2013-14 Preview: LSU Tigers

Johnny O'Bryant must pick up the scoring slack for LSU in 2013-14. AP Photo/Dave Martin

LSU Tigers

2012-13: 19-12 (9-9 SEC)
In-conference offense: 0.99 points per possession (6th)
In-conference defense: 1.01 points allowed per possession (9th)

The SEC outside of Kentucky and Florida is often said to be an arid and apathetic wasteland for hoops, a strange realm where football absorbs all the attention and basketball will always be an afterthought. And by "often said," I mean that sounds pretty accurate, actually.

But say this for LSU. There aren't many places more football-mad than Baton Rouge, goodness knows, and on the basketball court the Tigers gave fans every reason to be apathetic during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons: Pete Maravich's alma mater went 5-27 in the league over those two campaigns. Yet even in this most SEC of locales, it's possible for a downtrodden hoops program to pull itself up by its high tops and chart an unmistakable resurgence.

LSU went a very respectable 9-9 in conference play last season, and Johnny Jones' men should do better than that in their coach's second season at the helm. So basketball improvement in the heart of football country is indeed attainable. Keep hope alive, Auburn.

Mind you, Jones already has had to navigate some rough patches. LSU opened SEC play in 2012-13 at 0-4, courtesy of what was arguably the team's worst basketball of the season. There's no shame in getting blown out at home by Florida, surely, but losing on the road to Auburn and, especially, at home to South Carolina -- even in overtime -- is not the kind of conduct one expects from a program on the rise. Win just those two games, and LSU finishes SEC play 11-7 and, who knows, possibly elbows its way into the bubble discussion. No one was paying much attention at the time, but it was a fateful stretch for the Tigers.