South Region: No. 8 LSU (26-7) vs. No. 9 Butler (26-5)
When: Thursday, 12:20 p.m., EDT
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
LOUISIANA STATE TIGERS
1) Welcome to the Century Club. LSU celebrated its 100th year of existence this season by naming its All Century Team, an impressive squad that boasts 13 All-American Awards and 5 Final Four appearances among them. The team includes the likes of Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich, Chris Jackson (pre-National Anthem craziness), Shaq, and Big Baby Davis. As part of Century Team celebration, the program held an alumni game featuring the startlingly obese stylings of former center Stanley Roberts as well as breakout star of the Whoopi Goldberg classic Eddie, one Vernel Singleton.
2) Awards, our cup runneth over0. LSU's senior guard, Marcus Thornton, was named SEC Player of the Year, while guiding his team to a 26-7 overall record (13-3 in the SEC) and finishing second in the league in scoring at 20.7 ppg. His coach, Trent Johnson, in his first year after taking over for the fired John Brady (who has since been banished to Siberia, or Jonesboro, Arkansas...either one), was named SEC Coach of the Year. Johnson came to LSU from Stanford (clearly leaving Palo Alto for the boost in academic prestige that the Bayou has to offer) where he led the Cardinal to the NCAA tournament in 3 out of his 4 years as head coach.
3) LSU, scourge of the SWAC and other lesser conferences. LSU's NCAA Tournament hopes and dreams are built on the sacrificial and questionably talented corpses of its less than stellar non-conference opponents. LSU's non-conference strength of schedule was ranked 288th overall (RPI of 125) and featured such daunting publicly funded institutions as Grambling State, Nicholls State, Jackson State, Alcorn State and Centenary...um State. They are a healthy 1-3 against the Top 50 (including double digit loses to Xavier, Utah, and Texas A&M) and didn't win a non-conference game away from the Maravich Assembly Center all season. But hey, they won the SEC regular season title, a conference so recognized for its stellar achievement this year that the Selection Committee saw fit to bestow upon it 3 whole bids to the Dance. — Bunkie Perkins (Friends of the Program)
1) Freshman, Freshman, Do Something Crazy, Do Something Crazy. Unlike the previous veteran laden Butler squads of the past, the 2008-2009 version starts three true freshmen. Leading the group is point guard Ronald Nored (6'0", 180). Nored is the definition of a pass first point guard with a passion for defense. Shooting guard Shelvin Mack (6'3", 215) hails from Lexington, Kentucky and is the Bulldog's best creator. Shelvin fills up the stat sheet wherever he's needed; on any given night he can score 20, dish off 8, or grab 9 off the boards. Finally, Gordon Hayward (6'8", 200) is a matchup problem in every context. Gordon was undersized until his junior year of high school and is still adjusting to his new found height, truly a guard playing in a forward's body. He was a two sport athlete in high school and almost won a state championship in tennis his senior year. Gordon won the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and was in the top ten in ten different league statistics.
2) Smart Pups Butler has always strived for excellence on and off the court. Leading scorer Matt Howard was recently named to the 2008-09 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America University Division Men's Basketball Team. Howard boasts a 3.7 GPA with a major in Finance. Freshman Gordon Hayward is striving for a double major and currently has a 4.0 GPA. Not to mention Ronald Nored ran for and was elected freshman class president.
3) Don't drop the ball. Butler's success is dependent on their ability to handle the rock. Butler is 14-0 this year when committing less turnovers than their opponent. — fired up karen