Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
For the second straight season, the LSU Tigers finished dead last in the SEC . That streak figures to end in 2011-2012, but it certainly will not come easy for Trent Johnson and company.
Last season: 12th, 3-13 in SEC, 11-21
Projected SEC Finish: 10th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Johnny O’Bryant (Fr)/Justin Hamilton (Jr)
F: Malcolm White (Sr)/Eddie Ludwig (Jr)/Jalen Courtney (So)
F: Storm Warren (Sr)
SG: Ralston Turner (So)/John Isaac (Fr)
PG: Andre Stringer (So)/Chris Bass (Sr)/Anthony Hickey (Fr)
Gone: SG-Aaron Doston (transfer-Utah), PF-Garrett Green (transfer-San Diego State), PF-Dennis Harris (transfer-Arkansas State), PG-Daron Populist (transfer-Southeastern Louisiana), SF-Matt Derenbecker (left program)
After being the surprise team of the SEC in 2008-2009 and winning thirteen conference games, LSU has managed to win just five SEC games the past two seasons. With plenty of returning players and a couple of key additions, the streak of cellar dwelling could come to an end in 2011-2012.
Amid the struggles of last season, there was a very encouraging sign for Trent Johnson in his young backcourt. The freshman duo of point guard Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner made the most of their opportunity and ended up being the only two Tigers to average double digit scoring.
With Turner’s development throughout the season, Aaron Dotson chose to transfer closer home back west and ended up signing with Utah. That leaves senior Chris Bass as the only other guard with college experience. 2011 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Award winner Anthony Hickey and John Isaac will try to step on the scene right away and add depth in the backcourt.
LSU lacked a great deal of physicality in their frontcourt last season as no player grabbed more than six boards per game, but that certainly will not be the case this season. McDonald’s All-American Johnny O’Bryant and Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton are two big bodies inside who will add some needed size and toughness inside.
Hamilton and O’Bryant could easily end up being the starting frontcourt even though the Tigers return starters Storm Warren and Malcolm White along with key reserve Eddie Ludwig. Redshirt senior Garrett Green recently decided to transfer in hopes of pursuing a graduate degree elsewhere. Since LSU has depth solid inside, his loss will not be significant.
Sophomore Matt Derenbecker is the Tigers’ only real option at small forward although they could go with a bigger line-up since there is a lot of depth inside. Derenbecker is the LSU’s top returning three-point shooter despite only hitting 33.6% of his triple tries a year ago. LSU as a team only connected on 31.2% from downtown last season which ranked 296th in the country. (UPDATE: Derenbecker has left the LSU team leaving the Tigers in an even worse position regarding their outside shooting.)
With improved talent inside and a returning freshman backcourt that should only improve, LSU seems to have more skill level than SEC foes Auburn and South Carolina which should keep them out of the conference cellar. However, expecting a huge jump this season would be a mistake.
Player to Watch: Johnny O’Bryant
The 6-10, 260 pound freshman is the first McDonald’s All-American to commit to LSU since Tasmin Mitchell back in 2005. With that label comes great expectation. O’Bryant is extremely active on the glass and defensive end thanks to his combination of size and athleticism, but he still is raw in his offensive development. He will by no means be an instant fix to LSU’s problems, but will certainly be an extremely important piece of the future for Trent Johnson.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Northwestern (Charleston Classic)
11/18 vs. Tulsa/Western Kentucky (Charleston Classic)
11/20 vs. VCU/Seton Hall/Georgia Tech/St. Joseph’s (Charleston Classic)
12/3 at Rutgers (SEC/Big East Challenge)
12/19 vs. Marquette
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#90 Arizona State Sun Devils
#91 Marshall Thundering Herd
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraka Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.