DEVILLE: Baton Rouge not a hoops mecca - yet

Well, we were wrong. A year ago, Tiger Rag proudly pronounced Baton Rouge, La. officially as a basketball town. And why shouldn't it have been

Both the men's and women's basketball programs had plenty to crow about heading into the 2006-07 season. Each team had won respective SEC titles, each had reached respective Final Fours in 2006 and both teams were stocked with returning marquee players.

Heck, Baton Rouge was right up there with Durham, Chapel Hill, Knoxville and Storrs. Basketball was a hit in the capital city.

Well, 12 months later, the other shoe has fallen.

First on the men's side.

After reaching the program's first Final Four in two decades, John Brady's Tigers entered the 2006-07 season ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls. Glen "Big Baby" Davis was a household name and LSU finally looked as if it show its staying power.

Facing a tough non-conference schedule, it would be the year Brady could prove the Tigers had staying power and that football wasn't the only show in town.

LSU logged some impressive wins out of league play over Texas A&M and UConn and entered SEC play still one of the teams to beat in the country. But that's when the Tigers lost their MOJO. Karma was clearly not on LSU's side.

Close losses plagued the Tigers as Brady's bunch lost one nail-biter after another by agonizingly small margins. LSU lost six games by four points or less, including two at the buzzer. The Tigers endured a six game losing streak in January and dropped 11 of 15 games to end the season.

To make matters worse, Davis sustained an injury and team chemistry sagged as LSU struggled to score points consistently.

A team that once seemed to be a lock for at least top four seed didn't even make it to the NIT.

And if the men thought they had it bad, the Lady Tigers road may have been tougher.

Well, off the court that is.

On the hardwood, the Lady Tigers reached the program's fourth straight Final Four, won 30 games for the fourth time in five years, finished second in the SEC, reached the SEC Tournament championship game and beat eventual national champion Tennessee by double digits.

Most basketball programs would do anything for a season like that. But you have to look beyond the achievements to notice the gloom that engulfed the Lady Tiger program at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Upon returning from the SEC Tournament, wildly popular coach Pokey Chatman abruptly resigned he position and disappeared under a cloud. Rumors circulated about a possible personal relationship with a former player or players.

That mattered resulted in a lawsuit in which Chatman sued the university. The growing catastrophe was downgraded when assistant coach Bob Starkey led LSU to the Final Four. Stability was restored when veteran Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor was hired to lead the Lady Tigers.

No doubt the past 12 months have been eventful in the world of basketball and it seems Baton Rouge remains a football town, especially with the Tigers looking toward a possible national championship on the gridiron.

But as you'll read on the following pages, despite the past calendar year, the Maravich Center hardwood will be a hot commodity in the Red Stick this winter.

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


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