A year ago today, after Louisiana State had defeated Missouri to advance to the Midwest region final, several Tiger players celebrated by having a couple of drinks at a Houston disco, only 12 hours before they were scheduled to play eventual NCAA-champion Louisville.
"We had a late curfew that night," LSU's sixth man, Willie Sims, recounted this morning. "We only stayed at the disco half an hour or so, and nobody had more than a drink or two. But I think the game against Louisville was a 1 p.m. game, and we just weren't relaxed. It showed."
The Tigers, who some contended had more talent than Louisville last year, went on to lose that game, 86-66.
LSU started this season as it left off last year, losing to Arkansas by 10 in the Great Alaska Shootout in November. Center Greg Cook had been suspended for disciplinary reasons and Coach Dale Brown kept his other three seniors -- all-America Durand Macklin, Ethan Martin and Sims -- on the bench for much of that defeat.
Brown's reserves and freshmen kept that game respectable, letting the others know they weren't totally irreplacable. The regular lineup, with Sims moved to sixth man, won the next night against Georgetown -- the beginning of a 26-game winning streak.
Today, the day before LSU's Midwest region championship game against Wichita State (3 p.m., WRC-TV-4), Brown said he would do the same thing under similar circumstances.
Friday night, the Tigers got revenge for their only embarassing defeat of the season by drubbing Arkansas, 72-56, for their 30th victory of the season.
The seniors -- Cook (10 first-half points), Macklin (15 points, nine rebounds), Martin (16 points, eight assists) and Sims (nine points off the bench) -- played excellent defense and ran the Razorbacks out of the Superdome before a record NCAA tournament crowd of 34,046.
However, the Tigers didn't celebrate afterward. They saw how Wichita State came back in the first game to defeat Kansas on two 28-foot jumpers by Mike Jones, the last with three seconds left.
LSU knows that the Shockers, with the sophomore front-court duo of Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr, are quite capable of neutralizing the Tiger's intimidating big men.
"No partying, no drinking this time," Sims said.