Ok, the football regular season's officially ended, and CAN WE GET SOME HOOPS TALKING GOING PLEASE!? I'm holding out some little bit of hope that the "new generation" of LSU brethren will find hoops interesting and relevant again, and well, perhaps.... Coach JOHNNY JONES can do that. It's been a while since I started the pre-season thread: http://www.tigerfan.com/threads/the-2012-3-pre-season-lsu-mens-basketball-thread.105002/ which got little play. Now, consider the "pre-season" portion of the regular season over. LSU is 4-0 after playing the usually "warm-up" schedule of small schools, in state and otherwise. Wins have come over the likes of Mississippi Valley State, Northwestern State, UCSB and the like, but when's the last time that LSU started the season 4-0? Actually the first year that Trent coached, when his team went 8-0. Also the same year that LSU won the SECC. http://www.lsusports.net/SportSelect.dbml?SPSID=27828&SPID=2166&DB_OEM_ID=5200&Q_SEASON=2012 Now, a 4-0 start certainly isn't predictive of championships, or great seasons necessarily for that matter. But, its the manner in which the teams win that may be predictive. What we can say after 4 games, where LSU has dominated most of the games, but also survived a scare or two, is the following. First, LSU can play an uptempo game under CJJ. And, whatever they're doing, they are shooting well. Remember how scoring always seemed to be a struggle under CTJ (with the exception of his first year)? Well, perhaps there is something to loosening up the style of play, and playing quicker. Stringer, Hickey are shooting better, along with some pretty high %s coming from the newcomers--Coleman, Hammink, Carmouche and Morgan, are all hitting outside shots with some regularity--also from downtown. The defense has at times been suspect (allowing NWSt to score 95 is somewhat of a travesty), but the rebounding has been tremendous. In fact, LSU currently is a top 10 rebounding team in all of college basketball. Take out the NW State game, and the Tigers have consistently scored in the mid 70s and kept their opponents to about an average of 60. Continue that offensive shooting, cut down on turnovers, shoot better free throws (a real big surprise given the shooters we have on the team), while playing better defense, and I start to look optimistically to the meat of the schedule. Which by the way, starts this Thursday night on ESPNU against Seton Hall in the Big East/SEC challenge. IN THE PMAC. What is it going to take to get butts in the seats in the PMAC for a nationally televised game, with no more football and not quite finals to talk about? I'll be curious to see. Now to surprises... first off, TUBA TUBA TUBA. For all of those basketball know it alls who wrote off a 7'3" 260 lb band member turned walk-on. Let's just remember.... in sports, hard-work, dedication and well, size, sometimes can pay off. Tuba has been more than serviceable in the most minutes he's seen against MSVU. Points, blocks, rebs in 15 minutes of play give some hope that well, LSU might at least be able to slow down teams with big men. With a healthy JOB and Andrew Del Piero to take up space in the middle, could LSU at least not be disadvantaged down low against most teams in the SEC? If the rebounding trend continues, I'm feeling better about this. Second, shooting. Talked about it before but again, is the phenominal shooting the by-product of a different system or just different players (or both)? Players moving the ball around more quickly within a system that perhaps is more fluid. Can that continue? We'll see. The flip side of course is the FREE THROWS. If LSU had shot 65-70% (which is what any good team should shoot as a baseline) of their FTs, their margin of victory probably would be another 5+ points. No reason why folks like Eddie Ludwig and Andre Stringer should be missing as many FTs as they are. Let's just say that against teams like Seton Hall on Thursday, the little things like FTs start to matter a lot more. Third, new players. Let's just say that ALL of the new players, I would garner to say ALL have shown me something. Call it recruiting or just call it players fitting well within a system, but wow. Shavon Coleman... lights out. But, even Carmouche who is doing it all. Shane Hammink. Malik Morgan and even Corban Collins--all look like decent players. The versatility of Hammink (defense to shut down MSVU's leading scorer), plus the outside shooting of Carmouche and Morgan, were all things that were needed this season for it to look better than expected. The rebounding and inside play of Coleman was a bonus. The ability to go to a back up PG in Collins is also a nice surprise. Lastly, let's just give some props to Stringer, O'Bryant and Hickey. Now, Hickey seems to having some sophomore issues--primarily OFF the court. Not starting a couple of games because of off-court stuff seems like something that should be nip in the bud, because woah, we do not need another Bo Spencer sort of situation here. Hickey has played some great games despite this, and the team needs him in order to be the best it can be. O'Bryant has looked good at his lower weight and let's see if he can stay healthy this year. Stringer has also seemed more comfortable not having to guard and shoot always in a half court set. Which leads me to the fact that NOW, "real season" is starting. Look there are reasons to be optimistic... all those mentioned above. BUT, the true test of a season comes in and after adversity. In comes Seton Hall, which is 5-1 (only loss is to Washington in OT), and who can also play an uptempo game (scoring in the high 70s on average). I'd like to see LSU continue to clean up the little things like defense, turnovers and FTs, and we should be competitive and on the right track of improving during the course of the season. Now, if only the fans and community can start to wake up the basketball sleeping giant and show the nation we're on our way back! Jarrell Martin will probably be in the house on Thursday, eh? Pack the PMAC.