WASHINGTON, D.C. — LSU’s whirlwind of a season finally ended with an 80-63 loss to Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen Friday night. A season marked by tragedy and cloaked in scandal is now one in history, but that history may be erased if allegations of illegal recruiting tactics by coach Will Wade are proven and deemed punishable by the NCAA.
Regardless of what happens with the Wade situation, nothing can change what LSU has done and accomplished on the court this season. The loss of teammate Wayde Sims, followed by winning the Southeastern Conference title after a school-imposed suspension of Wade encapsulate the up-and-down roller coaster of LSU’s season.
But as the struggles brought them closer and the hardships made them tougher, at the end of the season, only one team ends the season on top, no matter what happened throughout the regular season.
“You don’t want it to end — especially with a group like this,” said junior guard Skylar Mays. “I’ve been a part of teams where you kind of want the season to end and get it over with, but this is a team I can honestly say I loved going to work with.
“I loved going through the hard times with these guys and all the things that come from a journey of a season.”
Mays had been one of the leaders on the team and said everyone’s head should be held high. Not only for what they accomplished on the court but off of it as well.
It is those moments Mays said he cherishes most. He described the team as a family, and the pain he feels from the loss is exacerbated by what is being left behind in the nation’s capital. No longer will that team take the floor together and gone are the possible memories to be made off the court.
“We’ve been through a lot, more than probably every team in college basketball, but we never let that put us down,” Mays said. “We always stayed together and that’s what made us so close. It’s tough to see everybody every day since June, and now everybody is going to go their separate ways for a while.”
For others like freshman guard Javonte Smart, the loss still festers. It’s tough for him to put everything in perspective considering how close LSU came to reaching the Final Four.
“This is a real great group of guys, and we came so far,” Smart said. “So many people doubted us and said we weren’t going to make it this far. We were supposed to lose to Yale after we lost in the SEC tournament early, but like I said, this is a real great group of guys and I love them.”