For Ben Simmons, Lifting L.S.U. May Be Too Tall a Task


The freshman Ben Simmons has largely stood alone for L.S.U. this season.

Mic Smith/Associated Press

College basketball has often been enlivened by stars who turn average teams into worldbeaters. Larry Bird took Indiana State to the national finals in 1979. David Robinson and Navy made it to the round of 8 in 1986. Elena Delle Donne led little Delaware to the round of 16 in 2013.

Now Ben Simmons, the 19-year-old freshman superstar, is looking to make some magic at his surprise college choice, Louisiana State, which last season made the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament for the first time in six years.

So far, things do not look too good. The way things are going, L.S.U. may wind up on the bubble — the N.I.T. bubble.

Individually, Simmons, a 6-foot-10 forward, is living up to his billing as the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, coveted by the Lakers, the Sixers and other struggling N.B.A. teams with an eye on the lottery.

At 14.8 rebounds a game, he leads the nation, and with 2.5 steals a game ranks 16th, alongside the little guys like the heralded Providence guard Kris Dunn. He has played only eight games, but looks like one of the best college players in years.

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