In the second of our three-part "Season in Review" series, TSD takes a look at the play of LSU's big men this past season, which wrapped up just more than a week ago at 19-12.
Be on the look-out later this week for part three, which examines how this year's team blends into the 2013-14 edition of the Tigers.
And CLICK HERE for part one, which debuted last week and put the guards under the microscope.
LSU's post players in 2012-13
Before the season ever tipped, it was no secret the Tigers would be thin inside. Minus center Justin Hamilton, Johnny Jones was really only left with Johnny O'Bryant, a converted Tuba player and a string of undersized bigs to do his team's bidding in the paint in 2012-13.
Considering that lack of depth and options on the interior, LSU fared surprisingly well. The Bayou Bengals ended the season as the fourth best rebounding team in the conference, grabbing 37.1 boards per game. On top of that O'Bryant, who became a double-double machine in conference play, garnered several All-SEC honors, including a first-team nod by the league's coaches. LSU even got meaningful contributions from Andrew Del Piero, who was an efficient shooter, blocked more than a shot a game and assisted on the glass.
There was, of course, a healthy heaping of bad to go with all that good. As the season wore on, LSU became increasingly vulnerable in terms of post defending. Teams with multiple bigs and more stout bigs like Missouri, Ole Miss and even Texas A&M gave the Tigers problems in the paint. It didn't help the purple-and-gold cause that 6-foot-9 senior Eddie Ludwig (multiple concussions) was out of action by the time SEC play arrived.
Here are individual breakdowns of all five of LSU's post players.
SF Shavon Coleman
Final Stats: 10.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 44.7% FGs
The junior college transfer was the poster child for the term "undersized big" in 2012-13. A player much better suited for the wing at 6-5, 195 pounds, Coleman was asked to play more of the four by Jones out of necessity. Against teams without a serious post presence, like Georgia, Coleman could be effective (he put up 24 points against the Bulldogs in the SEC tourney). But, versus teams like Ole Miss, the junior absolutely disappeared (Coleman had two points and two boards in 17 minutes versus the Rebels). That was the frustrating aspect of Coleman's game this season – inconsistency. And, should Johnny O'Bryant turn pro, the same issues could manifest themselves next season for Coleman without a legitimate number of "true" bigs.
SF/PF Jalen Courtney
Final Stats: 2.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 41.2% FGs
Junior Jalen Courtney went about as far this past season as his knees would allow him to go. Always pegged for a backup role, Courtney finished the campaign averaging 8.7 minutes per game, the lowest for any of the five scholarship players on today's list. His struggles with endurance and, at times, versatility due to the chronic knee pain made him a minimal factor, even after Eddie Ludwig was forced to tap out for the season. Courtney was someone who stole minutes for O'Bryant when the big man got into foul trouble or needed a breather. He was a serviceable rebounder, but Courtney isn't someone LSU will ever look to for offense.
PF Eddie Ludwig
Final Stats: 3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, 38.5% FGs
As limited as Courtney was for his in-game runs, that's how Eddie Ludwig was for the season as a whole. The senior from Metairie played in only nine of the team's 31 games, missing the final 20 due to his medical situation after suffering multiple concussions. But, even before the blows to the head, Ludwig was a DNP-CD for the Seton Hall and Boise State games, giving an idea of his place on the totem pole. He may have three or four inches on Coleman, but for all intents and purposes, Ludwig's situation is the same – he's better suited to be on the wing or at the elbow, not playing the four. The option would now appear open for Ludwig to transfer out and play a final season elsewhere (a la Charles Carmouche) since he played in less than a third of LSU's games this past season.
PF Johnny O'Bryant
Final Stats: 13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 48.0% FGs
Johnny O'Bryant was the heart and soul of LSU's bigs in his sophomore year, one in which he started to deliver a little more on his McDonald's All-American promise. His game improved in several areas, most notably in field goal percentage (48.0% compared to 39.9% a year ago), rebounding (8.7 per game to 6.7 a year ago) and, oddly enough, assisting (1.7 per game to 0.4 last year). JOB even got a much-needed lesson in how to play through injuries from Coach Jones. But, he showed he still has much to learn in other facets, including staying out of foul trouble (O'Bryant fouled out of six games), shooting free throws (he connected on only 59.6%) and honing his shot selection. His decision this offseason on whether to stay or go is the biggest storyline for LSU basketball heading into a new season.
C Andrew Del Piero
Final Stats: 4.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 55.1% FGs
It's a safe statement to say that Jones and LSU squeezed more out of Andrew Del Piero's potential this past year than any other player's on the entire squad. Del Piero upped his conditioning level significantly leading into his senior year and was able to play for longer stretches, ultimately averaging 13.6 minutes per game. He was LSU's starting center for much of the campaign, giving the Tigers a decent post defender against non-mobile centers from opposing teams. Del Piero even chipped in 4.3 points per game and just more than a block per contest. Considering where he came from and his lack of a basketball background, that's a minor miracle. Now, the big man may even have a future overseas with his time at LSU expired. And, as strange as it sounds, Jones and the Tigers would love to have his services for another year given the scarcity down low.
LSU Season Review, Part Two
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