LSU looking to make a tournament run

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
LSU forward Johnny O'Bryant III. Photo by Stacy Revere.

It's been a while since LSU has made the NCAA Tournament--five years to be exact. With nine players returning from last year's roster and a few new faces joining the program, the Tigers are hoping to change all of that this season.

Leading the charge for the Bayou Bengals will be All-SEC forward Johnny O'Bryant III.

The junior was a first-team All-SEC selection a year ago and led the conference in double-doubles with 15. He finished the season averaging 14 points and nine rebounds per game.

Twelve of O'Bryant's 15 double-doubles came in SEC play and at one time, he put together a string of five straight. He was the first Tiger to pull that off since Glen "Big Baby" Davis in 2005.

With O'Bryant leading the way, LSU bounced back from a dreadful 0-4 start within the conference and finished the year with a mark of 9-9. In addition, they finished the regular season 19-12 before inexplicably being excluded from the NIT.

The promising first year under head coach Johnny Jones just fueled some heightened expectations heading into into this season with eight other Tigers coming back.

One of those players will be All-SEC defensive player Anthony Hickey at the point and dangerous outside shooter Andre Stringer. Other key players returning include Shavon Coleman and Malik Morgan.

However, most eyes will be on the newcomer of the bunch, highly-touted freshman Jarell Martin.

The McDonald's All-American from Madison Prep is a 6-foot-9 phenom with a broad range of talent and athleticism. He looks to make an immediate impact for the Tigers.

With he and O'Bryant down low, LSU should instantly become one of the most formidable front-courts in the SEC.

In addition to Martin, Jones brought in the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the country according to Rivals.com.

Along with the No. 12 player in Martin, the No. 41 prospect joined the program in power forward Jordan Mickey, and Jones also snagged the No. 66 player in Tim Quarterman--a highly-talented point guard that is expected to see significant playing time this season.

If LSU wants to finally take that next step and get their name called on Selection Sunday, they'll have to improve offensively.

They only averaged 71 points a game last year--which ranked 91st, and they only shot 43 percent from the field--which ranked them a lowly No. 199 in the country.

The schedule looks pretty favorable--especially when it comes to the non-conference tilt.

The Tigers have a great opportunity to be 12-0 heading into their SEC opener against Tennessee on Jan. 7. The only non-SEC game that looks remotely challenging is a road contest against Texas Tech on Dec. 18.

And when it does come to conference play, they only have to play Tennessee and Florida once with the game against the Volunteers being in Baton Rouge.

LSU will begin their NCAA Tournament journey next Tuesday as they go on the road to face UMass.