YEAR IN REVIEW: 2006-07 LSU Men's Hoops

When LSU fell short in the national semifinals to UCLA in the 2006 Final Four, the general consensus among Tiger players and fans was "next year's the year."

And why shouldn't it have been?

With arguably the most well-known player in school history next to Shaquille O'Neal returning to the lineup, Glen "Big Baby" Davis was going to lead the Tigers back to the Promised Land in 2007 and finish the job started in 2006.

One problem… no one could have imagined what sort of impact the loss of Tyrus Thomas and Darrel Mitchell would bring.

During that magical run to the Final Four, Mitchell proved to be the driving force behind LSU's surge. Hitting key shot after key shot, Mitchell all but willed the Tigers through the Big Dance. And when Mitchell was burying shots from behind the arch, Thomas was blocking them.

Thomas was taken with the fourth pick in the NBA Draft and Mitchell finished out his career as a Tiger as the school's all-time leader in three-pointers made. Sure they would be hard to replace, but with a couple of key additions in guards Dameon Mason and Terry Martin and the emergence of Magnum Rolle as a replacement for Thomas, the future looked bright.

AND… LSU had "Big Baby!" That was seemed like plenty enough to get the Tigers at least to the Sweet 16.

Well, things started with a bang.

In the preseason, the Tigers were featured in every national basketball publication. Davis' smiling mug adorned the cover of virtually every magazine from Sports Illustrated to the Baton Rouge Business Report to Tiger Rag. It appeared the LSU had arrived.

The buzz lasted all of two games until LSU dropped its third game of the season when mid-major Wichita State rolled into Baton Rouge the day after Thanksgiving. The Shockers upset No. 6 LSU 57-53 using a zone offense to stifle the Tigers offensively. LSU shot 40-percent in the game, a sluggish 33.3-percent in the second half, as all five Wichita State starters scored in double figures.

It was an omen of things to come.

The Tigers logged their most impressive victory of the year on Dec. 5 when No. 9 LSU bombed 6th-ranked Texas A&M 64-52. In a rematch from the NCAA second round the previous spring, LSU held the Aggies to just 37.percent shooting and limited A&M star Acie Law to just four points on 1-of-11 shooting.

But the exuberance of such a big win didn't last long.

Five days later, the Tigers dropped a heartbreaking one-point, 76-75 overtime loss to unranked Texas in Houston. It would be the first of many gut-wrenching defeats for Brady's club.

Over the holiday break, LSU made a trip to the Pacific Northwest and pulled out a 60-53 win in a hostile Gill Coliseum over Oregon State.

Then, the first true eye-opener of the season hit the Tigers like a blind left hook when LSU visited Washington. Led by the Huskies big man Spencer Hawes, No. 17 Washington rushed out to a 19-point first-half lead and led by as many as 23 down the stretch as the Huskies embarrassed LSU 88-72. Hawes, who scored a game-high 23 points, dominated Davis down low holding "Big Baby" to just eight points on 3 of 11 shooting.

It was a shot to the Tigers psyche from which LSU never recovered.

The Tigers then put together a five-game winning streak capped off by a 66-49 win over 18th-ranked Connecticut. Before a raucous crowd of 12,000-plus nationally-televised by ESPN's Gameday crew, LSU made its last stand of the 2006-07 season defeating the perennial power Huskies. The win boosted the Tigers back up to No. 13 in the polls, but two short weeks LSU would be out of the poll for good and spiraling toward a last-place finish in the SEC West.

LSU opened SEC play with a 10-point, 71-61 loss at No. 14 Alabama. At halftime of that game, new Crimson Tide football coach and ex-Tiger boss Nick Saban was introduced at halftime.

The Tigers returned home for a pair of narrow victories over Auburn and Ole Miss, but that's when the bottom fell out of LSU's plans to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers began a six-game slide that included three-point losses at Georgia (57-54) at the buzzer, at home versus Alabama (73-70) and at Tennessee (70-67).

LSU beat Arkansas at home 71-67 to end the streak, but the lost four of its last six games to finish 5-11 in league play. That final skid included a 71-70 loss to Ole Miss on the final shot of the game as well as a six-point loss at home to Miss. State and a seven-point defeat at Kentucky.

Davis went down with a quadriceps injury late in the season and LSU looked dead in the water heading into a home tilt with defending national champion and 3rd-ranked Florida. However, the Big Baby-less Tigers throttled the Gators beating the eventual national champions 66-56.

Brady tried to boost his team in the wake of the Florida win saying "we ain't dead yet."

But LSU split the final two games with a loss at Auburn and a win over South Carolina in the home finale.

In the SEC Tournament, the Tigers faced a daunting task of having to win four days in four games to reach the Big Dance. LSU started on a high note beating No. 22 Tennessee 76-67 in overtime. But Ole Miss ended LSU's brief hopes of a tournament run with an 80-60 drubbing bouncing the Tigers from the tournament.

"Without getting specific, we just never had the chemistry we had the year prior," Brady said. "There were 7 games we lost by four points or less, two of them at the buzzer. Whereas, the year before that, we were able to win all those games. The chemistry that was not developed lent itself to not being able to win close games. Win did beat four teams in the top 20, two of those teams in the top 10."

The Tigers grasped to a slim hope of getting into the NIT, granted LSU had name recognition from the previous season. Also, the Tigers had four impressive wins over ranked opponents.

But the committee didn't see it that way.

In the same building, the Georgia Dome, in which LSU beat Texas a year earlier to reach the Final Four, the Tigers played their final game with a 20-point loss to the Rebels.

"Our team, at times, played as well as we thought it would have but the most disappointing thing was the inconsistency we played with which lent itself to not being able to win or finish close games," Brady said. "You know, we win four of those seven games and instead of 17 wins you're 21-11 and going to the NCAA tournament."

When asked could he go back and change anything, Brady said he might have tried to quell some of the hype surrounding his team, heading into the season.

"I would have probably scaled down some of the early media attention generated from the Final Four season with Glen Davis coming back and a couple of other players like Tasmin and Garrett that had some championship experience," Brady said. "I would have scaled down the media attention early on…we probably didn't handle that as well as we should have and we got the focus off the team which I think during the course of the season hurt our camaraderie and our chemistry."

And for the upcoming season?

"This year's challenge with us is to develop the proper chemistry and be able to win the close games as we did a year ago when we went to the Final Four," Brady said.

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