Ben Simmons was the most talked about college basketball player all season long. The big LSU freshman made scouts drool and opposing coaches quiver. But what he didn’t do was force an LSU invitation to the NCAA Tournament — and the LSU season ended with a ignominious defeat at the hands of Texas A&M 71-38. LSU then surprised fans by saying it would bow out of all postseason competition, nixing a likely bid to compete for the NIT Championship. Coach Johnny Jones says he wants to get ready for next season. Most think that’s a season the Tigers will play without Simmons, who despite his disappointments would be a very high selection in the NBA draft if he leaves. Maybe No. 1. Are the Tigers and Jones protecting Simmons from more failure before the draft?
On Facebook, college hoops fan Jamie Yannacone perfectly captures the disappointment college basketball fans have at the news: “Ben Simmons won’t even play in the NIT or any other postseason tournament. As I’ve said many times, he might appear to have all the skills to be the No. 1 pick and he might end up being an NBA star as many project, but his one-year college career provided several reasons for teams to have legitimate reservations about drafting him. Among other red flags, he clearly didn’t make his LSU teammates better, he disappeared in clutch situations time and time again, and he exhibited little to no signs of a killer instinct.” The NIT could have been a place to turn this perception around. But the calculation seems to have been that Simmons and the Tigers had nothing to gain by playing.