NCAA countdown: No. 40 LSU
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: LSU’s basketball glory days seem so ancient when names such as Bob Pettit, Pistol Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal roll off the tongue. That’s what happens when the program only records five Southeastern Conference wins in two seasons (2009-10 and ’10-11).
Yet it was only 2008-09 when the Tigers last won the Southeastern Conference and 2006 when they played in a Final Four.
After three years in the basement of the SEC, last season’s eighth-place finish and .500 conference record under first-year coach Johnny Jones was a sign of the program climbing up the conference ladder and back into contention for the league race and an NCAA tournament appearance.
Jones hauled in the 10th-ranked recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, bringing in a group of talented freshman to mesh with a veteran-laden squad led by NBA prospect Johnny O’Bryant III.
2012-13 in review: 19-12 overall (9-9 SEC).
Path to the Dance: An at-large bid probably will be the only route. Beating Kentucky or Florida in the SEC tournament (or regular season) will take a hot streak reminiscent to the one Ole Miss used to earn its trip to the NCAAs last season.
Conference outlook: Three NCAA tournament bids for a 14-team power conference? That was the reality the SEC faced last season with only Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss reaching the NCAAs — leaving Kentucky and Tennessee as notable snubs that settled for the NIT. This season, Kentucky has the best freshman class in the country, and Florida once again appears poised to be a preseason top 10 team. And Tennessee has all the pieces to be a top 25 team, but then the middle-of-the-pack picture is not so clear. Based on LSU’s returnees and stellar recruiting class, the Tigers get the nod ahead of Missouri (loses four of top six scorers), Alabama (loses leading scorer Trevor Lacey to transfer) and Ole Miss (loses top supporting cast around Marshall Henderson) heading into the preseason, as each of those three teams have cloudy forecasts given the departure of key players.
Tournament projection: No. 9 seed.
Coach’s corner: “We have … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 40 LSU, click here.]