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LSU first-year coach Johnny Jones. (Associated Press)<br>

LSU first-year coach Johnny Jones. (Associated Press)

Hobbs: Texas A&M assimilates to life in SEC

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:50 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, whose latest crop of freshmen appears to need more than the usual month or so of Big Blue seasoning to win a national championship, bemoaned last week that he wished he could get them to play like Alabama’s football team.

It didn’t take the Twitter wits long to produce a nuclear mushroom cloud.

Coach, they already are. Didn’t they lose at home to Texas A&M?

It’s probably not the part of the equation Calipari had in mind, and certainly it’s not the preferred route to the Cats’ rightful home in the Final Four.

But it did work out for Alabama football, which lost its only game of the season to Johnny “Heisman” Football and the Aggies before recovering to win a second consecutive BCS crystal just like the Crimson Tide is ordained to do.

So you have to give it to Aggies.

They’ve been competing in the league less than six months and already have a football victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium and a basketball win at Rupp Arena.

Some veteran SEC schools spend generations flailing away after that elusive daily double.

It was Missouri, in advance, that kind of yawned at the horrors of the rigors of the SEC, most notably talking the ooooh-we-so-scared talk at SEC football media days.

The Mizzous looked totally overwhelmed in football and, before trying again, really need to rethink the garish fashion statements for a football league this proud.

OK, basketball, the Tigers’ specialty, was coming, and Mizzou served warning with a relative waltz through the preconference schedule that got the Tigers as high as No. 7 in the country.

It’s only basketball, for sure, but it was enough to raise a few eyebrows, especially with the SEC being fair to middling at best in hoops right now.

But Missouri, brimming to announce its presence with authority after the football mishaps, has been on the road for basketball in the conference twice now and lost by convincing scores of 83-52 (Florida) and 64-49 (Ole Miss).

Granted, those may be the best two teams in the SEC right now, at least until Kentucky grows up, but this was supposed to be Mizzou’s game, and the Tigers haven’t walked the walk.

The Aggies, meanwhile, although also 2-2 in the SEC after a one-point loss at Alabama, are pretty well delivering the goods with a seamless transition.

A&M, despite an embarrassing YouTube promo announcing its arrival over the summer, seems to have passed the initiation.

All of which is a meandering way to say that for LSU, right now a visit from the Aggies is probably not what these Tigers need right now.

Mainly, LSU and promising first-year coach Johnny Jones need a victory in the worst way.

A&M does not seem like a willing accomplice.

Jones has generated some mild interest — if not much celebrating — with LSU’s forgotten basketball program. But the Maravich Assembly Center is still relative cobwebs when compared to playing and winning at Rupp Arena.

A&M has already proved it can win in that environment.

Jones just needs to win in any environment — home, away or on the weightless moon — against a conference opponent.

After some fool’s gold with a 9-2 nonconference start, it’s looking like he will have to take full advantage of the standard coaching honeymoon.

It helps that the people who pay attention to such things are encouraged by the help that will soon be on the way with the next recruiting class.

But at some point the Tigers really, really need to win an SEC game this year.

At least one, preferably a handful at least.

Time isn’t quite running out, but LSU is, in fact, the last SEC team to be standing naked and winless in conference.

LSU’s best recent chances were last week, but the Tigers gave both South Carolina (at home in overtime) and Georgia (on the road) their very first conference victories of the season.

Both games were close, very winnable, as was a loss at Auburn to open the SEC season. But at some point the Tigers are going to have to figure out a way to finish the deal instead of wilting with the game on the line at the end.

And if not tonight, then when?

The next chance would be Saturday in LSU’s very on trip to Rupp Arena for Kentucky.

Good luck on that one.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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