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Peeking Around the Corner to Basketball Season

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Readers, please welcome new writer Purple Reign, who has graciously agreed to contribute his LSU take to the site. Hopefully you'll enjoy his writing far more than mine! - GeauxTigers

Without an opponent for LSU to face in football this week, it seems like as good a time as any to peek ahead to basketball season. Yes, already. Practice started this week and big things are expected of the Tigers after last year's run to the final four.

Andy Katz had LSU ranked fifth in his summer rankings. Luke Winn had the same thoughts. Without attributing their rankings to anyone, CBS.Sportsline slotted the Tigers eighth in its preseason poll.

Color me skeptical. Yes, there's a lot to like about this year's squad. Three starters return from last year, including SEC Player of the Year Glen "Big Baby" Davis and stud Tasmin Mitchell. But remember that the Tigers were barely a top 20 team most of the year before their magical run. I always worry about teams that are hyped too much based on a great postseason. If Darrel Mitchell doesn't hit a miracle three against Texas A&M, LSU is an afterthought right now. Instead they're in everyone's top 10.

Replacing Mitchell will be a task. Not to mention the loss of freak athlete Tyrus Thomas, who was unstoppable in the NCAA Regional last year. Tack Minor returns to the point/off guard and Magnum Rolle is set to take over for Thomas, but the key will be finding someone to step up and fill the leadership void left by Mitchell. With only one senior (Darnell Lazare), it has to be Davis and it seems like he knows it. By all accounts ( 1 | 2 | 3 ), Big Baby has slimmed down and will be an absolute monster this year.

On paper, the main problem for the Tigers this year will be finding someone with any semblance of an outside shot. No returners hit even 30 percent from behind the arc last year and if that happens again, teams will be able to throw a zone at LSU to contain Davis inside. Garrett Temple and Tasmin Mitchell must be able to keep defenses honest or it could be a rough year offensively.

Despite some flaws, the 2006-07 team is as talented as any across the country and should compete for its second straight SEC championship, in what will again be a watered-down league. Outside of Florida, nobody is downright scary in the conference. Kentucky should be better and Tennessee will be good once again, but neither should be able to hang with LSU this year. Plus, the Tigers play in the Western Division, meaning they only face those teams once.

The first exhibition is just two weeks and two days away.