LSU's seventh-ranked basketball team got the 2006-07 season underway Thursday with its first exhibition game of the year. Four players scored in double figures as the Tigers beat EA Sports -- basically a team of college has beens -- 70-65. Don't worry about the score, the game wasn't that close. LSU led by as many as 17 in the second half.
The Tigers started Garrett Temple, transfer Dameon Mason, Tasmin Mitchell, Darnell Lazare and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. It's amazing, but that line up doesn't start anyone smaller than 6-5. Both Mason and Lazare surprise me as starters. I thought Tack Minor might start at the 2 and was sure Magnum Rolle would be in the starting five. I have to say I like the idea of Minor coming off the bench. He's the perfect change-of-pace guy that can be a huge spark off the bench. Lazare is a solid player and does all the little things. But I expect Rolle to be starting by SEC play.
Big Baby struggled going 4-for-14 from the field, but was still a load in the paint. He got to the line nine times and hauled in 14 rebounds. It's possible -- even likely -- that he'll be the best player in the nation this season. I'd love to see him go head-to-head against Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina or Greg Oden of Ohio State.
Mitchell was good, going 5-for-11 and grabbing seven rebounds. If he goes somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 and 7 a night, LSU might be unstoppable this year. He's going to have to not turn it over five times a game though. He only attempted one three pointer (a miss), so its hard to know whether he's gotten better in that area of the game. He needs to give LSU an outside threat against the zone.
Temple still isn't going to give you much offense from the point, but with this team it doesn't matter. His size and defensive prowess are tremendous. He had nine rebounds and five steals last night. The four turnovers are a little much, but I'll put that off on it being the first game. He did hit his only three, which is a good sign. He, like Mitchell, is going to have to be able to keep defenses honest by knocking down open jumpers.
Mason intrigues me. He averaged 12 and 6 as a sophomore at Marquette two years ago before transferring and sitting out last season. He scored 14 on Thursday in just 23 minutes. Between him, Mitchell and Davis, all three could average better than 15 a game and give the Tigers a number of scoring options. That doesn't even include Mr. Offense, Tack Minor coming off the bench.
LSU's achilles heel showed a little bit with its 1-for-7 performance from behind the arc. Also, the Tigers turned it over 21 times, a possible sign that they haven't improved in that aspect from last year. On the plus side, they knocked down 17-of-24 from the charity stripe and dominated the boards. With so much size, LSU should win the rebounding battle in every game it plays.
Clearly the team has a lot of potential, but they only go about seven deep. Eight if you count Ben Voogt, but he's really only a spot sub. They'll have to be lucky on the injury bug before getting Terry Martin eligible in December. The Texas Tech transfer should help the depth at the 2 and 3. I'd feel better if Chris Johnson could come around some more. At 6-11, he can provide LSU some much needed depth in the post. But at only 190 pounds, he's just not big enough to play a lot of minutes in the post.
It was the first game and there's still a long way to go. I don't believe LSU is one of the top 10 teams in the nation right now like their No. 7 ranking implies. But this team has the tools to make another run this season.