Welcome to the Bulldawg Illustrated Hoops Report. It’s like being in the right place at the wrong time. And that probably is how the Dawgs feel this weekend.
Being in Awburn for a hoops game has been the right place for the Dawgs the last few years as they’ve been struggling. However, 17th ranked Awburn has gotten a coach with a shady past at telling the truth during NCAA investigations and an assistant coach recently arrested by the FBI for bribery, conspiracy, and four other felonies involving illegal recruiting activities and all of a sudden they’re a contender! I’d be willing to bet the Athletic Department in Awburn assumed it was going to play out this way, if not worse when they hired everyone. They sure know how to cheat. But I digress… After winning 14 in a row, they’ve hit the skids. They’re on a one-game losing streak and most likely vulnerable, at least I hope! But before we waste time on the Tigers, or Eagles or Plainsmen, which is sexist btw, let’s talk about the Bayou Comeback.
At halftime of the Dawgs last game, it appeared their season may be flying out the window. Down 10 at LSU and coming off a home loss to an outmatched Lamecock team, desperate times were among us. I was sitting on my sofa watching try to figure out where we’d be in terms of the NCAA Tourney if we lost. Most every possible scenario showed our bubble bursting within two weeks. So while I sat there depressed, Yante Maten sat in the locker room getting mad. He decided to take out his anger on the Tigers in the second half. After going scoreless in the first seventeen minutes, he finished the half with four. However, he finished the game with 21 and none were bigger than his last two points with 5.1 seconds left to give the Dawgs a 61-60 lead. He was tripled team in the paint and somehow hit the game-winner to keep our season on life support. The Bayou Bengals then missed a long three and the Dawgs got a huge road win. Derek Ogbeide continues to look good offensively as he finished in double-digits again with 11. And surprisingly, sixth-year senior Juwan Parker finally hit a huge three with 00:56 to go and finished with nine. We’re now the first or second team in or out of the Big Dance, depending on who’s poll you look at. I cannot overemphasize how critical that game was. It was almost as big as our next two.
At BI, we have always taken things one game at a time. However, this week is a little different. The Dawgs are at Awburn Saturday and then have Arkansas at home on Tuesday. I’d love to win both games. That would put us squarely in the field of 68 as Awburn and Arky are projected four and eight seeds respectively. But my main concern in winning one of them. If the Dawgs split the next two, we’re fine in the big picture. It doesn’t matter which game either. We just need one of two. That said, it’s always a great feeling to win the first when you’re needing a split. So if the Dawgs, who are 8.5 points underdawgs btw, can pull off the upset, all of a sudden we’re playing with house money. As the old saying goes, you can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one. So let’s get this done on Saturday and put ourselves in that fabled cat-bird seat.
Ok, Saturday day at Awburn is not life or death but it’s big. This would be a huge resume builder as well as put our season record ahead of the curve. It would put us in the Tournament in real time rankings. Awburn is good and some smart folks think they could be the best team in the SEC. However, they’re not used to success. They’re still learning to win. Coming off a loss, there’s probably going to being a little self-doubt. We need Yante and Derek to show up and play two halves. Then we need that third scorer to rear his head and make the defense pay for doubling Yante. There are too many possibilities for someone not to step up. If we get that, we’re as good as anyone in the conference. But our offense has been offensive the last two weeks. The time is now to straighten things out. Let’s go ahead and win Saturday. That’ll make Tuesday a lot easier. Go Dawgs!
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