting five can play with any other starting five out there; however, the bench depth is fairly limited, so I can see foul trouble (and/or poor officiating) throwing the team off of its game in a crucial postseason match.

Still, the team has won nine games in a row and has finally returned to the Top 25, currently sitting with a 6-seed, as predicted by ESPN, which could continue to rise throughout February.

Of course, there is also baseball, which begins in just three weeks. The Tigers are entering the season ranked around the Top 10-15 in national polls and always have a chance of competing in the NCAA Tournament, particularly if the team does well enough to grab a Super Regional spot in the spring.

So obviously, in order to compare the 2019-20 Tigers to Florida's great 2006-07 teams, LSU would need to win a title in basketball or baseball. But there are other numbers we could analyze, such as total wins.

In 2006-07, Florida's football team finished 13-1, while the basketball team went 35-5. Those 48 total wins are very impressive; on the other hand, the 2007 baseball Gators finished with a record of 29-30. If we count all wins equally, that's a total of 77 wins over the three sports.

This year's LSU Tiger teams have a good chance of topping that total. We know about the 15 wins in football. The basketball team is currently 16-4 (7-0 in SEC) and has two beatable opponents coming up next in Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. In fact, if we go ahead and predict six losses over the rest of the regular season (perhaps at Auburn, at Alabama, vs. Kentucky, at Florida, at Arkansas, +1 surprise?), the team would still enter SEC Tournament play at 21-10. Giving the team another two wins in SEC and/or postseason tournament play, 23 wins seems like a very safe estimate at this point. That total combined with football is 38.

Last year's LSU baseball team had a pretty average year for the Tigers, winning 40 games, finishing in the middle of the conference, and going 6-4 in the postseason, dropping both contests with Florida State in the Super Regional. The team's final ranking was around the Top 15 in the polls. In other words, this year's team is predicted to be about the same as, if not slightly better than, last year's team. (I personally think the roster is improved, key players will have more confidence, and the freshman class is absolutely loaded.)

So if the baseball team were to match last year's 40 wins, we could see a total of 78 or more total wins across the three sports, topping Florida's 2006-07 teams.

Again, I know a second National Championship makes this is an actual conversation. But as a Tigers fan (and a biased SEC supporter), I'm having fun watching it all unfold.

So am I missing anyone? Are there other schools out there who should be in the conversation?

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