March 31, 2006
By Bryan Armen Graham
Assistant Editor, CSTV.com
Bryan is a basketball editor for CSTV.com and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
Having tallied 83 points and 35 rebounds during
But there's so much more to the SEC regular-season champs than their 310-pound bruiser in the middle. The
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
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
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
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