By Casey Gisclair
Ben Simmons gets most of the love and publicity for the LSU basketball team, and rightfully so. The LSU freshman is an absolute freight train and is legitimately one of the Top 30-40 best basketball players in the world right now as we speak – even while still playing on a college campus.
As I watched the LSU basketball team crash and burn on Saturday afternoon against Florida — the team’s sixth loss in 15 tries this season — I had an epiphany.
Simmons is ridiculous (in a good way), but for my dollar, he’s actually not the player most integral to the Tigers’ successes going forward.
The player that LSU coach Johnny Jones and staff need to most worry about getting rolling is junior point guard Tim Quarterman because he, and not Simmons, is the catalyst that turns LSU from a decent team into one that is a legitimate threat to make some noise in March Madness.
Never was that more apparent than in the past week of action.
Against Kentucky, Quarterman was unbelievable – legitimately the best player on the floor in a game that was littered with stars.
He played 31 minutes and filled up the stat sheet, scoring 21 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and getting seven assists – all while shooting 9-of-15 from the field, 2-of-4 from behind the 3-point line and posting no turnovers.
Defensively, Quarterman used his length and athleticism to disrupt the Kentucky offense. The Wildcats had just eight assists in that game, compared to 14 turnovers. They never found a way to score the ball consistently.
And now, let’s look at what Quarterman did just a few days later against Florida.
In that game, the LSU junior looked like a shell of himself, making just one field goal and scoring three points. Quarterman’s energy wasn’t there. He played just 22 minutes and had a hard time keeping himself on the floor.
That has to change for LSU to be a factor in the race going forward.
See, Simmons gets all of the attention, but, to me, he’s a constant. To me, he’s a guy that can be penciled in to get a double-double in just about every game that LSU plays.
In the Kentucky game, Simmons was a virtual non-factor, but he still got 14 points and 10 boards. Against Florida, he was a mammoth, scoring 28 of LSU’s 62 points.
But the Wonder from Down Under needs help.
For the Tigers to get where they are capable of going, Simmons can’t be scoring almost 50 percent of LSU’s points in a game. That ratio has to be much more diluted.
And that onus falls on Quarterman – a guy who can both score and create offense for others when he’s out on the floor.
Assuming, of course, that he’s engaged and playing at a maximum effort.
That seems to be the X-factor in the equation – the fly in the ointment that will decide whether the Tigers go to the NCAA Tournament or sag back into the NIT.
In Simmons I trust, but Quarterman is whom LSU needs to take the next step towards greatness.