REPORT CARD: Men's Hoops, Pre-SEC

LSU Basketball has been flying below the radar. <br><br> Or more like, living on borrowed time?

With the hoopla surrounding Tiger football coach Nick Saban and the search for his replacement, few have noticed the fact John Brady's basketball Tigers are reeling through a non-conference schedule they should be dominating.

 

Early losses to West Virginia, Southern Miss and Houston, a near disaster versus in-state foe McNeese and the first sign of attrition with the departure of sophomore Regis Koundjia are all red flags concerning the apathy which is quickly growing towards the LSU Basketball program.

 

Less than 3,500 people showed up for the Tigers' last home game versus McNeese State on Dec. 13 and the LSU following at the New Orleans Arena for the Tigers 67-50 win over Florida State on Dec. 30 was probably worse. One could argue with the Tiger football team set to face Iowa two days later in the Capital One Bowl as an excuse for poor turnout in the Big Easy, but explain the 5,000 fans that showed up to watch Pokey Chatman's top-ranked Lady Tiger basketball team beat Texas State in Baton Rouge on the same night.

 

Prior to the dawn of the 2004-05 season, Brady spoke at length at how he planned to rejuvenate the Tiger offense, to promote higher scoring, which should in turn encourage fans to turn out to see a more exciting product.

 

The plan has backfired.

 

Sure enough, Brady is utilizing the team's full scoring potential allowing the Tigers to run the floor more. A higher tempo on offense has brought about more points and sophomore point guard Tack Minor has flourished in the new offensive system. However, Brady has sacrificed what made him a good coach – old school defense. The Tigers are consistently beaten down the floor and teams that have no business competing with the talent on this LSU ball club are not only scoring hoards of points, but beating a Tiger team that is much better than they are playing. Brady has sold out on the philosophies that made him a good coach to try and attract more fans with flashy offense.

 

The result?

 

Fewer fans than ever are showing up, the Tigers are getting whipped defensively and the LSU men's basketball program is going to likely be outdrawn in attendance by the wildly-popular Lady Tiger basketball program.

 

With the upcoming schedule containing teams such as Utah (which LSU will have already played by the time you read this), at Alabama, at Kentucky, versus Ohio State and at Mississippi State, Brady and the Tigers need to right the ship and quick if they hope to make ANY type of postseason tournament.

 

 

Backcourt:

 

If you look at the stats of LSU's backcourt, you would think it was stocked with a host of all-Americans.

 

The combination of Antonio Hudson, Darrel Mitchell and Tack Minor are all averaging double digits in scoring with Hudson putting up 14.2 points per game, while Mitchell and Minor are scoring 12.4 and 13.0 points respectively.

 

Hudson is showing flashes of his storied freshman campaign shooting a brilliant 42.9-percent from beyond the three-point arch having connected on 21-of-49 shots.

 

Minor has emerged as the sparkplug that the Tiger offense has lacked in the past. The sophomore from Houston registered a career-high scoring 23 points in a Dec. 30 win over Florida State.

 

Moreover, with the amount of speed and quickness this backcourt possesses, there is no reason they should be getting beat down the floor on fast breaks.

 

Grade: B -

 

 

Frontcourt:

 

LSU possesses possibly the best 4-5 tandem in the SEC with Brandon Bass and Glen Davis holding down the low blocks.

 

Bass has impressed most of the season averaging 17.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. He has shown time and again his presence is a dominating one and has flaunted a nice mid range jump shot as well.

 

Davis' numbers are equally impressive. Just a freshman, Big Baby is putting up 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. However, the big man has struggled at times getting out muscled under the goal. It is obvious in some situations the 6-9 rookie hasn't totally adapted to the physical play of the college game.

 

Grade: B

 

 

Coaching:

 

In his eighth year on campus, Brady still seems to be searching for an identity as the head coach of LSU.

 

His defensive mindset was his staple through the first seven years of his tenure here at LSU. However, he has given way to more offense and less focus on defense to try and fill seats and that plan has gone awry.

 

Brady and his staff have recruited well and have plenty of top flight talent in place to make a run at a league crown, but it seems the more talent LSU reels in, the more meager the results.

 

It seems Brady does a better job "coaching up" lesser talent than he does exploiting a cast of superstars that are currently on the LSU roster.

 

Why isn't this team winning? And not only winning, but dominating, especially lesser talented teams. The talent is there. The players currently on the Tiger roster have highly decorated resumes and this team should be blowing through opponents – but they are not. Is this a motivation issue?

 

Most knowledgeable basketball fans know Brady can coach X's and O's. You don't win a league title and reach the Sweet 16 if you can't. But the real reasons for the Tigers' current travails may lie below the surface and only time will tell if those reasons will be exposed.

 

Grade: C-

 

 

Intangibles:

 

Did you notice only five players were mentioned in the breakdown of the back and front courts?

 

That is because these five players are the only ones producing on the floor for the Tigers. Sure enough Xavier Whipple, Darnell Lazare and Ross Neltner all play plenty of minutes, however combined these three key reserves are averaging a combined 8.3 points per game.

 

Plus, the Tigers are averaging 14.5 turnovers per game and are shooting just 72.4 percent (157-217) from the free throw line.


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