The disappointing outcome of the Tennessee game on Saturday, a 67-65 loss by Vanderbilt, probably put an end to any realistic idea that the Commodores might be able to make the NCAA field. To get into the NCAA, the Dores would have to defeat LSU, Mississippi State, and South Carolina at home, and Tennessee and Arkansas on the road, possibly substituting a home win over Kentucky for one of the road wins, and then win one game in the SEC tournament. The NIT is certainly still within reach, but will require at least three, and probably four, more victories. Given the youth of the team that would be a worthwhile accomplishment.
To some extent, the Tennessee loss followed the pattern of the earlier Florida defeat at home. In both games, Vanderbilt fell far behind in the first half, but rallied in the second half. However, the Commodores came much closer to beating Tennessee; indeed, if the last shot by Chuck Moore had gone in, they would have pulled out a victory.
The LSU Tigers come to Nashville with a 2-6 conference record, and 12-9 overall. In non-conference play, they defeated Campbell, Southern, Hawaii-Hilo, Mercer, Towson State, Northwestern State, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Houston, and Nicholls State, and lost to Weber State, New Orleans, and Miami (Florida). Against conference opponents, they have defeated Arkansas and Auburn, both at home, and lost to Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Alabama. They lost their last three games, two of them at home.
6'6" junior power forward Ronald Dupree is one of the best players in the conference. He averages 17.3 ppg and 8.5 rebounds. He can hit the three pointer, but struggles at the free-throw line (60.5%).
6'7" junior Collis Temple is scoring 15.2 ppg and averages 6.6 rebounds on one wing. He can be a deadly outside scorer, as the Commodores discovered in the SEC tournament in 2000, in which he hit six of seven threes.
Torris Bright, 6'4" point guard, 13.2 ppg, and 4.4 assists, is (like Temple) a three-year starter. He is far from being the quickest or most effective point guard in the conference, but is shooting three-pointers extremely well this year (45.4%).
The other two positions are weaker. The other wing player, Jermaine Williams, 6'7" senior, 5.5 ppg and 4.5 rebounds, has not contributed as much as had been hoped. He is not an outside shooter, and could be supplanted as a starter at any time by 6'4" freshman Antonio Hudson (8.7 ppg), who will be a much better player than Williams in the long run. Unlike Williams, Hudson can make threes (about 40%).
Center Brad Bridgewater, 6'8" senior, throws 250 pounds around under the basket, but scores just 6.8 ppg and gets only 3.5 rebounds. Out last year with an ACL injury, Bridgewater does not compare well with several of the better big men in the conference.
These six players see most of the action for the Tigers. 6'8" junior transfer Thomas Davis and 6'8" senior Jason Wilson help out underneath. Davis averages about four points per game and Wilson 1.6, and they each get an occasional rebound. 6'4" sophomore Juemichael Young was academically ineligible in his freshman year and has appeared in only six games to date. 6'2" freshman Xavier Whipple has seen limited duty. 6'1" sophomore Charlie Thompson backs up Bright and has played a good many minutes in the last two years, but doesn't score much.
There is also a fleet of seven walk-ons, including 6'3" freshman Josh Maravich, son of Pete, but they practically never play.
Coach John Brady has battled scholarship limitations since arriving at LSU. Two years ago, he had Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith, and the surprise team in the conference, even without much depth. But it has been a struggle since then for Brady and the Tigers.
Kevin Stallings's two Vanderbilt teams have not played well in February and March. but Vanderbilt should win this game. They compare favorably, or at least equal, to the Tigers in almost every major statistical category, including rebounding. A loss to LSU would have to be considered a major setback to the progress of the Commodores.