College basketball fans have likely seen their last game with Ben Simmons in an LSU uniform.
According to Kent Lowe of LSUSports.net, "LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones announced late Sunday afternoon that the Tigers will not participate in a postseason tournament this year."
Lowe noted Jones “consulted with his staff and met with the team” before he ultimately decided to pass up the chance to play in the NIT.
"We will be able to utilize this time to get better and start preparations for next season," Jones said. "We fell short of the mark of getting to the NCAA tournament; I take full responsibility for this team and will do the things necessary to make sure we are able to reach one of our main goals at LSU in the future."
LSU's failure to make the NCAA tournament wasn’t the only reason Jones opted to decline a postseason bid. Senior Keith Hornsby underwent season-ending surgery Tuesday, and guard Antonio Blakeney would have been questionable in any upcoming games, per Lowe. “That also factored into our decision,” Jones noted.
Despite the injuries, Doug Mouton of CBS New Orleans didn’t think LSU should have forgone the opportunity to play more games this season:
IMO, I disagree with LSU's decision to not play in the NIT. Sometimes, life is about making the best of a bad situation and not quitting.— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) March 13, 2016
The Tigers finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 19-14 record. They were also 11-7 in the SEC during the regular season and earned the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
However, they lost in embarrassing fashion to Texas A&M in the semifinals, 71-38, in a game that was essentially over by halftime at 35-13. LSU shot a miserable 13-of-63 from the field and 5-of-27 from three-point range and didn’t resemble a tournament team in the weeks leading up to Selection Sunday.
While the Tigers did beat Kentucky on Jan. 5, they finished 4-6 in their final 10 contests, including the SEC tournament.
LSU is a brand-name sports school, but the biggest headline here is the likely end of Simmons’ collegiate career. He was only a freshman this season, but he has been the presumed No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft since the moment he stepped on campus.
Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated recently projected the forward to go No. 1 overall, which makes sense because of his ability to control the flow of the game and stuff the stat sheet as a 6’10” forward. He led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game and will likely head to the NBA if he takes his projected draft position into consideration.
Even with that talent, Simmons had an up-and-down year off the court. Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today noted the forward didn’t start during a loss to Tennessee because of academics, and he wasn’t eligible for the Wooden Award because he didn’t have a 2.0 GPA.
Between the off-court concerns, falling short of the NCAA tournament, the blowout loss to the Aggies and his coach's choice to pass up on the chance to play in a postseason tournament, Simmons' first and perhaps only season in the collegiate ranks had an unremarkable finish.