DEVILLE: Basketball town?

Is Baton Rouge growing into a basketball town?

Did you know?

Which SEC coach has the best record over the last two seasons?

Tubby Smith?

Billy Donovan?


John Brady.

That's right, the beleaguered LSU coach who has spent more time on the "hot seat" in Tiger fans eyes over the last four seasons than he has on the hardwood is on the top of the conference, not only in the standings but in wins.

Brady's Tigers went 12-4 in 2004-05 and are currently 12-2 this season with two very winnable games at South Carolina and at home against Ole Miss.

Over the past 30 SEC games, Brady is 24-6 and increased his lead over Kentucky's Tubby Smith by two games with Saturday's 71-67 victory over the Wildcats in the Maravich Center.

Smith is 22-8 over the past two seasons in league play. After going 14-2 in 2004-05, the Wildcats are struggling with an 8-6 record.

Many view Donovan as one of, if not the top, coach in the SEC. His record over the past two seasons? Donovan led the Gators to a 9-7 finish a year ago and is currently 8-5 in SEC play. Donovan was a combined 17-12 after 29 games heading into Sunday's contest at Alabama.

Speaking of Alabama, coach Mark Gottfried was 20-9 over the past two seasons in SEC playing heading into Sunday's game with Donovan's Gators.

Anyway, what does all this mean you ask?

Nothing really.

Brady has produced 24 wins in league play over the last 30 conference games. Yet he still cannot attract more than 9,672 fans to show up for a home game with Kentucky as the Tigers have a chance to seize the outright SEC lead. Oh by the way, LSU won that game and has as good a chance as ever to win the league outright for the first time since 1985.

John Brady, SEC Coach of the Year right?

Not so fast.

While Brady is deserving of the award (and probably should have gotten it last year with a 12-4 conference record after opening the season 6-5), you can also be assured Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl's name has already been engraved on the plaque.

Despite the fact Brady's team battered the No. 11 ranked Volunteers by 14 back in January; the national has been wooed by Pearl's flashy outfits and flamboyant courtside antics. The former Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach has resurrected a Tennessee program that was dead and buried a year ago under Buzz Peterson and turned them into a contender again.

So while Brady, again, has put together a superb season and is a strong candidate for coach of the year, again he will be passed over for the latest flavor of the year. Too bad.

While the debate seems to be over before it started for the league's top coach, is there any question the conference player of the year will come from the LSU Tigers.

Now it just boils down to who is more worthy?

Take your pick – Darrel Mitchell or Glen Davis?

First, Mitchell has cooled down a bit since his string of 20-point plus games midway through the SEC slate. He scored 13 points Saturday shooting just 3 of 11 from the floor while hobbled by a bad ankle.

But is there any doubt Mitchell on one leg is better than no Mitchell at all. Mitchell is third in the league in scoring with 18.0 points per game, three-tenths of a point behind Davis' 18.3 and two-tenths behind Arkansas guard Ronnie Brewer's 18.2.

Mitchell is eighth in field goal percentage (46.7-percent) albeit most of his shots come from the perimeter. He is third in three-point field goal percentage (42.5-percent) and is fourth in three pointers made (2.52 per game). Mitchell also ranks third in assists with 4.81.

Okay, now for Davis.

With 28 points against Kentucky on Saturday, Davis slipped past Brewer for the SEC scoring lead and possesses first place by a tenth of a point. Aside form the leading the league in points, Davis is also the SEC's top rebounder pulling down 10 per game. He also ranks fourth in field goal percentage (51.1-percent).

The question is will Davis get the award on numbers alone or will voters look at Mitchell's value as LSU is lean in the backcourt and the 5-11 senior has come up with more clutch shots than anyone.

Time will tell.

The only other non-LSU contender for the conference player of the year is Tennessee's Chris Lofton. Like his coach, Lofton is a darling of the national media while ranking fourth in scoring with 17.5 points per game.

Lofton is fifth in field goal percentage (48.8-percent) and leads the league in both three-point field goal percentage (47.3) and three-pointers made (3.92 per game). Like Mitchell, Lofton is the engine that makes the Volunteers go.

There are a couple of impact freshmen in the league, but is there any doubt Tyrus Thomas will win freshman of the year honors. Averaging 12.7 points per game, Thomas is second to Davis in rebounding (9.3 per game) and leads the league in blocked shots (3.04). Plus most everyone will agree his presence on the floor alone alters the flow of the game for opposing offenses.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out, but it is highly likely the Tigers could have the league's top freshman for the third year in a row, plus sweep the player of the year and freshman of the year honors for the second straight year and third time in six seasons.

And all this from a basketball team that plays second fiddle in a football town like Baton Rouge.

Who'd a thunk it?


Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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