2008-09 LSU Basketball Preview: #50
Overall Rank: #50
Conference Rank: #6 SEC
2007-08: 13-18, 6-10, 4th West
2007-08 postseason: none
LSU returns enough talent to win the struggling SEC West, but they did last year as well and ended up with a disappointing 6-10 record. However, a year of experience and a new coach could quickly turn the Tigers back into winners. Five players who started at least 14 games are back and Coach Trent Johnson, who is coming from Stanford, brings a new found hope to Baton Rogue after a couple of awful seasons.
Anthony Randolph left after just one season with LSU. The forward averaged 15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots for the Tigers before being selected 14th overall in the NBA Draft. Having Randolph around would be nice, but there are plenty of other options available. Dameon Mason was the only senior on the roster last season and he played in just seven contests.
Four incoming freshmen will provide the Tigers with depth that they have not had in quite some time. Point guard Chris Bass, the brother of former LSU star Brandon, is the true point guard that the team needs. His playing time this year will depend on how quickly he can adjust to the level of play and the system, but Bass should be called upon any time Coach Johnson needs a true point guard on the floor. Delwan Graham and Storm Warren are both good athletes who will give the Tigers some scoring threats on the wing. Dennis Harris plays like a small forward as well but, at 6-10, he has the height of a power forward. He is not nearly strong enough to battle in the paint in the SEC, but with some depth concerns in the frontcourt, Harris could see some playing time at the four spot.
Who to Watch:
Even with the loss of Randolph, the frontcourt has a couple experienced weapons. Chris Johnson, a 6-11 center, quietly averaged 11.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. The only reason that was quiet was because Randolph overshadowed Johnson. That will not be the case this time and Johnson will finally get more recognition. Two years ago Tasmin Mitchell scored 14.5 points per game. Last year he only made it through three games before suffering a stress fracture in his leg which sidelined him for the rest of the season. If Mitchell can get back to his earlier form, the Tigers frontcourt will be in very good hands. The main problem in the paint is the depth. Garrett Green and Quintin Thornton are experienced and, at 6-10 and 6-9 respectively, have good size, but neither will do much scoring or bring that much to the table defensively.
Garrett Temple, Marcus Thornton and Terry Martin form a solid starting backcourt trio. Temple, the point guard, like just about everybody else on the team, is not a great shooter, but he can get to the basket and find his teammates. Thornton hit nearly three long balls per contest. His 37.7 percent was easily the best on the team, but the group as a whole needs to develop into better shooters in order to create a more dynamic offense. Martin uses his 6-6 frame to create havoc when he is playing defense, but his offense took a big step back last season. If his offense continues to falter, Martin's starting job could be in jeopardy. Bo Spencer and Alex Farrer will not put up great numbers in the scoring column, but both are experienced guards who are able to make significant contributions off of the bench. In the end, the success or failure of LSU will depend on Coach Johnson more than anybody else. This is an experienced group that has Sweet Sixteen level talent, but they have gotten accustomed to losing. If the new staff can turn around that mentality, LSU can have a great year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Garrett Temple, Senior, Guard, 6.4 points per game
Marcus Thornton, Senior, Guard, 19.6 points per game
Terry Martin, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Tasmin Mitchell, Junior, Forward, 7.3 points per game
Chris Johnson, Senior, Center, 11.6 points per game