Previewing LSU

Thornton

While the power rankings say it was a down year for the SEC, the LSU Tigers were the pride of the conference in winning the league title with the player of the year and coach of the year. LSU and North Carolina tip-off Saturday's NCAA Tournament second round matchup at 5:45 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.

#1 North Carolina (29-4) vs. #8 LSU (27-7)
Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum
5:45pm, CBS

Quotables

"If it's North Carolina, I think we have an advantage because our basketball coach is light years brighter than Roy Williams... No, we're just going to come out and be ready to play. We're thankful to be playing." – LSU head coach Trent Johnson, a long-time friend of Williams

"You can't replace a Ty Lawson. He's the head of their offense. He makes everything go. But preparing for him? We prepare for him just like he's going to play. We're not taking anything for granted. We're going to prepare for him like he's going to come out there and lead the team." – LSU forward Tasmin Mitchell

"Tyler [Hansbrough] reminds me of a guy when I was an assistant coach at Stanford by the name of Mark Madsen. What I mean by that is he's relentless. His effort is there for 40 minutes. He's a special player… For us, we need to make him work for everything he gets. We need to make sure we concentrate and get him a man, to half down, and cover down off the post and don't give him good angles to the basket. If we do, he can really dominate the game." – Johnson

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: LSU enters Saturday's NCAA second round with a 27-7 (13-3 SEC) record. Head coach Trent Johnson's squad won the Southeastern Conference regular season title, using a 13-game winning streak after opening the league slate with a loss at Alabama. The Tigers did falter down the stretch, losing three of their last four games against conference foes, including a 67-57 defeat in the SEC Tournament to eventual winner Mississippi State.

NCAA Tournament Results: The No. 8 Tigers outlasted No. 9 seed Butler, 75-71, in opening round action in Greensboro on Thursday. LSU shot 49.1 percent (27-of-55, 6-of-14 from 3-point range) for the game, while hitting 15-of-21 free throws. Butler outrebounded the Tigers, 34-30, while managing just 42.3 percent from the floor. The Tigers will be trying to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006, for the third time in the 2000s and for the 14th time overall.

Shooting Star: Marcus Thornton entered the NCAA Tournament as the SEC Player of the year, and the senior backed up that award with a 30-point performance against the Bulldogs, drilling 10 of his 15 field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Baton Rouge, La. Product is averaging 21.0 points and 5.5 rebounds on the season, and has scored 30 points or more on 30 different occasions throughout his career.

Tasmanian Devil: Former North Carolina recruit Tasmin Mitchell is providing the inside to Thornton's outside, averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds from his forward position. The 6-foot-7, 235-pounder has posted 16 double-doubles on the season, and displayed his scoring prowess in a 41-point performance over Miss. St. on Feb. 11 – the first time a LSU player scored over 40 since 1995.

Consistent Effort: LSU's run to the SEC regular season title occurred due to the Tigers' ability to perform on both sides of the court. They ranked sixth in the league in field goal percentage (44.8), while holding their opponents to 40.5 percent, good for fourth in the conference. LSU ranked first in rebounding margin (plus-5.3), while coughing up just 12.1 turnovers per outing.

Last Meeting: North Carolina and LSU last met on Dec. 18, 1996, in the Greensboro Coliseum. The Tar Heels defeated the Tigers, 67-48, in what eventually became the final seasons for both Dean Smith and Dale Brown.

Series History: North Carolina holds a 9-2 series advantage over LSU. Saturday's game will mark the first NCAA Tournament meeting between the Tar Heels and the Tigers.

Projected Starters:
11 Bo Spencer (6-1, 185, So.) – 11.5 ppg, 2.7 apg
 5 Marcus Thornton (6-4, 205, Sr.) – 21.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg
14 Garrett Temple (6-6, 190, Sr.) – 7.1 ppg, 3.8 apg
 1 Tasmin Mitchell (6-7, 235, Jr.) - 16.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg
21 Chris Johnson (6-11, 210, Sr.) – 7.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Key Reserves:
13 Terry Martin (6-6, 210, Sr.) – 4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg
32 Quintin Thornton (6-9, 240, Sr.) – 2.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg

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