Despite their stumbles on the backside of the conference schedule, the LSU basketball team headed into Sunday's NCAA tournament selection show with hopes for a seeding just outside the top four.
When the selection committee revealed the Tigers at the No. 8 spot, with the possibility of facing No. 1-seeded North Carolina in the second round, the mood of the group took a serious tone.
"I thought we would be lower than that," said senior Garrett Temple moments after the pick came in. "I was surprised. People were throwing around a five seed, six seed and maybe even a seven at the most. We walked out and everyone was like, ‘Wow, an eight seed.' Now, all we can do is work with what we got.
"We play against a very good Butler team," added Temple. "We don't know much about them, but obviously they can play if they earned a single seed out of a smaller conference. We have to get our mind right, because we play a good team."
Head coach Trent Johnson, who has the Tigers headed to the tourney in his first season with the team, said that the Big Dance gives LSU the opportunity to wipe the slate clean from their recent mishaps.
"It's a new season, so here we go," said Johnson in his trademark relaxed tone after hearing the selection. "We are going to Greensboro, and we're playing a very good Butler team. My reaction is usually the same, and that is that I am happy to still be playing. I am happy for the guys, but we have work to do."
While the work begins on the court tomorrow for the Tiger squad, the homework starts tonight for Johnson.
"I usually get nine tapes in on an opponent. Nine without the blurred vision," said Johnson with a laugh. "I have to get nine, it's like a drug to me and the tapes are my fix. They will all be on Butler, and I will start around nine o'clock tonight after I finish some radio appearances."
As for his plans of preparation heading to practice, Johnson said that the coming week will simply be business as usual.
"It's just like when we got announced, I told the kids that we are meeting at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow, and practice starts at 3:15 p.m.," he said. "Everyone knows the routine. It's now our responsibility to prove that we can do the job."
While the Tigers didn't scout the Bulldogs during the 2008 season, Johnson reflected back on what he had seen from the Horizon League regular season champions in a pair of game films he had watched over the last year.
"Butler is very well coached and well skilled," he said. "I distinctly remember watching them play against Cleveland State and Xavier, and I remember them being very skilled on the perimeter and in the post, both mentally and physically. Matt [Howard], their freshman, is also an impressive player."
The meeting will be the first between the two schools in men's basketball.
The winner of the Butler-LSU contest will move on to face either top-seeded North Carolina or No. 16-seeded Radford on Saturday (March 21).