College Basketball

Young Tigers Reach Final Four

LSU is back in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years after defeating Duke and Texas, the top two seeds in the Atlanta Regional. Their tight defense and great frontcourt play dominated in both games for the 4th seeded Tigers.

LSU features five starters who are from just over 50 miles from the school campus. Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, and Garrett Temple are all from Baton Rouge, while Tasmin Mitchell is from the small town of Denham Springs which is within five miles of Baton Rouge down I-10. The lone senior starter, Darrel Mitchell, is from the town of St. Martinville.

These five players have been playing with or against each other for years, which is one of the major advantages for a team that is one of the youngest in the country.Going into the season, the expectations for this team weren’t very high due to the losses of Brandon Bass (NBA) and Tack Minor (suspension, then injury). LSU was projected to finish second to Alabama in the western division of the SEC. Their youth and inexperience was supposed to be the downfall of the team. However, no one knew that the team’s youth would key their success for the season.

Newcomers Tyrus Thomas, Tasmin Mitchell, and Garrett Temple all came into the first day of practice not knowing what was to come for this LSU team.

Tasmin Mitchell was expected to start after Ross Neltner transferred to Vanderbilt over the summer. The expectations for him were very high as he was voted the pre-season Freshman of the Year in the SEC. It was an award that many people had him penciled in to win since he was a junior in high school. And the people were right. The award did go to a Tiger. However, his name wasn’t Tasmin.

Last year, Tyrus Thomas was redshirted and had to sit on the bench and watch LSU take an early exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to UAB. He wasn’t sure how much playing time he would receive this season because of LSU’s depth at the forward position. However, with Brandon Bass entering into the NBA Draft, and Ross Neltner transferring, the opportunity presented itself for Tyrus Thomas. And he took advantage of it grabbing the starting position from Darnell Lazare eight games into the season. Thomas averaged 12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game on his way to SEC Freshman of the Year and 2nd Team All-SEC honors.

Garrett Temple also redshirted his first year at LSU. He was a teammate of Glen Davis in high school and was overshadowed by Davis’ accomplishments in his freshman season. Temple wasn’t expected to get much playing time until Tack Minor was suspended from the team for the fall semester. Temple jumped into the starting lineup from day one and has established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation. He held Texas A&M guard Acie Law to 15 points (5-16 shooting from the field) in LSU’s 58-57 win. Then, when he had to step up the most, he came up with the best individual defensive performance of the tournament holding Naismith Award Finalist J.J. Redick to a season low 11 points (3-18 shooting), 16 points below his season average.

These three freshmen joined sophomore forward Glen Davis and senior guard Darrel Mitchell to lead LSU to its 3rd highest win total in school history at 27, and its first Final Four since 1986.

Glen Davis and Darrel Mitchell led LSU through the hard times whenever it seemed that the team’s youth was slowing them down.

Glen Davis was voted the SEC Player of the Year scoring 18.7 points and grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game. He was the Tigers’ leading scorer in 19 games this season including 11 out of the last 14.

Darrel Mitchell averages 17 points and 4.5 assists per game and was voted 1st Team All-SEC. He led the Tigers’ in scoring 13 times this season.

LSU only loses one senior at the end of the year and keeps seven players that logged key minutes this season. Five of those seven are freshman this year with junior forward Darnell Lazare, freshman Magnum Rolle, and freshman Ben Voogd all to return next season.

However, this is assuming Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas don’t enter the NBA Draft. Both are considered to be possible lottery picks in the draft and be major impacts for their future team.

 LSU was a team that was considered lucky to even make the Sweet 16 after struggling with Iona in the first round, and squeaking by Texas A&M on a last second three-pointer by Darrell Mitchell in the second round. However, this young team showed they belonged in the last two rounds with two major upsets and two major statements.

Whether it was Glen Davis and his outstanding post play, Tyrus Thomas and his shot blocking, Darrel Mitchell’s clutch shooting, Garrett Temple’s lock down defense, or Tasmin Mitchell’s hustle plays, LSU always had the answer for the opponent.

3 replies on “Young Tigers Reach Final Four”

Well… Since my bracket is shot (I had 6 of 8 elite eight teams correct and all 4 of my final four teams alive, but all four of them lost this weekend <Memphis, Texas, UConn, and Villanova>) I’m rooting for the best cinderella story ever: George Mason!! Patriots all the way woo!!!

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