The LSU Tigers have generated national attention this season despite a mediocre 18-13 record thanks to the presence of superstar Ben Simmons. Simmons, however, recently made headlines for reasons outside of his basketball abilities.
Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today noted Monday the freshman forward did not start an 81-65 loss at the Tennessee Volunteers on Feb. 20 because of academic reasons. What's more, Simmons didn't earn a 2.0 GPA last semester and was not included as one of the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award.
Guilbeau shared Simmons' thoughts on his academic issues:
I think it was just little things like missing a couple of classes and things like that. And then it gets brought up. If it was somebody else, it may not have been brought up. Now, it's one of those things that's everywhere. But I'm not worried about that right now.
You don't go to some classes. You miss some classes, and you're going to get punished. That's how they handle it. I learned from it. I go to class now.
Simmons is the assumed No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. DraftExpress has him in that spot in its latest mock draft thanks largely to his ability to impact so many different aspects of games as a 6'10" forward.
Simmons leads the Tigers in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per night and was named the SEC preseason Player of the Year.
"I was just trying to be a college student, but it's not easy for me just because who I am," Simmons said, per Guilbeau. "So I just tried to enjoy little things. Enjoyed it really, learning new things with people."
There may be some things Simmons has enjoyed about his college experience thus far, but hearing chants of "GPA! GPA!" from Kentucky Wildcats fans during LSU's 94-77 loss in Lexington on Saturday probably didn't make the cut. The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to bolster their NCAA tournament resume in that contest.
While LSU has struggled with consistency, Simmons has been statistically spectacular during his freshman campaign:
Alas, even with the potential future No. 1 pick leading the way, the Tigers look like a long shot—at best—to make the Big Dance.
Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com didn't even include LSU in his most recent "bubble watch," and that was before the blowout loss to the Wildcats. Considering Simmons' squad didn't garner "work left to do" status, it may have to win the SEC tournament to be part of the Madness in mid-March.
The one good thing for the Tigers is they received a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tourney, which is set to start Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee.
LSU is the No. 4 seed and will face the No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores, No. 12 Volunteers or No. 13 Auburn Tigers on Friday. If Simmons and Co. win that one (perhaps against a Commodores squad playing in its home city), they would then likely face the No. 1 Texas A&M Aggies in the semifinals. Another win and LSU could face No. 2 Kentucky in the finals.