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Following a poor season in which the team finished below .500 and below expectations, LSU Tigers basketball looks to rebound despite the departure of one of the team's key cogs. However, the cupboard is not bare for new coach Trent Johnson, and LSU is a team to watch in the SEC this season.
LSU will have to overcome the departure of Anthony Randolph, who left for the pros following the 2007-8 season. Randolph took with him the 2nd leading scoring average (15.6 ppg) and the team's leading rebounding average (8.5 rpg). However, despite the value of Randolph to the team, there is reason to believe that LSU may turn things around quickly under Johnson.
First and foremost, the Tigers are counting on a number of their returning players to shoulder the load of the loss of Randolph. None of these returning players are as important as returning starter Marcus Thornton Jr, who led the team in scoring last season, at 19.6 ppg. Thornton will also be expected to shoulder some of the lost rebounding and hopefully improve upon his 5.6 rpg output, as will returning center Chris Johnson. Another big wildcard is the return of Tasmin Mitchell, who is immensely talented, but missed most of last season due to injury.
The incoming class of freshman could yield some potential stars for LSU, and LSU's chances at a improved 2008-9 are dependant on getting at least some contribution from their youngsters. J'Mison Morgan is one of the best incoming big men in the SEC, and is expected to contribute over the course of the season. Delwan Graham is also expected to make his way onto the court at some point this season, and could provide a spark on the inside.
2008-9 is a real question mark for LSU on many levels. How will the team adapt without its star Anthony Randolph? How will the team respond to new head coach Trent Johnson? Will Tasmin Mitchell rebound from his injury? Will the youngsters and role players contribute to a level that they are able to overcome the loss of Randolph? The feeling here is that things come together for LSU, and the team rebounds from a dismal 2007-8 to post a strong 2008-9 season, which will end in an NCAA Tournament berth.
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