LSU Basketball: Tough Tasks Laying Ahead

Jacob KerrContributor IMarch 17, 2009

The regular-season SEC champion LSU Tigers have a tough road in the NCAA Tournament. They are starting out playing a very good Butler team.

If they are able to make it past the first round, they will probably play North Carolina, the regular-season champs from the ACC.

But before the boys from the bayou can concern themselves with Tar Heels, they must worry about the Bulldogs. There are some key matchups that LSU must be aware of to have the best chance to win.

Firstly, there's Tasmin Mitchell against Matt Howard. These are two physical players who are very active down low. Howard is Butler's leading scorer, which makes it particularly important that Tasmin sticks him.

I'll give the advantage to Mitchell for now because of the way he can stretch the defense with his outside-shooting abilities.

The next big pairing is Chris Johnson against Willie Veasley. This will be significant, as both can ball despite a lack of size.

LSU has the upper hand here as well, as Chris is much taller and a better shooter than Willie.

I could see coach Trent Johnson switching his players in these two duels due to height disparity; Howard is 6'8", Willie just 6'3".

Also take a look at Garrett Temple against Gordon Hayward. Gordon is Butler's best three-point shooter so if you're a Tigers fan, you have to hope Garrett slows him down.

This battle could come out in a tie. Even though Temple is a great defender, he still isn't the best shooter.

That being said, if he's on, LSU will have the luxury of an additional weapon.

Now consider Marcus Thornton against Shelvin Mack. Mack is second on his team in three-pointers, but Marcus is a great defender, like Temple.

The nod goes to Marcus; he'll be too much Mack to handle on both ends.

Finally, peek Bo Spencer against Ronald Nored. In my mind, there is no need for explanation here; Bo is a great defender, a deadly shooter, and is taller than Nored.

If you're looking for a game-changer, Bo will ultimately be that guy, based on his ability to shoot from very far out.

If Terry Martin and Quinton Thornton are able to come off the bench and man-up defensively on Butler's players, there is no way the Bulldogs will win this game. We know they'll be solid on offense, as Terry can shoot the three ball while Quinton will rough you up down low with his strength.

Still, LSU has a fair number of "ifs" going into this contest.

If LSU plays UNC in the second round, then they'll have to find a way to stop Tyler Hansbrough to have a chance. The Tigers should have Ty Lawson, Danny Green, and Wayne Ellington held in check by Bo Spencer, Marcus Thornton, and Garrett Temple.

The question is where to put Chris and Tasmin. Chris is too light to go up against Hansbrough, and Tasmin too short. The only other option would be to put Quinton on "Psycho T" to slow him. In that case, either Chris or Tasmin would rotate to Deon Thompson.

Only time will tell if LSU can pull it off and make it to the Sweet Sixteen, where they would probably play either Gonzaga or Illinois. For now, LSU needs to focus on the game at hand.