Atlanta notebook: Big Baby grows up
By Ken Davis, Special to Yahoo! Sports
March 27, 2006
Regular-season highlights: LSU
ATLANTA – Glen Davis was just a little baby the last time LSU went to the Final Four.
The Tigers, awarded a No. 4 seed when the tournament field was selected, may not be the Cinderella story Brown's team was as a No. 11 seed in 1986. But LSU has used the combination of youth, athleticism, a sense of regional pride and a disruptive defense to script a very special chapter in NCAA tournament history. Iona's Steve Burtt, Duke's J.J. Redick and Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge all saw their seasons end against the physical coverage and shot-blocking tactics of the Tigers.
LSU has come a long way since losing to Connecticut in Hartford on Jan. 7, a loss that dropped the Tigers to 8-5. Nobody knew then that the Tigers would be booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis.
"Well, we can't predict the future," Davis said. "So we never knew we were going to be in this situation. But we believed. We always believed in ourselves. It's just a will and determination to get back up again."
As LSU gets ready to grind it out against UCLA in a national semifinal, here's a look back at the top memories from the Atlanta Region.
Best player: This is a tough call between Davis, the central personality on the LSU team, and Tyrus Thomas, the freak freshman who was named Most Outstanding Player in Atlanta. Thomas, who still was healing from a late-season injury and didn't start the first two NCAA games, had a sensational game against Texas. He scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots. But when Thomas came to the sideline with cramps, Davis stepped up big time. His biggest shot in overtime was a three-pointer from the top of the key, only his sixth three-pointer of the season. Davis has 83 points and 35 rebounds in his four NCAA games and gets the nod over Thomas.
Best defensive player: LSU freshman forward Garrett Temple deserved to be on the all-regional team just because of his defensive role. Temple was all over Redick in the regional semifinal, holding Duke's All-America guard to a season-worst 3-for-18 shooting performance and 11 points. "He did a good job of contesting my jump shots, and when I did drive, they had shot blockers back there," Redick said. Temple also played a major role in holding P.J. Tucker to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting in the championship game.
Best coach: John Brady has coached under the radar for the most part in nine years at LSU. That's all changing now. His philosophy that stresses defense and rebounding is perfect for the postseason. He seems to have a great relationship with his players. They are relaxed and having fun – the best approach to the tournament. "You can coach a long time and never have a group of people like I have," Brady said. "They have helped me be better coach. Hopefully we can play two more games. You got your hankies?"
Best storyline: Temple's father, Collis Temple, was the first black man to play basketball at LSU. He brought many of the current Tigers together as basketball teammates when they were 9 or 10 and is responsible for many of them deciding to attend LSU.
Best moment: The final five seconds of the 74-71 victory by Texas over West Virginia in the semifinals. WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle got a great look and hit a three-point shot with five seconds left to tie the score. The game clock stopped, as it does on made baskets in the final minute, giving Texas enough time to push the ball up the floor. A.J. Abrams got across midcourt and passed to Kenton Paulino, who was able to launch an off-balance three-pointer that swished through for the victory. It was a shining moment for Paulino.
Saddest moment: The clock running down on Syracuse's season with Gerry McNamara sitting on the bench and unable to play because of a groin injury.
Best fans: LSU. These folks are one big family searching for something to celebrate. Major props to the LSU band (great sound) and the Tiger Group (best halftime dancers). Honorable mention to the Wisconsin-Milwaukee fans who showed up big in Jacksonville.
Worst cheer: From the Duke fan who repeatedly complained Redick was being fouled by LSU. "It's a conspiracy," she screamed over and over. Would you like some cheese with your whine?
Best play: The Tigers call it Special. LSU associate head coach Butch Pierre called for it against Texas A&M even though the Tigers hadn't run the play all year. Darrel Mitchell hit the three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left, and LSU had a 58-57 second-round victory.
Favorite quote: "I'm like gumbo and I've got my own twists and flavors. I've got a little crab and shrimp in there, a little turkey meat and spices, and it's not the same as anyone else's." - "Big Baby" Davis, describing himself.
Ken Davis, a longtime college basketball writer for the Hartford Courant, covered the Atlanta regional exclusively for Yahoo! Sports.
Updated on Monday, Mar 27, 2006 3:01 am, EST