Good Wins: at Tennessee
Bad Losses: at Utah (91-61), at Alabama, Vanderbilt
1. 1-2 Punch. SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton and First Team All-SEC member Tasmin Mitchell give the Tigers one of the best 1-2 scoring tandems in the country.
At 6’4″, 250-pounds, Thornton has a big body which he uses to get himself to the hole. He is also shooting nearly 40-percent from deep and has the ability to shoot it even with a hand in his face.
Few players in the country are more deadly from 12 to 15 feet than Mitchell. He causes teams problems from spotting up from 15 and LSU’s guards are excellent at getting him the rock there. He is also explosive and has the ability to get to the rim.
2. Experience. After last season’s 13-17 campaign you wouldn’t expect the Tigers to be a very experienced squad. But they are. They still have two starters remaining from their Final Four Squad in 2006, in forwards Tasmin Mitchell and Garrett Temple, and five of the seven guys that play are seniors (Thornton, Temple, Terry Martin, Chris Johnson, Quinton Thornton).
While not a great scorer, Temple gives one of the most experienced lock-down defenders in the nation. He shut down Jodie Meeks in the quarters of the SEC tournament and look for him to do the same come tournament time.
1. Offensive Post Presence. At 6’11″, Chris Johnson is the second best shot blocker in the SEC, behind the nation’s leader Jarvis Varnado. He is excellent at coming from the weak side and sending shots in the opposite direction.
He is also a good scorer and rebounder but gets most of his points when defenses focus on Thornton or Mitchell’s penetration. When LSU’s guards are unable to get the ball into the lane Johnson really struggles to score because he is not strong enough and lacks the post moves to score on the block.
When LSU is struggling from the outside or struggling to back the ball to the hole, they do not have anyone that they can rely on in the post.
2. Depth. Thornton, Mitchell, Temple and Bo Spencer all average over 30 minutes a game and Johnson averages 25. Senior Terry Martin gives them most of their bench production and he only gives them 4.7 points-per-game in 16 minutes of action.
The Departing: As I mentioned above, five of the seven contributing players for the Tigers will be departing Baton Rouge next season. Trent Johnson will have his work cut out for him in the off-season. There is also the possibility that Mitchell jolts for the NBA draft.
One and done. The Tigers’ length and athleticism give them the best shot of any of the SEC teams, to make a run in the NCAA tournament. With the right draw I can see them getting to the Sweet 16 but that is about their limit. They really lack a quality win outside of conferece so their loss to Mississippi State in the SEC semifinals could really affect their seeding. At a four or a five-seed the Sweet 16 run is possible. At six or seven, I just don’t see it happening.
The Tigers win one game in the dance and the SEC doesn’t send one team to the Sweet 16.