Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/18/2006 11:11:00 PM
Saturday Night 'Special'
Darrel Mitchell finished with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting against the Aggies.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- What do you do when you're down two points with 14 seconds left in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and your clutch guard has shot just 1-of-7 on the day from beyond the arc? If you're No. 4 seed LSU, and No. 12 Texas A&M has you on the ropes, 57-55, this is what you do: Let assistant coach Butch Pierre call a play named "special," which you've barely used the entire season, and intend to put the ball in the hands of senior Darrel Mitchell -- because his nickname is the Silent Assassin, and 1-of-7 be damned, the kid has made his living hitting big shots, drilling game-winners against West Virginia and Arkansas this season. "When it's crunch time," said forward Glen Davis, "we want the ball in Darrel's hands."
Then, you watch as the play unfolds: The rock is inbounded to guard Garrett Temple, who passes to Mitchell in the backcourt, who runs off a screen from Davis, steps back with Davis' switching defender, Antanas Kavaliauskas, in his face, and -- as assassins are supposed to do -- pulls the trigger. From 23 feet out. Bang -- down go the Aggies, and Mitchell, a 5-foot-11 mite landing behind the 6-10 Kavaliauskas, doesn't even see his kill-shot fall through the net with 3.9 seconds left.
Mitchell saw the crowd erupt, though, and he knew that his stat line had been upgraded to 2-of-8 from long distance. "I made the one that counted," he said, and the final scoreboard read: Tigers 58, Aggies 57.
Was "special" even the right name for this play, which called for Davis to set a flash screen to free up the Tigers' lone senior? Maybe "momentous" instead? Mitchell's word for what happened on the court was simply "unexplainable." What happened off it was just as crazy; pandemonium broke out in the LSU section, and Temple's father, Collis Jr., a former LSU star, climbed up on the ledge separating the fans from press row and triumphantly held his hands in the air ("I was excited, brother," Collis said later). The Tigers then forced A&M's Josh Carter into a turnover on the final possession, and booked their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000. The team they'll face there? Top-seeded Duke, which cruised past George Washington earlier in the day.
As many holes as LSU was perceived to have heading into the tournament -- no true point guard, and wildly athletic forward Tyrus Thomas at less than 100 percent -- the Tigers are now looking like a serious threat to the top-seeded Blue Devils next week in Atlanta. Duke defends the perimeter better than any team in the nation, but LSU beat A&M despite making just two treys all game.
Pierre, explaining the abnormality of his final play call, said, "most of the time, we're just trying to feed off Glen [Davis] in the post." The Big Baby, who finished with 21 points (including the penultimate basket) and eight rebounds against the Aggies, will once again be the focal point, and he should be licking his chops at the list of lesser big men who have had field days against the Dukies, such as Indiana's Marco Killingsworth, N.C. State's Cedric Simmons and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. Add in the two freshmen forwards, 6-9 Thomas and 6-7 Tasmin Mitchell, to that equation, and an upset in Atlanta seems very possible.
The Blue Devils should still be the favorite. But LSU has the Big Baby to counter All-America forward Shelden Williams, and Thomas to create problems for Josh McRoberts. And most of all, the Tigers know they have the vital ingredient for a deep run in March Madness -- an assassin who can hit big shots with his team's season and the end of his career on the line. Duke has J.J. Redick. LSU has Darrel Mitchell. "Darrel's hit seven or eight of those in his career," Tigers head coach John Brady said of Mitchell's game-winner. The question now is, how many bullets does Mitchell have left in the chamber?
Excellent report on a heavy-weight bount that went to the last round. I believe LSU will cause havoc for Duke. They are very vulnerable - considering that Southern University of Baton Rouge frustrated Duke two days ago. LSU will approach this game with a lot of confidence... something tells me that Tyrus Thomas will be very dominant. Look out Duke - here comes the roaring Tigers.
Bottom line is that this was as ugly as a win gets. No consistency on offense. Sloppy with the basketball. LSU's defense collapsed and let a 7-point margin slip away when A&M reeled off about 9 in a row in the last 3 minutes to grab the lead.
If Mitchell's shot doesn't go in, we're talking about how A&M clamped down and gutted out a win instead off the Tigers's fortune. It was a lucky end to a sloppy day. If their offense is this putrid against Duke, they have no shot - it won't matter how well they defend or rebound.
Nice blog post Mr. Winn. This team has been unappreciated all year, never once getting the credit they deserve from the national media. In the last few months, however, you turned that around for us with articles and power rankings that let the nation know we were coming. Thanks for the support and Geaux Tigers.
I think this is the best front court matchup of the year. Thomas, Davis, McRoberts, and Williams are all potential NBA players. I think LSU's front court will dominate, but I think Reddick will prevail in the end over D. Mitchell. It is going to be Point Guard U vs. the Bayou Bengals.
Let's be real! LSU won't win playing this way against duke. Rebounds and defense is their only chance. Contrary to popular opinion Ithink duke goes as far as S. Williams goes. JJ is their best scorer but not their best player. If Williams is contained then the Tigers have a shot. This is probably the most overrated duke team I can remember and they are vulnerable. But LSU better go all out! Go Tigers!
All year long, LSU has seemed to play to the level of its opponent. They've had very few blowout wins. Only 6 of their 25 wins were by 20+ points while 14 of their games were decided by 6 or less points (including a 2 point loss to Ohio State and a 1 point loss to Connecticut on the road). The Tigers have shown a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the season, and if they can continue to play this way, the Duke vs LSU matchup will be a great game to watch.
Nice blog, Mr. Winn. I love it that it seems like you're the only one in the national media that even knows we exist. I mean, I know we're way down South in Baton Rouge, but you'd think we get a little national attention this year. I appreciate what you've done to get the national spotlight on us. I enjoy reading your articles and stories...they are very interesting. Thanks a lot. Geaux Tigers!
I thought this post was very solid. But did you ever question the "specialness" of a play that call's for a 5'11 gaurd to shoot over a 6'10 Forward? It was a great shot, but he had to step back 6 feet behind the line to get it off and over the defender. I think the play should be called "do your thing" because really there was nothing special about a "pick and chunk" no matter how well the "chunk" was executed.
LSU will need to have their A game to have chance against Duke. Davis and Thomas will do well defending Williams, but the defense will have to stick on Reddick and deal with lots of screens to stop the open looks at the basket. The offense cannot depend on just feeding the ball to Davis against Williams and McRoberts. If the tigers get points from T. Mitchell and Lazarre, quality time from Rolle and Voogd to give starters some relief, and a big game from Tyrus Thomas...they could pull it off. IF they play like they did against the Aggies, Duke will run away with it.
hey anonymous, i don't know how many games you've watched all season long, but....... how many teams haven't won "ugly"? in this tourney it's not how you win, only that you are the one standing when the horn goes off. most everyone will say that a good defensive team, which A&M had, will make you look "ugly". When it counted MOST, the Tigers were up for the challenge. Although, I don't have them as a final four team, i do have them beating duke next week. i don't think they match up well with texas, but with duke they match up very well. just ask connecticut!!!!
I'm sorry, but no offense. Mentioning LSU's Mitchell in the same breath as Redick, is shall we say...RIDICULOUS!!!! Duke is really turning it on, both offensively and defensively. They are much, much more talented and better coached. The only way that LSU wins this game is if Duke doesn't bring their A game. Williams and Redick stayed for one reason, a championship. LSU won't deter that.
Great blog! And I agree with previous comments. LSU has been underrated all season and your blog has given the Tigers some well-deserved coverage and credit. The winner of the Duke-LSU matchup is a shoo-in from the Atlanta region. We already know LSU can compete with the perennial powers. Thursday will be a huge test. And in March, its not HOW you win, as long as you WIN. A&M is headed back to College Station while them Bayou Bengals are spending a little more time on the road after conquering Duval County.
TroyinDallas ... just to explain that play a little deeper, LSU didn't expect to have a 6-11 guy guarding the 5-11 Mitchell. Davis was supposed to set a flash screen on the right wing and let Mitchell shoot off of that. But what happened was, Davis' man -- the big Lithuanian -- switched onto Mitchell before the screen could really take place. So Mitchell had to do a bit of hard dribbling to back the guy up before shooting the game-winner. The basic premise of the play was simply to isolate Mitchell and Big Baby on one side of the floor, though -- and that's exactly what happened.
jackson r ... I would never think of saying Mitchell is on the same level as Redick as an overall player. But in terms of clutch shooting ONLY, I think you can mention them in the same breath. Has Redick ever made a shot like that in the NCAA tournament?
As NCAA tournament shows year end and year out any team can win. Do we expect lower seeds to beat higher seeds from stronger confrences? LSU can win because it is a 1 and done format. All LSU got to do is contain Reddick and come out shooting like in second half against Iona. LSU and Duke going to be a good close game and although I am rooting for LSU my bracket says Duke. Whoever wins has a legit shot at national championship game.
Does anybody think Greg Paulus wards off everytime he dribbles the ball against defensive pressure? I do. But I also think that Paulus is the key to the LSU game. If he plays solid Duke wins by at least ten. If LSU can frustrate him with pressure and force him into more turnovers than usual they have a chance.
Look, this has nothing to do with this post, but had to vent as I listen to Jim Nantz and Billy Packer eat serious crow during the Arizona-Nova game. "People" were questioning Bradley and George Mason getting into the tournament -- it was YOU TWO who were most vocal, and now you're having a hard time calling the game wiping all the egg off your face!
Hey Luke, with all of this Duke-LSU talk, who is your pick to move on to the elite eight. You seem to be one of the few in the media who really knows about LSU so I'd be interested in hearing your take.
This is a great game for LSU. Yes if they play sloppy Duke will win. But that goes for anyone. They can be playing NLU and that will fly. Mitchell on Paulus. Temple on Reddick. Those head fakes don't work on taller defenders. Every lost Duke has had was against tall, athletic teams. Hell even Voogd can hold Paulus while Darryl gets a breather. And Williams and McRoberts is no match for Davis and Thomas. Lazarre and Rolle can definitely puts some minutes in there. The questiion is can we get any numbers from Mitchell?
jackson r. said "Duke is really turning it on, both offensively and defensively. They are much, much more talented"... really?? Look at the man-to-man matchups. Davis is considered every bit as good as Williams going into the game. Tyrus Thomas trumps any of Duke's other frontline players, and Tasmin Mitchell isn't far off. Redick has an obvious scoring edge at 2-guard, but he's going against a 6'5 athlete in Temple who's been able to clamp down all year on shooters. Paulus against D Mitch is a total mismatch in favor of the Tigers- quickness, scoring, experience, and yes defense too.
A lot of people are focusing on the matchups in the frontcourt and justifiably so--but the frontcourt matchups are relatively even. I'd hardly say Tyrus Thomas trumps Josh McRoberts, the McDonald's POY who is playing his best ball of the season.
Duke has a big edge in the backcourt. Don't assume that Paulus will be matched up with Darrel Mitchell. Duke has two superb on the ball defenders in Sean Dockery and Demarcus Nelson, and after D. Mitchell LSU's second and third leading assist men are freshmen. And LSU has no pure scorer in JJ Redick's league.
Bottom line, most Duke fans see this as a really tough matchup. If Shelden Williams (or possibly McRoberts) gets in foul trouble, Duke is going to have a tough time winning. If Williams and McRoberts can stay in the game, Duke will have a big advantage.
"I'd hardly say Tyrus Thomas trumps Josh McRoberts, the McDonald's POY who is playing his best ball of the season."
You are kidding right? some kind of joke? You think that McRoberts is better than Tyrus Thomas? Have you seen Thomas play this year, averaged almost a 2-2 (12pts, 9reb). Blocked 10 shots against UCONN.
I actually think Thomas will draw the defensive assignment on Williams which should really be interesting brute strength against long shot blocker....
Tiger fans are funny. Mentioning Mitchell in the same sentence as Redick and thinking they will dominate Duke. Fact is, LSU beat A&M by the skin of their half hearted, poorly coached teeth. Shame to have that much talent and not be a powerhouse. Completely different story if A&M's big man was not in foul trouble. Duke by double digits.
Why does no one mention the foul situation in the game? A&M played pretty much the entire game in foul trouble. Every time the ball got near Glen Davis, a foul was called against the Aggies. To make matters worse, the Aggies play tough, close defense -- something the refs were having none of. This is a situation that a team must deal with in big games. And A&M did, admirably. Despite having major foul trouble on their two best players, they hung around and took the lead near the end. LSU certainly did not deserve to win this game, and was not better than the Aggies. LSU will have a harder time getting Redick and Williams into that kind of foul trouble. If Duke has even a decent game, it won't be a contest.
Saying that the winning team "did not deserve to win" is silly. Did they have more points at the end? Then they deserved to win.
I believe that the key to this game is the foul situation. If the calls are fair and LSU plays like they normally do, they will be able to stay out of foul trouble and hopefully put Duke in trouble--the Tigers have made more free throws this year than their opponents have attempted, a huge key to their success. However, if the refs decide to call a pro-Duke game (which, of course, has never happened), it could expose LSU's lack of depth and give Duke the chance to run away with it.
Before putting too much money on LSU this week, keep in mind that Duke plays a similar man defense that A&M plays. And sure, A&M is a little more committed to their defense than Duke, but the Devils have vastly more talent than do the Aggies. Case in point, one of A&M's guards was only offered two scholarships coming out of high school and one of their forwards wasn’t offered any.
Anyone who has watched a few Duke games this season, especially recently, would realize the notion of a pro-Duke game, in terms of the referees, has scanty evidence to support it.
In any case, having personally witnessed that internminable LSU - Texas A&M contest, in which LSU struggled for 35% shooting, with 17% from 3-point range, I see nothing that suggests LSU can beat Duke on a typical night. As for Davis, all I saw out of him was a bunch of (missed) fall away jumpers, and the occasional garbage basket. Plus, blowing a 7 point lead late in the game against a team that struggled to put points on the board and is (normally) incapable of scoring quickly was also pretty unimpressive.
It's the tournament, so anything can happen, but LSU is a long-shot.
you guys are not giving Texas A&M credit. it was an ugly win for LSU b/c thats what A&M does to teams. they play hard D in your face all game. they were only giving up somethign like 53 points a game all year so its not like a lower scoring games are rare for them. they also were never blown out this year. they just play people close and to the wire.
"Before putting too much money on LSU this week, keep in mind that Duke plays a similar man defense that A&M plays. And sure, A&M is a little more committed to their defense than Duke, but the Devils have vastly more talent than do the Aggies. Case in point, one of A&M's guards was only offered two scholarships coming out of high school and one of their forwards wasn???t offered any."
Duke doesn't have anywhere near the quickness or ability to press that A&M had, actually handling the basketball is a weakness that LSU and Duke share. Duke is vastly talented offensively but not defensively. This should be a good matchup I would especially like to see Tyrus Thomans on Williams. Redick may not get alot of easy shots with the 6 5 Temple (with very long arms) on him.
Guys not being recruited heavily to me doesn't really matter. THere have been a number of NBA players who weren't highly recruited in high-school. On the flip-side Maryland had 3 McDonald AA's and see how well their season turned out?