REPORT CARD: Men's Hoops

One of John Brady's favorite words to use is "bizarre."

Well, this has been somewhat of a bizarre season for Brady's Tiger basketball team. With six games remaining in the regular season, LSU stands at 13-8 with a 6-4 standing in SEC play.

 

The Tigers are currently tied for second place in the SEC Western Division with Mississippi State and are two games back of division leader Alabama. LSU travels to Starkville for a critical road date with the Bulldogs Wednesday.

 

Two-thirds of the way through the SEC slate, we try and assess the strengths and weaknesses of this Tiger club and make our best guess as to what LSU's postseason shapes up to be.

 

Overall, the Tigers have taken care of business at home, but have found wins on the road few and far between. A shelling of Georgia in Athens stands as Brady's only road triumph of the season. If the Tigers hope to make a run at an NCAA berth, road wins are key. While Wednesday's stop at Mississippi State is a tall task (LSU never plays well at The Hump), winnable road games at Auburn and Ole Miss are coming up.

 

 

The Backcourt:

 

Turnovers are down for Tack Minor and point production is up, but the sophomore point guard still tends to get in a hurry a bit too often. Minor gets extra points for leading the SEC in assists.

 

Darrel Mitchell and Antonio Hudson have a good outside shot, but only at home.

 

Particularly Mitchell, has been downright awful from beyond the three-point line on the road in the SEC. "Hud" had a big game at Georgia, but couldn't get his shots to fall, especially the one at the buzzer, Saturday at Arkansas.

 

Xavier Whipple has provided nice balance with Minor and runs the offense well while he is in the game. His offensive production is still nothing to rave about, but he is usually good for at least one three-pointer per game.

 

LSU is getting solid play in the paint, but if these Tigers hope to taste the NCAA Tournament this season, it is going to have to be more consistent play out of the guards.

 

Grade: C+

 

 

The Frontcourt:

 

This never seems to change.

 

Brandon Bass and Glen Davis combine to make up the most productive and dominant pair of big men in the SEC.

 

Bass has developed a three-point shot and hits it occasionally. He out dueled Lawrence Roberts two weeks ago and should be one of the finalists for SEC Player of the Year.

 

Bass is dominant as ever on the boards and his mid-range jump shot is as good as anyone's in the country.

 

While Bass is in the running for SEC POY honors, Davis is a shoe-in for the conference freshman of the year. For 6-9, 310 pounds, Davis is as agile as a guard and has a soft shooting touch, including a very effective hook shot. He racks up double-doubles like Bill Belichick wins Super Bowls.

 

Coming off the bench, Ross Neltner and Darnell Lazare have given some quality minutes, especially Neltner's clutch three-pointers against Mississippi State. Paul Wolfert even put in some quality minutes in the State game.

 

Overall, the inside play is carrying this team and is its best feature. However, as seen at Tennessee, if Davis or Bass get into foul trouble, the Tigers get into trouble.

 

Grade: A-

 

 

Coaching:

 

With all the criticism John Brady has gotten this season, you would think the Tigers have a losing record.

 

The fans want what the women have, a dominant program. Brady has recruited well and has a very talented class on the horizon including all-everything Tasmin Mitchell. All Brady needs to do is win a couple more league games (10-6 should get him into the NCAAs) and hunker down and wait for more troops to arrive.

 

Brady has done a good job balancing minutes lately. He has subbed more freely and Minor seems to be coming along nicely. The development of Davis is key for the future.

 

Grade: B-

 

 

Our call:

 

Six games remain, including a road date at Mississippi State and a home game against Alabama. The Bulldogs are laying in wait in Starkville (where even Brady's SEC Championship team lost in 2000) after what happened in Baton Rouge. And Alabama will be tough, even at home. However, the Tigers did play the Tide pretty even until a second half drought ended any hope of an upset.

 

Road games at Ole Miss and Auburn are winnable and a home game with Vanderbilt is most probably a win. The deciding game between the NIT or NCAAs will be a home date with Florida on Feb. 19.


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