A look back, flash forward for Tigers

As strange as it seems, it is mid April and we are finally closing the book on LSU Tiger basketball.

In recent years, hoops usually end as early as the first week of March, but thanks to the program's first run to the Final Four in 20 years, men's basketball season was extended by a month or so. It was odd to the see the Tigers' march to the Final totally engulf spring football and eat a chunk out of a particularly uneventful baseball season.


But do not expect this to be a one time deal. With the groundwork laid in place by LSU coach John Brady, what transpired last month may be something to which Tiger fans grow most accustomed. With a solid nucleus of talent, experience and a couple of outstanding transfers, LSU projects to be a top 10 team next season and even then will sport a relatively young team.


Here we evaluate the performance of the 2006 SEC Champions, issue the final grades, handout postseason awards and give our best guess as to who is going to play where next year.






Garrett Temple


The Backcourt


Predicted to be LSU's downfall, the Tigers' guard play was much better than advertised.

With Tack Minor missing the first half of the season serving an academic suspension then suffering a season-ending knee injury, the load was to be too much for senior Darrel Mitchell to carry.


No one gave Garrett temple much credit coming in and some said the redshirt freshman was awarded a starting spot due to the name on the back of his jersey.


Not quite.


Temple joined Mitchell giving LSU a solid one-two punch at the guard position. Mitchell broke the school record for career three-pointers and knocked down three, game-winning treys, the biggest being a 25-footer to propel the Tigers to the Sweet 16 in a 58-57 win over Texas A&M.


All did Temple did was accomplish a feat no one else in the NCAA could attain – stop J.J. Redick. The National Player of the Year was frustrated into an 11-point performance as Temple neutralized the hot-shooting Redick as LSU upset No. 1 seed Duke 62-54.


How could one forget about Tasmin Mitchell?


The true freshman from Denham Springs saw his scoring taper off toward the end of the season after sustaining a back injury. But Mitchell's defense and ability to create mismatches with his 6-7 frame was one of the big reasons LSU was able to get over the hump.


Depth was the biggest problem with the Tigers backcourt. Once you got past Mitchell and Temple at the point guard spot, it was all downhill. Ben Voogd showed some signs of talent, but the true freshman from Oregon was nowhere near the caliber of player to compete at the SEC level nor under the pressure of the NCAA Tournament.


Look for Voogd to see his playing time reduced to zilch come next season when transfer guards Dameon Mason and Terry Martin could give the Tigers one of the best backcourts in the SEC.


Grade: B




Tyrus Thomas



The Frontcourt


No one gave LSU's front court a second look at the beginning of the season, especially after the loss of SEC Player of the Year Brandon Bass.


However, after Tyrus Thomas blocked five shots as LSU played No. 2 UConn to a standstill on the Huskies home floor, people stood up and took notice.


ESPN's Dick Vitale called Tyrus Thomas the greatest leaper he had sever seen – including Michael Jordan and Dr. J among others – which will likely mean goodbye for the 6-9 freshman from Baton Rouge. ESPN and CBS Sportsline project Thomas as the top overall pick in the draft. If he doesn't leave it would be quite a surprise.


Thomas proved himself as one of the greatest shot blockers ever to don the purple and gold. He averaged only around nine points per game, but his ability to alter an opponents shot was as valuable as putting the ball through the hoop.


And how can anyone explain those dunks?


The one that will stick out the most is the ally-oop from Temple in the Arkansas game on which Thomas hit his head on the bottom of the backboard. Or maybe his run-out dunk versus Duke or the trio of ally oops against Texas in the Elite Eight?


Thomas, the SEC Freshman of the Year, would be good enough to make anyone's frontcourt one of the best in the nation. However, he played alongside SEC player of the Year, 6-9 300-pound Glen Davis.


Davis played below the rim for the most part and combined excellent mobility, aggressive rebounding and a soft touch from the perimeter to his arsenal of weapons.


Davis could break through double, even triple teams and score the ball as well as bounce out for a three-pointer, much the way he did in LSU's 70-60 overtime win over the Longhorns in the Elite Eight.


Darnell Lazare had his moments, most notably a 10-point, first half performance against the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16. Lazare, only a junior, is a valuable role player that will continue to provide valuable minutes in the low post as a senior.


The sky is the limit for Magnum Rolle. A bit thin at 6-10, 210 pounds, Rolle has excellent leaping ability, can block shots and has the potential to hit shots from eight or 10 feet from the goal. If Thomas is to bolt for the NBA, with some added weight and honing of skill Rolle could grow into a nice replacement for the future NBA star.


Grade: A




John Brady




Like saying "Tiger Bait" or "Go to Hell Ole Miss," it had come to be almost like a tradition to criticize LSU coach John Brady.


No coach in LSU history – in this writer's mind – has ever caught more hell than the Tigers' basketball coach. It was a case of enough never being enough. He won an SEC title in his third year while on probation. He reached postseason tournaments in four of five seasons, unfortunately didn't record a victory until the 2006 trip to the Big Dance.


One critic on a LSU message board actually referred to Brady's NCAA Tournament record as being abysmal prior to the 2006 Big Dance.


His record was 2-3.




At any rate, Brady silenced all of his critics rebounding from an 8-5 start to go 14-2 in the SEC, win the school's first outright SEC title in 20 years, capture coach of the year honors while coaching the SEC's top overall and freshman and advance to the program's first final four in two decades.


Brady took a team that lost the SEC Player of the Year (Brandon Bass), lost its starting point guard twice (Tack Minor), lost five of his first 13 games by a combined 11 points and managed to reach the Final Four.


The beautiful thing is there is a multitude of fans out there who still might not like Brady, say he doesn't know what he is doing and would still choose to have him leave than continue to coach this team. But with a new contract on the way and a team loaded with stars, Brady is going to be at LSU for as long as he would like.


Grade: A




Team MVP


Darrel Mitchell


Sure Glen Davis was the SEC's Player of the Year, but there is no doubt that without Mitchell this team would not have gotten as far as it did. The shortest player of the floor, Mitchell rose to the occasion and played like the tallest Tiger of them all. Mitchell will be a tough one to replace.





Most Underrated


Darnell Lazare


Just think, at this point last year, we wrote Lazare would likely transfer with the addition of Kentrell Gransberry and Tasmin Mitchell and the growth of Ross Neltner. Tasmin Mitchell was as good as advertised, but Gransberry and Neltner both transferred and Lazare ended up scoring the 10 biggest points of his life in the first half versus Duke.



One to Watch


Magnum Rolle


With Tyrus Thomas likely headed to the NBA, Rolle should grow into his 6-10 frame nicely and be one of the Tigers top frontline players. Rolle has tons of upside and with some girth might be able to block as many shots as Thomas.



One who might Leave


Ben Voogd


While he seems to be a team player, Voogd might have seen the last of the floor for a while. With Tack Minor on his way back and the entrance of Terry Martin and Dameon Mason, Voogd will likely get lost in the shuffle.



Our picks for next season's starting five:


G - Tack Minor – Look for a more settled, disciplined Minor.


G - Garrett Temple – Had better work on his outside shot, but great defender.


G/F - Tasmin Mitchell – Has to stay away from injuries. Could be a player of the year candidate.


F - Magnum Rolle – Should step in for Thomas as impact player, shot blocker and provide plenty of dunkage.


C – Glen Davis – Could be win player of the year two years in a row? Davis will only be better.



Off the bench:


G – Dameon Mason – Could break into the starting lineup soon. Will provide plenty of pop (the nets that is) at the two.


G – Terry Martin – A big pickup for Brady from Texas Tech. A 6-4 point guard.


G/F – Chris Johnson – Sure he is 6-11, but he thinks like a guard.

F – Darnell Lazare – The consummate role player. Will provide quality minutes at any time.

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