With LSU basketball, it’s always something. The Tigers got the sixth seed in the NCAA Tournament and they open up March Madness Friday night against Iowa State at 6:20 pm local time on TBS.
However, most of the news about the Tigers came off the court. After multiple scandals and the attention of the NCAA, LSU fired basketball coach Will Wade on Saturday. Assistant Kevin Nickelberry will guide the Tigers into March Madness.
This will be LSU’s 23rd trip to the NCAA Tournament all-time. While they have never won the NCAA title, they have one of the most unique and crazy March Madness histories of any program.
Stories like those about: The Freak! The Year of the Chicken Pox. Anthony Wilson’s jumper. Bobby Knight is the villain (forever). With a history like this, we can anticipate a high March Madness engagement from LSU fans.
So in that vein, here are the five greatest March Madness moments in LSU basketball history.
No. 1 Shaq makes his free throws! 1992
It was 1992 and LSU big man Shaquille O’Neal was a one-man team. The Tigers were seeded seventh in the West and faced BYU in the first round.
That night, O’Neal posted a triple-double with an NCAA Tournament record 11 blocks in an 11-point win. In the second round, it was Indiana (more on them to come) that won 89-79. They were too good.
But in that game came a memorable record for O’Neal. Never known as a good free-throw shooter, O’Neal went 12-12 from the line that night and is still in the record books for most free throws made without a miss in an NCAA Tournament game.
No.2 The babies grow up. 2006
They were known as the Baby Tigers because of their youth and potential. It all came together in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
LSU, the fourth seed in the South Region, went on a run, dominating Duke 62-54 in the Sweet 16 (that felt good), and then pounding Texas 70-60 in overtime to reach the Final Four.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis had 26 points including a clutch three in overtime to seal it. Tyrus Thomas had 21 points and 13 rebounds. The Tigers would fall to UCLA in the Final Four.
No. 3 Stick it in your trash can. 1981
In 1981, LSU was the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. The Tournament was only 48 teams back then, so the top four seeds in each region got first-round byes.
LSU clobbered Lamar, 100-78, and then beat Arkansas 72-56. The Midwest Final was at the Superdome against Wichita State. Back then the Superdome had been home for the New Orleans Jazz and had a great basketball set-up.
Durand “Rudy” Macklin had 21 points, despite missing most of the second half with a lacerated finger. LSU ran the Shockers out of the gym as purple and gold took over the Dome.
The Tigers led by 15 at halftime. All five starters finished in double figures. It was LSU’s first trip to the Final Four.
Enter the Villain. Indiana and Bobby Knight were in their heyday and waiting for the Tigers. The Hoosiers had Isiah Thomas and overcame a 30-27 halftime deficit to win going away 67-49.
This game lives on forever as an LSU fan was involved in an altercation with Knight after the game. Knight said he shoved the fan. The legend is he stuffed the man into a trash can.
What is forgotten is the fact that it was the third year in a row LSU lost to the eventual national champs.
No. 4 It was 11th heaven, the birth of Deaf Dome. 1986
No 11 seed had ever made the Final Four before until LSU did it in 1986.
The Tigers got a gift from the NCAA that year and played their first two games at the Assembly Center in Baton Rouge (this was before it was called the Pete Maravich Assembly Center).
LSU took down Purdue in double OT in round one, then Memphis State 83-81. I can still picture Anthony Wilson’s shot dancing in at the buzzer in that one. To me, it’s the greatest shot in LSU basketball history.
The Assembly Center became known as Deaf Dome after that. The Tigers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen at the Omni in Atlanta, it beat Georgia Tech, then had to play Kentucky.
The Wildcats had beat LSU three times that year, but not on this day. Ricky Blanton made a lay-up in the final minute and did a silly dance running up the floor and LSU held on to a 59-57 win.
In the Final Four, LSU finally ran out of gas, losing to a loaded Louisville squad 88-77.
No. 5 Who needs sleep? 1987
While 1986 was a blast, 1987 is my favorite LSU team ever.
The Tigers started slow. It lost to the University of New Orleans early in the year. It went 8-10 in the SEC and finished sixth in the conference.
Coach Dale Brown promised not to sleep during the SEC Tournament coincidentally, back at the Omni where LSU had made a run the year before.
The Tigers sprung three upsets went to the SEC final, losing to Alabama, but did just enough to get a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Amazingly, the run started all over again. LSU stomped Georgia Tech, then Temple, then DePaul to reach the Elite Eight.
Enter the Villain. Again. It was Indiana. Again.
LSU led by 12 at one point and 75-66 with 5:06 to play. I’d rather not talk about the rest. Darryl Joe missed a free throw. LSU tried to spread the floor. Indian’s Ricky Calloway hit a put-back with six seconds left.
Bobby Knight made fun of LSU in the post-game press conference. Nikita Wilson had a jumper at the buzzer that just missed by about two inches.
That’s the way I remember it, but I’ve never watched the replay. Too painful.