SEC champion Tigers feature balanced attack

Thursday, March 9, 2006 at 1:00am

LSU at a glance
Coach: John Brady (ninth season; 162-109)
Regular-season record: 22-7
Last SEC Tournament title: 1980
Leading scorer: C Glen Davis (18.3)
Leading rebounder: Davis (9.9)
MVP: Davis looks like a defensive tackle but has nimble feet and soft hands, making him perhaps the most difficult match-up in the SEC.
Sleeper: Freshman forward Tasmin Mitchell has gone mostly unnoticed because of all the stars around him, but has started every game and is quietly averaging 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Best win this season: A Nov. 25 overtime victory at West Virginia set the tone for things to come.
Most disappointing loss: Nearly won at Connecticut on Jan. 7 before dropping a 57-55 decision.
Fogler's Focus
"Getting healthy may be more important than winning the tournament. They could be a Final Four team with the right match-ups. They won at West Virginia, had Connecticut beat and went 14-2 in the Southeastern Conference. They have the talent."

Any way you want to play it, LSU can bring it.

The Tigers, who won their first outright SEC regular-season championship since 1985, feature a splendid inside-outside combination that gives opponents fits. Down low, LSU looks to Glen Davis, who is second in the league in scoring and first in rebounding. Nicknamed "Big Baby" for his 6-9, 310-pound frame, Davis was named SEC Player of the Year. From the perimeter, guard Darrel Mitchell fires away with a smooth stroke.

For good measure, LSU sports bouncy forward Tyrus Thomas, a lock to win SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

"They're freakishly athletic," Georgia Coach Dennis Felton said.

That athleticism has turned the Tigers into the SEC's best rebounding and shot-blocking team. Opponents need good shooting nights from the perimeter to avoid going toe-to-toe inside with LSU.

"If they get in deep enough to where it becomes a jumping contest, you're going to lose," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said.

It's been a special season for basketball on the Bayou. Since 1980, no SEC school had won both the men's and women's regular season championships outright in the same season. LSU accomplished that this year.

Fans have noticed. The men's team, which had losing or .500 SEC seasons from 2001-04, had its first sellout since 2000 on Jan. 25 against Georgia and has drawn crowds in the neighborhood of 10,000 five times. Not bad for a football school.

While many expected Tennessee's Bruce Pearl to win SEC Coach of the Year, it was LSU's John Brady who took home the coveted award. His supporters point out the Tigers won the SEC title, beat the Vols head-to-head and overcame the loss of starting point guard Tack Minor.

Whatever the case, it's been a season that won't soon be forgotten at LSU.

- Brett Hait

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