DEVILLE: Tigers will be dancing

I have basketballs coming out of my ears.

It is that time of year again. As the college hoops season winds down and the month of March is upon us, it is time for one of the most exciting couple of weeks of the sports calendar – MARCH MADNESS.

 

And while some will argue that Baton Rouge is not a basketball town, well take a hike jack because there is some good roundball being played these days within the walls of the Maravich Center.

 

While most everyone is familiar with what Pokey Chatman's Lady Tigers have been up to this season, it is taking a little while for folks to once again buy into Brady Ball.

 

That's right folks, just two months after it appeared the Tigers were heading to a losing season and John Brady's days might be numbered, LSU has rallied winning 11 of their last 14 games and after a heck of a run over the past two weeks are tied atop the standings of the SEC Western Division.

 

Pretty amazing huh?

 

Back on New Year's Day if someone would have said Brady's Tigers would have a chance to not only win the division but make the NCAA Tournament as a potential four (ESPN currently has them ranked as a No. 9 seed, but that could go up depending on how they close out the regular season), you would have asked that person what they were smoking.

 

But it is true.

 

The Tigers are playing as well as anyone in the country these days having garnered valuable road wins at Mississippi State as well as capturing back to back home victories over No. 24 Florida and 14th-ranked Alabama in consecutive games.

 

Quick, did you know?

 

Did you know in the 56-year existence of college basketball rankings (dating back to the 1948-49 season) that LSU has faced back-to-back ranked opponents just 24 times. Do you know how many times the Tigers have swept both teams? Only once.

 

Do you know how many times LSU has accomplished this feat in the regular season? NEVER!

Only Dale Brown's 1986 Final Four bound Tiger team achieved back-to-back wins over ranked opponents. Daddy Dale's Tigers beat No. 6 Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16 and slayed 3rd-ranked Kentucky in the Elite Eight to reach the school's third Final Four.

 

Back-to-back wins over ranked opponents in the regular season was uncharted waters for LSU, that was before Brady's bunch accomplished that feat last week.

 

Now, I know what you are saying – ‘everyone's back on the Brady bandwagon just because he is winning after everyone was calling for his job a little over two months ago.' Well, you're right. Most everyone had thrown in the towel on Brady and the season as it appeared the eight-year head coach seemed ready to be fitted for a pink slip.

 

And to be honest, this writer had his doubts whether or not Brady could recover, but he has done so in grand style. Brady has his team playing at the highest level possible. And just in time to. After losing a couple of early games to West Virginia, Southern Miss and Houston, the Tigers looked lackadaisical and honestly like they had given up.

 

But Brady said his team has a newfound energy and with its recent success, this team is revitalized and are peaking at the right time.

 

"They're looking forward to what lies ahead for them," Brady said. "There are still some things that we can do better. We are not like the team in 2000 that had the leadership of Jabari Smith and LaMont Roland and the toughness of that team. We are getting there, but we are not quite where they were. But certainly over the last three weeks we have made tremendous strides to get to that point."

 

All right, let's realistically talk about what this team can do.

 

First and foremost LSU still has to take care of business in its final two games. A trip to Oxford Wednesday is always a tough task and a visit from Vanderbilt on Saturday is no gimme after the Commodores handled Arkansas last weekend. But a pair of wins in these two games would have LSU heading into the SEC Tournament as a possible No. 1 seed from the SEC West, depending on what happens to Alabama versus rival Auburn and at Mississippi State. If the Tigers could pull out two victories this week, their SEC record would match that of the 2000 SEC Championship team (12-4).

 

While it is evident this team does not quite possess the talent level of that team, a 12-4 conference tilt is an outstanding accomplishment for Brady and his team.

 

So just how good is this team?

 

Brandon Bass and Glen Davis combine to make up the most talented duo on the low block in the SEC. IF LSU can get consistent guard play and the team defends its opponent the way it did Auburn in the second half last Saturday, the Tigers can compete with almost anyone in the country.

 

How far will this team go?

 

Two months ago, fans were hoping for the Tigers to just get into the NCAA Tournament. Now it is apparent that Brady should make some sort of splash in the postseason. The talent is there for LSU to make it to the Sweet 16, but the players on the team with any NCAA Tournament experience are Darrel Mitchell, Antonio Hudson and Xavier Whipple and that is critical.

 

Who knows though? They don't refer to March as madness for nothing and once the tournament opens, the hottest teams usually go the farthest. Right now, you would be hard pressed to find a team any hotter than these Tigers.

 

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


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