The Love Affair Between LSU Fans And Will Wade Really Blossomed Last Night…

…and it was ULL’s head basketball coach Bob Marlin who more or less arranged the match.

On Sunday, when the pairings for the National Invitational Tournament were announced and LSU and ULL were smashed together for a game in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Wednesday, there were a good number of LSU fans groaning about having to play the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Not because LSU was particularly afraid of ULL. At 17-14 and with losses in three of its last four games LSU would rightfully be wary of any opponent they could be sent by the NIT. This is an LSU team in the fledgling stage of building a program under Wade, having posted an impressive seven-game regular season turnaround after last year’s 10-21 disaster, and LSU can’t afford to take any win for granted.

No, the dread of having to play ULL came from this

UL-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin doesn’t understand why his team doesn’t have a better seed than LSU and isn’t playing a home game.

Marlin’s argument: UL-Lafayette (27-6) had 10 more wins than LSU (17-14), a higher RPI (No. 63 to LSU’s No. 94) and won the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship compared to the Tigers tying for ninth in the SEC.

“Our RPI is much better, our record is much better, we feel like our gym’s better, there are a lot of things that say we should be a higher seed than we were,” Marlin said Monday.

“There’s a lot of the old-school guys on that (NIT selection) committee that just think LSU’s better than we are. They haven’t seen our facilities or looked at the fine print about our team.”

Though LSU has won seven straight games over the Ragin’ Cajuns including the last meeting in 2009, Marlin said Tigers’ coaches including Wade have declined offers to schedule games between the teams since Marlin took over the UL-Lafayette program eight years ago.

“They (LSU) probably didn’t want to play this game, to be honest,” Marlin said.

For many, if not most, of LSU’s fans, this was the first time Bob Marlin’s name ever entered their thoughts. A large number of them, if not most, couldn’t have identified Marlin as ULL’s head basketball coach before Monday. Assumedly most LSU basketball fans knew that ULL had run through the Sun Belt Conference this year and won that league’s regular season championship, but that’s probably the extent of their knowledge of the program 57 miles to the west of the Ole War Skule.

But LSU fans will tell you Marlin’s bulletin board material is par for a very irritating course where it comes to ULL – where the regional university to the west incessantly complains about a lack of respect by the flagship school, mostly manifested by LSU’s refusal to schedule them in sports other than baseball (where proximity for midweek games makes playing them almost a requirement), never seems able to beat LSU – ULL hasn’t beaten LSU in basketball since World War II and ULL hasn’t, in 22 meetings, ever beaten LSU in football and has scored precisely one touchdown in the entire series (that happened in 1924, amid a 31-7 drubbing) – and then proceeds to act the complete ass when a game is scheduled.

ULL brought a sizable crowd to the PMAC on Wednesday, and the Little Brother syndrome was full-blown amid the sea of red behind the Cajuns’ bench. Every time a foul was called against their team it was proof of a conspiracy by the game officials and every LSU fan in the building wasn’t just an opponent but an enemy.

It made for a far more intense atmosphere than anyone would expect out of a game LSU might have had against BYU, let’s say, or Rider or Vermont (those were the other three #6 seeds in this year’s NIT). But fears that a brawl might break out in the building, which were real, are hardly the kind of thing making anybody in charge at LSU pine for the home-and-home series with ULL Marlin openly spoiled for before the game.

And LSU won in a hard-fought, entertaining game. Which certainly endeared LSU fans to their new coach. Losing to ULL in the NIT, which is something quite foreseeable – after all, twice in the early 1980’s Dale Brown-coached LSU teams lost NIT games to Tulane and UNO, respectively, in similar emotionally-charged atmospheres – would have been a disaster, particularly when just last week LSU’s young baseball team went on the road and lost an extra-inning game to ULL.

But it was what happened at the end which put a cherry – or several – on top of the victory.

After several days of tension building up and Wade stewing over the jaw-jacking from the opposing coach, when the game had been put on ice courtesy of a Brandon Sampson dunk with less than a minute left, Wade decided he’d call a time out to savor the win a little. Here’s video of what happened at that point…

Another angle, courtesy of WBRZ, is here.

What Wade yelled at Marlin, which got the opposing coach lunging at him, was apparently “Enjoy THAT s**t.”

He’d had enough, and it was time to give some back.

The officials issued a technical foul to both benches, and then the game ended shortly thereafter in LSU’s 84-76 victory. But it wasn’t over. Not really.

The postgame handshake between the coaches didn’t happen, as Marlin refused to shake Wade’s hand. That brought a cascade of boos down from the LSU fans in attendance, and a host of jaw-jacking between players and assistant coaches of the two teams ensued, with security personnel trying to separate them before the brawl took place. As Wade left the arena pumping his fist Marlin made what looked like an obscene gesture to the LSU student section, which had regaled him and his team for some of the second half with taunts of “Little Brother,” and that added just a touch of spice to the festivities.

Then came Wade’s postgame press conference, which was one for the ages. This really gets going about four and a half minutes in, and it’s must-see video…

We especially liked Wade’s explanation of why LSU won’t schedule and home and home with ULL – namely, because LSU is scheduling better teams than the Cajuns; namely, Houston, Memphis and starting next year VCU, all of whom have stronger three-year rolling RPI rankings. He didn’t care for the insinuation that he’s scared to play them, he wasn’t impressed with Marlin’s attacks on LSU’s facilities even though Wade wants to see the PMAC upgraded or even replaced; for some reason there has always been this insistence by ULL people that the Cajundome is a better facility than the PMAC, and it’s always been perplexing. For a Sun Belt arena, the Cajundome is very nice. It’s not an SEC facility. Wade didn’t care for that. And he especially didn’t care for all the pregame jawing, so he gave it right back to Marlin.

Wade’s off-the-cuff dissertation of why LSU hosted the game and deservedly so was about as devastating an argument as one could expect to hear outside of a courtroom. All that was missing was a mic drop.

And then Marlin had his press conference after Wade’s where he talked about running a program with class shortly after continuing to complain about how the game should have been played in Lafayette…

That was bizarre, as was his statement that he’d coach his program and Wade should coach LSU – after he’d stoked a fight all week.

LSU now travels to Utah on Monday for an NIT second round game. The Tigers aren’t likely to be favored in that game and it might well signal the end of the road for the 2017-18 season. But none of that matters quite so much at this point. Wade has already put his program on a path to a quick rise by establishing a competitive culture and a fighting spirit, and next year he has a veritable cavalry coming with four Top 50 national recruits on the way.

LSU basketball is already fun again, and it’s only becoming more so. We are entertained.

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