DEVILLE: Are the Tigers in? Depends on the finish

John Brady is at it again.

Just when you think he is down for the count, just when you think he has overstayed his welcome, the 8th-year head coach pulls a rabbit out of his hat.


It seems just when the fans are grumbling the loudest, when Brady's detractors' jeers are the ugliest, like a Phoenix out of the flames, here comes John Brady.


Very similar to the 2002 and 2003 seasons when Brady's Tigers suffered through a New Year's slump, the team rebounded for a late season run that inevitably salvaged the season and secured Bray another year in Baton Rouge.


Brady is up to his old tricks, only this time Brady isn't doing just enough to get by, he is racking up some insurance points. With arguably one of the biggest wins of the John Brady era last week defeating Mississippi State in Starkville 80-72, the Tigers cashed in from the free throw line sinking 29 o 34 attempts adding another feather to their cap with a 77-73 victory over Florida Saturday.


Although Florida's big three – David Lee, Matt Walsh, and Anthony Roberson – racked up double-digit scoring tallies, LSU used an aggressive defensive effort, took advantage of a repeated trips to the charity stripe and flourished behind a 27-point effort from sophomore forward Brandon Bass.


With a momentous home date remaining with SEC West leading Alabama and road trips to Ole Miss and Auburn remaining plus the season finale against Vanderbilt in the Maravich Center, it seems likely Brady will retain the keys to the Tiger basketball program for another. However for seniors Antonio Hudson and Xavier Whipple, this is their last hurrah. Having reached the postseason in all three of their previous seasons in Baton Rouge (1 NCAA, 2 NITs), these senior guards want to end their career in purple and gold with a bang.


"It means a lot to me really," Hudson said. "Every since I have been here, the teams that we have had haven't played up to where I wanted to be. Coming in I wanted to compete at a high level and go deep into some tournaments and we haven't done that."


With consecutive wins over two of the SEC's top teams (Miss. State and Florida) and a favorable schedule remaining the stretch run, Whipple believes the Tigers have a good shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.


"Me and Hud have pretty much been through it all," Whipple said. "The way I feel right now, if we keep playing how we are playing right now, there is no doubt in my mind that we are in (the NCAA Tournament)."


Hudson carries a somewhat solemn disposition on the floor and his game resembles his personality. Hudson is the type player who can score a dozen points without a great deal of flair and in the meantime carries his team on his back. Whipple isn't known for his scoring abilities but offers a calming presence at the point, a sharp contrast from starting point guard Tack Minor. While neither Hudson nor Whipple is the emotional type, they understand and play out their roles on this team effectively.


"I really don't want to put the pressure on everyone to do that, but like I said, this is my last time and I have to make a go at it. We have to make the best of it and do what we (Hudson and Whipple) can to push the team and go farther into the postseason."


Over the next two weeks, the question of whether or not LSU is in the NCAA Tournament will be uttered more than once. However, the Tigers must continue their winning ways to ensure their spot in the field of 65. Whipple said if LSU can maintain their current level of play, there is little doubt the Tigers will be dancing come March.


"I don't get caught up in all of that, are we in or not, that is up to the NCAA people," Whipple said. "But I feel like the way we are playing, good things will continue to happen. We should end up in the tournament."


So what lies ahead for John Brady's club?


By the time most of you read this, LSU's showdown with Alabama will be in the books. Although I may be eating crow come Tuesday night, but the Tigers have as good a chance to upset the SEC West's best team as anyone. Remember LSU played the Crimson Tide even for 25 minutes in Tuscaloosa until the Tigers went brain-dead offensively for a seven minute stretch. Also, chip in the fact Florida sliced and diced Mark Gottfried's team in The Swamp and this Crimson Tide club has shown its mortality.


Just a few other prognostications, a road date at Auburn is likely a win as the Bengal Tigers have already soundly defeated War Eagle in Baton Rouge. However, nothing is a given in the SEC.


Ole Miss usually plays the Tigers tough and LSU seems to struggle in Oxford. That road affair isn't sure thing either, but you can pretty much bank on an LSU win in the season finale versus Vanderbilt.


Hypothetically, if LSU can go 3-1 over its final four games that would place Brady's club at 18-9 overall and 11-5 in the SEC, which should be more than enough to get into the NCAA. But, just for arguments sake, don't rule out a 4-0 finish a 12-4 slate (which would match Brady's SEC record in the SEC Championship season of 2000) and at 19-8, LSU could be favored as high as a – say- five or six seed.


But let's not get ahead of ourselves.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at

Tiger Blitz Top Stories