Brady looking forward to Thomas' return

A reporter asked Tasmin Mitchell Sunday afternoon was he excited about being grouped in a bracket with so many big name teams.

Before the 6-7 freshman from Denham Springs could answer, former Tiger Collis Temple III spoke up with a firm voice.


"LSU is a big name team!" Temple III said.


The LSU Tigers, champions of the Southeastern Conference, received word Sunday evening they will enter this year's Big Dance a No. 4 seed. LSU is set to face No. 13 seed Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at Veteran's Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Grouped into the Atlanta Region, if LSU is to reach the program's fourth-ever Final Four, it must do so by beating the tournament's overall No. 1 seed Duke. Also bracketed in the Tigers region is powerhouse Texas as well as red-hot conference tournament champions Iowa and Syracuse.


"If you're going to go to a Final Four you've got to beat the No. 1 anyway unless you're the No. 1 seed," Brady said. "That just takes care of itself if we can win a game or two. The first game for us is the most important game and for me to look ahead, I don't think it would be prudent for me to do. The No. 4 seed was a bit lower than many had expected or projected."


Senior guard Darrel Mitchell says it doesn't bother him being lumped in with the likes of Duke.


"It's real good to be in the bracket that we are in," Mitchell said. "We are just going to have to bring our A-game each and every night. If we play the way we played throughout the season I think we can have a nice run in the tournament."


The Tigers (23-8) are coming off their worst loss of the season, an 81-65 loss to Florida in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. LSU has been playing without the services of the SEC Freshman of the Year Tyrus Thomas. Thomas missed the last four games, in which the Tigers went 3-1, after suffering an ankle sprain in LSU's win over Kentucky.


Even though Florida and Tennessee received higher seeds than the SEC champion Tigers, Brady said he wasn't bothered by the fact LSU enters the tournament as a No. 4 seed. The only thing that bothers him about the seed is timing in terms of Thomas' return to the floor.


"I would have preferred to have played Friday simply because of Tyrus Thomas, but we weren't lucky enough to be assigned to a Friday game," Brady said. "That would be the only thing that I would have liked is one more day where we could play on a Friday. We're playing Thursday, and Tyrus worked out today with Coach (John) Treloar and did a nice job. The biggest thing with Tyrus may be his conditioning as opposed to his ankle by game time on Thursday."


Brady said he may mix up the time in which Thomas is in the game in hopes of allowing the 6-9 forward to have periods of rest throughout the game.


"We might just have to play Tyrus in short stretches," Brady said. "As opposed to playing 12 or 14 minutes straight, maybe he can just go five and take him out, let him rest and put him back in. The more he plays, the better he'll feel and the more comfortable he'll feel. We'll make more of a determination of that as the week goes on."


Darrel Mitchell also re-tweaked an ankle injury in the Tigers 92-73 win over Vanderbilt Friday night. But the St. Martinville senior says he and Thomas will both be ready to go come Thursday.


"Even though we lost (to Florida in the SEC Tournament) it's a good thing that we get some extra days of rest rather than playing (Sunday)," Darrel Mitchell said. "We have a little bit more time to prepare for this trip that we are about to take. I think we should go into the tournament pretty healthy. My ankle is pretty much back to normal, and Tyrus (Thomas) should be back to normal once we get there so I think we'll be alright."


For LSU this will be their 19th NCAA Tournament appearance, second straight and LSU's sixth post-season appearance in the last seven years. It is the third time the Tigers have been given a fourth seed along with 1985 (a first round loss to David Robinson's Navy team) and 2000 (when LSU advanced to the Sweet 16 in John Brady's first NCAA appearance).


"Anytime you win the Southeastern Conference championship, it's a significant accomplishment," Brady said. "I'm proud of our players for the way they played, how they've improved and how well they've played together. There hadn't been a lot of Southeastern Conference championships won here in basketball at LSU, and we've been able to win two of them. This year was really special because of the type of people that we have on the team. I'm just really excited and happy for our players, but that part of our season is over."


LSU has lost its opening round contest each of the last two trips to the Big Dance. The Tigers lost to Purdue in 2003 while UAB upset LSU in the first round a year ago. Iona, which earned its ticket to the NCAA Tournament by defeating St. Peter's 80-61 in the finals of the Metro-Atlantic conference tournament, enters the game with a 23-7 record. It will be the Gaels eighth NCAA Tournament appearance.

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