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Can you say Fire Sale?
With No. 6 seed LSU losing 59-54 to No. 11 seed Iowa State Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the Midwest Region, the Will Wade era is now completely done.
He was fired last Saturday after five seasons amid eight major alleged NCAA violations, and now the team he recruited is likely headed for the hills in all directions with the freedom of the one-and-gone NCAA transfer portal.
“Next week, you’re going to have a lot of guys looking for jobs, playing for, auditioning for new coaches,” said LSU interim coach Kevin Nickelberry the day before this game after replacing Wade.
Evidently, he did not see LSU advancing out of Milwaukee. The Tigers finished the season 22-12 after a 15-1 start.
“You’re going to have coaches looking for jobs,” he said. “This week, we can control. And we’re going to live in this week and live in this moment and control what we can.”
Most of LSU’s players are expected to transfer as they do not who their next coach is yet and may not for some time or how qualified he will or will not be, considering what the incoming serious NCAA sanctions may be. That will scare away many qualified coaches and present players.
Iowa State (21-12), on the other hand, has completely reversed its fortune under first-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, who inherited a team that went 2-22 overall last season and 0-18 in the Big 12. The Cyclones will play Sunday against the winner of Friday night’s late game between No. 3 seed Wisconsin (24-7) and No. 14 seed Colgate (23-11).
Iowa State rode the hot hand of freshman guard Tyrese Hunter, who scored a career-high 23 points with seven 3-pointers in 11 attempts along with five steals and three assists.
Hunter’s 3-pointer for a 54-50 lead with 1:46 to play was from close to 25 feet and drew a congratulatory slap on his rear from LSU’s Darius Days. Hunter added another 3-pointer for the final with 19 seconds left. Izaiah Brockington scored 19 points.
Days, a senior playing his last game, might as well give the opponent credit. If you can’t beat ’em, praise ’em. Days did play very well, though, scoring 14 with 12 rebounds. Tari Eason, a sophomore who just got here this season, added 18. He’ll find a fine landing spot.
LSU scored its lowest points in a first half this season as it trailed 24-19 at the break, then had a chance to win.
As it often did under Wade, LSU showed flashes of brilliance with highly recruited players performing to their talent, such as Eric Gaines’ uncanny and expertly timed shot block in the first half. It also played sloppy and disjointed as it often did under Wade, committing 19 turnovers and allowing 22 points off turnovers.
A first round exit for a team that was once 15-1 somehow fits the end of Will Wade at LSU. So much brash promise, but in the end, tainted nothingness.
“We’ve got the right stuff to us,” Wade said last January. “We’re unbreakable.”
He was and is a talented coach who could still have a bright future as one, but he was so wrong, so often at LSU, as the NCAA will continue to prove.