PREVIEW: 2007-08 Lady Tiger Hoops

Behind coach Van Chancellor's desk in his office on the second floor of the LSU Athletic Administration Building sits three of the Lady Tigers' four Final Four trophies.

The fourth and most recent regional championship trophy sits alone in the lobby just outside his door.

Any basketball program would give its eyeteeth to have reached a Final Four in its history, much less four in a row.

The LSU Lady Tigers have made four consecutive Final Four appearances. Only three other schools in women's basketball history have reached four straight Final Fours including Louisiana Tech (1987-90), Tennessee (1986-89, 1995-98) and Connecticut (2000-04). With one more trip to the round of four, LSU can join only UConn with five straight appearances in the Final Four.

The only difference in LSU's Final Four run and the ones made by the other three schools is that La. Tech, Tennessee and Connecticut all won national championships in the process.

Just getting there isn't enough anymore. Chancellor, with a loaded roster back from a year ago, intends to change that.

"It looks like to me LSU has played really hard to get to the Final Four," Chancellor began. "Then when they've gotten there, (they) haven't been able to make a play, overcome adversity, or knock down an outside shot, if you want my honest thoughts of it. And that's what we're working on every day, to believe we can knock down a shot."

When Chancellor was introduced as LSU's new head coach on April 11, one of the first things he said was how shocked he was at the Lady Tigers' lack of confidence on the offensive end of the floor. He said LSU has the players to score points but lacks the confidence to take the shots needed to score points.

"I had my first practice with them last Friday, a week ago," Chancellor said. "I told them, I said, ‘The next one of you that turns down a shot that's wide open, just sit down. Quit trying to get closer to the basket.' You either got to make it or you don't."

Working as an analyst for ESPN, Chancellor covered several LSU games over the past few seasons, and he commented on how tense the team always looked – especially on the offensive end of the floor. He wants to change that mentality entirely.

"The objective of this basketball team: Let's enjoy this year," Chancellor said. "Let's enjoy it. Let's have some fun, do the best we can. Let's don't let the pressure of ‘are we going to make it to another Final Four' or ‘am I going to be the coach that's let us down and kept us from going to the Final Four' and let's play hard. Let's enjoy it. Let's take a shot. You only get a shot every so often. Let's take a shot and go for it. Relax. Play."

The Lady Tigers will definitely have the personnel to make it back to the Final Four. LSU returns all five starters, including Kodak All-American Sylvia Fowles, as well as most of the bench.

Everything begins in the middle with Fowles. Fowles averaged 16.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game during her All-American junior season. Erica White (8.2 ppg), Quianna Chaney (11.8 ppg, 52 threes) ,and Roshanta LeBlanc (6.1 ppg) will staff the guard positions while Ashley Thomas (4.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) mans the other post position.

Coming off the bench will be guards Allison Hightower (6.2 ppg), Khalilah Mitchell, and Marian Whitfield. Mesha Williams and Kristen Morris will add depth at the post positions.

Chancellor gave his two cents on the key players for this season's team.

"Here's where we are: We got Erica White. Best defensive point guard in the country. Has got to be able to make a shot when they double off of her and hit Sylvia Fowles. Sylvia Fowles – best post player in the country. Can run like a deer and catches it. I would love for her to be able to shoot a 10- or 12-footer and be able to get a little farther away from that basket. ‘Q'Chaney is a great outside shooter, needs to be a better rebounder for us. Tay Tay LeBlanc is a player that we have to make believe that she can knock down shots. I'm not sure she's not one of the top five defensive players in the SEC right now. She can do it all – great leader.

"Ashley Thomas is a player that when LSU played well last year made some great outside shots against Connecticut. Has got to be able to make the free throw jumper to take the double team off of Sylvia. Overall, that first five we've got to be able to find somebody that can take the double team off of Sylvia. Now, whoever that is…."

Chancellor did add that he will enhance LSU's offense and plans to do much more than run a motion offense.

"I'm going to run screen and roll more than they've ever run it here in their lives," Chancellor said. "We got Kristin Morris and Williams coming off the bench as great inside subs. I really like them early. The player I'm really looking forward to being big … Allison Hightower has got that thing you're really looking for in an outside shooter. She's got ice-cold veins in her. She doesn't mind taking shots. I've watched a bunch of tape and she just is willing to take that shot.

"We've got two freshmen that could help us; we've got three seniors that at times have helped us. Now we need somebody to be able to go and knock down the big-time outside shot to relieve some pressure off of Sylvia."

And just how good will this team be this season?

"It's one of the six best teams in the country," Chancellor said. "Now how good is it, I don't know. There's no question it's one of the six best. We'll determine that by how much we improve mentally. We've got to overcome things. We have got to be able to, when things go bad, come in, settle down and make shots."

LSU faces a challenging schedule, which includes an appearance in the Preseason WNIT. The Lady Tigers play non-conference games against Rutgers, Connecticut, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), and Louisiana Tech on top of the always-daunting SEC schedule.

"The schedule looks like to me it couldn't be any better," Chancellor said. "Good teams, and games we should win. We go to Rutgers to see what we're made of, we've got Connecticut here and Tennessee on the road. We've got a great schedule.

"(In the SEC) Tennessee is still the team to beat, nationally and SEC-wise," Chancellor added. "Georgia has got a really good team. For some reason, Vandy causes this team problems. Somehow. That's what I was hired to do – solve that problem. I'm going to find a way to get after them."


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