LSU, SEC Basketball Preview

Despite losing Brandon Bass to the NBA, LSU should feel little effect as John Brady's Tigers finally have substantial depth after the lean years of NCAA probation.

While losing the SEC Player of the Year is never positive, the Tigers return SEC Freshman of the Year Glen Davis, who will contend for the league's top honors as a sophomore. Freshman Tasmin Mitchell is arguably the conferences' top newcomer and could be LSU's third straight player to be named freshman of the year behind Bass and Davis.

The Tigers' are loaded in the frontcourt.

Things begin with a slimmer 6-9, 300-pound Davis. Joining "Big Baby" down low will be junior college all-American and Baton Rouge native Kentrell Gransberry (6-9, 270).

The dependable Darnell Lazare (6-8, 240) is back for his junior season. Redshirt freshman Tyrus Thomas (6-9, 215) has had a year to mature and has grown from project to potential major contributor.

Freshmen Magnum Rolle (6-10) and Chris Johnson (6-11) give LSU the size they have lacked in the past and Mitchell, a 6-7 swingman, can play down low or bounce out with a nice outside shot.

The backcourt, however, will be the X-factor for the Tigers.

Veteran point guard Tack Minor has missed all of preseason workouts and will sit out the first five games while finishing up an academic suspension. That leaves shooting guard Darrel Mitchell to make things happen. While a playmaker who can fill it full from outside, Mitchell is smallish in size standing only 5-10.

Brady will look to 6-5 redshirt freshman Garrett Temple, the younger brother of Collis Temple III, to run the point. Also newcomer Ben Voogd, a freshman from Oregon, will be called on to contribute early.

LSU will be as good as its front court can carry it, that is until Minor returns and is running at full speed. Brady describes his team as "long," meaning the Tigers consist of rangy athletic players that defend, block shots and rebound the basketball.

The Tigers face the toughest schedule of Brady's nine-year tenure in Baton Rouge. The slate is highlighted by a January trip to No. 2 Connecticut and also includes travel to Elite Eight participant West Virginia, Ohio State and a meeting with Cincinnati in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.

Alabama is the most talented team in the SEC West and is no doubt the favorite to win the division. But LSU has more than enough talent to capture the western division title and the Tigers seem to have had the Tide's number the last couple of years.

Arkansas has the talent to compete for the divisional title, but always seems to underachieve meaning a third place finish is likely. Ole Miss and Auburn are two teams that seem to be growing while Mississippi State is in total rebuilding mode after losing all five starters.

In the east, there is little question Kentucky is the best team. The Wildcats aren't as dominant as in years past, but should take the division with ease. But look out for Vanderbilt. Kevin Stallings has done a good job in Nashville and the Commodores could make a run this season. South Carolina could also surprise some people as well. Tennessee is in a rebuilding phase after a coaching switch while Florida coach Billy Donovan faces his toughest test yet in much the same situation as Mississippi State in the west.

Sadly, the conference will be competitive, mainly due to the lack of dominant teams. Only three teams should be in the mix for the title. Kentucky will most probably win the league with Alabama and LSU nipping at its heels. However, do not discount Vanderbilt, Arkansas or South Carolina.

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine and TigerRag.com. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.

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