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Saturday, March 21, 2009

How LSU can pull the upset

GREENSBORO, N.C. - If point guard Ty Lawson does not play, No. 8 seed LSU will have a decent chance of pulling off a major upset this afternoon in the heart of the Atlantic Coast Conference at Greensboro Coliseum against No. 1 seed North Carolina.

Tip off is at 4:45 p.m.

At about 4:15, we should know if Lawson will play for the Tar Heels for the first time since March 8 against Duke. He has been nursing an injured toe for two weeks and sat out North Carolina's last three games. Even if he does play, he will likely not be at 100 percent and his toe will likely get worse as the game goes on.

Now, even if Lawson, who is one very quick point guard, is at 85 percent, he's still better than most point guards, and that includes LSU point guard Bo Spencer. But North Carolina will not be as good as it could be if Lawson is not full go. With 16 points and 6.5 assists a game, he is to the Heels what Marcus Thornton is to LSU.

Secondly, LSU needs to contain forward Tyler Hansbrough, who is averaging 21.4 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. LSU coach Trent Johnson should put Tasmin Mitchell on Hansbrough for virtually the whole game. At 6-foot-7 and a beefy 240 pounds, Mitchell is a better match-up for Hansbrough, who is 6-9 and 250, than LSU center Chris Johnson, a light pole at 6-11 and not much more than 200.

Mitchell is very sure of himself and somewhat cocky, which is what you need in a game like this. He's never lacked for confidence since his Denham Springs days. He's got the personality of a Tyrus Thomas, who scared the little Dukeys three years ago before beating them. Johnson is really just now growing into his body and realizing what he can do. He does not always have a lot of confidence. Hansbrough could eat him alive. He won't do that to Mitchell.

"I wouldn't mind guarding him," Mitchell said. If he can stay out of foul trouble and still do some scoring, it could work. Put Johnson on 6-8, 245-pound forward Deon Thompson and 6-10, 215-pound freshman forward Ed Davis when he comes off the bench.
If LSU can contain Hansbrough ... if Thornton and Mitchell have the games of their lives ... if Spencer and Johnson can both score in double figures ... if Temple does a little bit of everything ... if LSU plays better defense than it has all season and it has played very good defense all season ... and if North Carolina plays poorly - IT COULD HAPPEN.

Some recent happenings in the NCAA Tournament bode well for the Tigers, who slayed ACC socialite and No. 1 seed Duke just three years ago with Thomas.

The ACC Almighty is suddenly 3-4 in the tournament with No. 4 seed Wake Forest getting run by and over by my new favorite team - No. 13 seed Cleveland State - Friday night by an 84-69 score, No. 7 Boston College getting slapped by No. 10 USC 72-55, No. 5 Florida State falling to No. 12 Wisconsin 61-59 in overtime and No. 7 Clemson losing to No. 10 Michigan 62-59.

"The mighty Big East has no sway here," a local columnist here in ACC country wrote Thursday. "This is the one place on earth that considers it a football conference. That's because it's where the ACC goes when it needs football teams."

Uh, the Big East was 6-1 after Friday night, pal. And Villanova led UCLA 44-31 at the half Saturday. The only loss was West Virginia to Dayton.

Another plus for LSU is the fact that President Obama picked North Carolina to win it all, because Obama's picks are not doing that well so far. He had Butler beating LSU for one.

LSU's history in games played for the right to reach the Sweet 16 also bodes well for the Tigers. An LSU win puts it in the Sweet 16 against the Western Kentucky/Gonzaga winner in Memphis on Friday. LSU is 7-2 at this point:

W Appalachian State, 71-57, in 1979
W Alcorn State, 98-88, in 1980**
W Lamar, 71-67, in 1981*
W Memphis, 83-81, in 1986*
W Temple, 72-62, in 1987**
L Georgia Tech, 94-91, in 1990
L Indiana, 94-83, in 1992
W Texas, 72-67, in 2000
W Texas A&M, 58-57, in 2006*

*Later advanced to Final Four
**Later advanced to Elite Eight


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