Coach: Trent Johnson (27-8 at LSU, 186-129 overall)
Coach Trent Johnson had a superb debut campaign with LSU during the 2008-2009 campaign, ending with an impressive 27-8 record and an even more impressive 13-3 record in Southeastern Conference play. Coach Johnson is a great leader, but he had some nice players to work with last year. That is not the case anymore and it will be a surprise if this young group can make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
Key Losses: C Chris Johnson, G Terry Martin, G Garrett Temple, F Marcus Thornton, F Quintin Thornton
The backcourt will really miss Marcus Thornton and Garrett Temple. Not only was Temple a quality ball handler, but he was also a versatile defender who would use his size and quickness to cover the best the SEC had to offer. But Temple was not much of a scorer and he left that to Thornton and Bo Spencer. Spencer is back to lead the backcourt after averaging 11.4 points per game last year. Spencer will do most of his damage from beyond the arc, where he shot 40.3 percent last season, but he has shown signs of becoming more aggressive and as he grows stronger he will get to the basket more often. Spencer is a decent ball handler, but if he is forced to spend too much time at the point, it might have a negative effect on his scoring output.
The lone experienced option returning up front is Tasmin Mitchell. The 6-7 senior ranked second on the team with 16.3 points per game and added 7.2 rebounds. The now departed Chris Johnson freed up a lot of space in the paint for Mitchell, but Mitchell is ready to make his own mark on this team with or without any help from the rest of the frontcourt. Mitchell’s ability to step outside and hit the outside shot makes him a dangerous power forward, but he has developed into more than a slasher who can shoot. Mitchell can back down weaker opponents and score around the basket and he might have to do a lot of that this year.
Who’s In for LSU:
The Tigers only return two players who averaged more than ten minutes per game last year and that means the newcomers will have to be very involved. Shooting guard Aaron Dotson is the best of the two incoming freshmen and he could be starting right away. Even if he does not start, he will have to provide an offensive spark off the bench. Eddie Ludwig is the other incoming freshman, but he will be joined in the frontcourt by redshirt freshmen Garrett Green and Dennis Harris.
Spencer, Mitchell and the four freshmen are not the only players on this team. However, there are only four others and that will cause a big problem with depth if the freshmen are not ready to contribute or players like Chris Bass, Alex Farrer, Zach Kinsley and Storm Warren are not ready to step up and play a much bigger role. Bass, a sophomore point guard, rarely got the opportunity to play last year, but he is a quality ball handler. He may not score much, but as long as he finds Spencer and Mitchell without turning the ball over, he will be doing his job.
Final 2009-2010 LSU Projection:
The battle for playing time next to Mitchell will be intense. Warren has the most experience after averaging 2.0 points and 1.8 rebounds as a freshman last year, but this years freshmen have just as good of a shot of cracking the starting lineup. No matter who plays, this is a very inexperienced team that has a ton of holes to fill around Spencer and Mitchell.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
2009-2010 LSU Basketball Projected Starting Five:
Chris Bass, Sophomore, Guard, 0.8 points per game
Bo Spencer, Junior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Aaron Dotson, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Tasmin Mitchell, Senior, Forward, 16.3 points per game
Storm Warren, Sophomore, Forward, 2.0 points per game
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer