How They Got Here: No. 4 Seed LSU (Atlanta Region)

March 31, 2006

By Bryan Armen Graham

Assistant Editor,


Bryan is a basketball editor for and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
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Having tallied 83 points and 35 rebounds during Louisiana State's four-game to the national semifinals, Glen Davis has turned the Big Dance into Big Baby's Breakout Party. As the unequivocal leader of John Brady's brawny frontcourt, Davis has outmuscled all comers -- and sparked the Tigers to their first Final Four appearance since the 1986 club made college basketball's biggest stage as a No. 11 seed.


But there's so much more to the SEC regular-season champs than their 310-pound bruiser in the middle. The Baton Rouge native is book-ended by a pair of outstanding interior talents: Tyrus Thomas and Tasmin Mitchell. In averaging 12.6 points, 9.3 boards and 3.1 blocks, the freshman Thomas may have played his way up to the first overall pick in this June's NBA Draft. Fellow first-year forward Mitchell is the fourth LSU player averaging in double figures, scoring 11.4 points per game to go with 5.6 boards.


Darrel Mitchell has emerged as a do-everything option at point guard, averaging 17.0 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 boards (while connecting on 40 percent of his three-point attempts). Defensive stopper Garrett Temple, the fifth starter, brings an energetic presence and makes a lot of the hustle plays that don't appear on the stat sheets.


Few teams came on stronger down the stretch than the Tigers. After flirting with .500 during the non-league portion of their schedule, LSU was a buzz-saw in SEC play -- finishing with a 14-2 record before bowing to Florida in the semifinals of the conference tournament.


Should the Tigers get past UCLA on Saturday, a third meeting with the Gators -- the first All-SEC title game in history -- could await.


Highest High: Basketball junkies had salivated over Big Baby's potential for a season-and-a-half, but not until LSU scored their 62-54 victory over top-seeded Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, were casual fans around the nation were introduced to the burly Baton Rouge native.


Lowest Low: Had Darrel Mitchell's three-point attempt at the buzzer fallen true, the Tigers would have scored a headline-grabbing road victory over then-No. 2 Connecticut when the teams clashed on Jan. 7. Instead, Louisiana State left Hartford with a 67-66 loss -- its fourth setback in six tries -- and an unimpressive 7-5 record for the season. A silver lining: Brady's club would respond with a seven-game winning streak.


Biggest Shot: Shots at redemption aren't always common in college basketball, but Mitchell got his. Nearly 11 weeks after his longball to beat the Huskies fell awry, the diminutive guard canned a trifecta with 3.9 second remaining that gave the Tigers a 58-57 victory over Texas A&M and lifted them into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2000.


X-Factor: Baby is going to get his. But when Thomas makes the type of impact on both ends of the court that he did against Duke -- nine points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots -- the Tigers become almost impossible to beat.


Why They Can Win It All: There aren't many teams in the country that can match UCLA's physical and athletic brand of defense, but Louisiana State is one of them. These Tigers are young but brave. and most importantly, playing their best ball at the perfect time of year.


Deserving Mention: Here's a testament to the late-blooming nature of these Tigers: Only three teams -- Memphis (22), Duke (20) and UCLA (20) -- have won as many games since Jan. 1 as has Louisiana State (20).



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