The LSU Fighting Tigers. Picked to place FIFTH in the Western Division of the SEC.
John Brady is a very capable coach, as he showed by taking the Tigers from nowhere to a conference championship in 1999-2000. Last year's team fell on harder times, with a 2-14 conference record and 13-16 overall. But Brady still did a commendable job when one considers that he had only five scholarship players and two good walk-ons to see him through the conference schedule. Before the season began he lost Brad Bridgewater to an ACL injury and freshman JueMicheal Young was academically ineligible. Then, in the second conference game, starting guard Lamont Roland, a senior, tore an ACL and his career was over. The Tigers went into a spin, from which they were emerging near the end of the season when they won two of their last four, including an SEC tournament win over Georgia. Although still limited in the number of scholarships he can award, Brady signed up five newcomers for 2001-2002, but the best one, Kedrick Brown, a JUCO All-Ameerican forward, entered the NBA draft and was taken in the second round! This year, LSU should show improvement, but will struggle to escape the division cellar.
Torris Bright, 6'4" junior, has run the team for the last two years and is expected to do so again. He averaged 10.8 ppg and led the team in assists and steals. He needs to improve his assists (118) to steals (110) ratio, but he is solid player. Helping him out at the point guard will be 6'3" freshman Xavier Whipple and 6'1" walk-on sophomore Charlie Thompson, who proved to be a capable substitute for Bright last season although he didn't score much (1.4 ppg). The other guard position will be capably filled by junior Collis Temple III, a good 3-point shooter (36.1%), who averaged 14.1 ppg. Likely to see considerable playing time is 6'4" freshman Antonio Hudson, who averaged 30.3 ppg for a Louisiana state championship team. Hudson was the top high school player in the state as a senior, and was on the Vanderbilt recruiting list. Another guard candidate is JueMichael Young, 6'2", who will be eligible as a redshirt sophomore if he emerges from Brady's doghouse. Young was suspended in April for "violating (the) team code of conduct standards."
Ronald Dupree, 6'6" junior, emerged last year as the top player, leading the team in scoring (17.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 per game). He was a third-team all-conference player who jumps well, plays hard, and shoots well (48.5% including 32.8% from three-point range). He will be the power forward and senior Jermaine Williams (7.5 ppg and 3.9 rebounds per game) returns to start on the wing. Williams isn't much of a threat from three-point range, but did make 49.7% of his shots overall. Junior Thomas Davis, 6'8", 220 lbs, who averaged 14.7 ppg and six rebounds for Kilgore CC last year, is expected to see plenty of action. Senior walk-on Jason Wilson, 6'7", 250 lbs, played nearly 500 minutes last year, and averaged 3.7 ppg and 3.5 rebounds.
Coming in from junior college, and expected to start, is junior Shawnson Johnson, 6'9", 240 lbs. He averaged 15 ppg and 7 rebounds at Lee College. Brady can go with a meaty lineup at times by playing Johnson with Wilson and moving Dupree out to wing forward. Junior Brad Bridgewater, 6'8", 245 lbs, would probably have started last year but for the injury that benched him for the season. However he averaged only 1.7 ppg and 1.2 rebounds in his sophomore season.
Any team in the conference would like to have Ronald Dupree, Torris Bright, and Collis Temple. They provide a good threat from the three-point territory and decent rebounding. Bright is an experienced playmaker. Antonio Hudson has the potential to be as good as any of these three. Brady will get the most out of his players.
Brady will have only ten scholarship players IF Young is allowed to play. There is no proven center and not a great deal of height.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
The Tigers must stay healthier than last year. Losing three players, as they did last year, could produce another disaster, especially if Dupree should be one of those lost. I am predicting the Tigers to move up one notch, from sixth to fifth.