College Basketball Nation: Trent Johnson

It left Kansas fans disgusted, TCU fans dumbstruck, and Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson wandering among court-storming students, offering high-fives and twirling around and looking like a man who had no idea what to do next.

It was the biggest upset of the season. It was also the weirdest.

Wipe your eyes as many times as you like. It happened. The previously 9-12 TCU Horned Frogs, losers of their previous eight games, owners of the 330th-ranked efficiency offense in the country prior to Wednesday night, really did upset the No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 62-55 in Fort Worth -- the first win over a top-five team in program history.

The obvious question is: How? How does a team so good, so routinely effective both at home and on the road, lose to such a dismal outfit like TCU? How does it trail the entire game behind a Horned Frogs team that was not only 0-8 in the Big 12, but one that had not played to within eight points of any league opponent and was coming off three straight blowout losses to decidedly mediocre teams (21 to WVU, 26 to Baylor, 17 to Texas)?

Here's where the weirdness comes in: Kansas shot just 29.5 percent from the field -- 18-of-61 -- and just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore, the man who saved Kansas from a home upset to Iowa State with a 33-point, 10-for-12 night Jan. 9, went just 6-of-16 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3. Jeff Withey was effective but rarely touched the ball. Reserve guard Naadir Tharpe attempted a borderline-shocking 15 field goals -- Tharpe should never shoot the ball 15 times -- and made just two of them. And then there was Elijah Johnson, who, already firmly ensconced in Bill Self's doghouse, continued not only his shooting slump but his streak of poor decision-making and ill-timed turnovers.

[+] EnlargeGarlon Green
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsGarlon Green gets the hero treatment after his game-high 20 points in the upset of Kansas.
It would be unfair to place all the blame for the loss at the Jayhawks' feet, to ignore what TCU did well in its own right. So: The Horned Frogs drew 29 fouls and shot 38 free throws, not all of which were the product of the Jayhawks' last-ditch attempts at a comeback. Johnson's team -- who you don't know, but which includes guys with awesome names like Nate Butler Lind, Connell Crossland, Adrick McKinney, Garlon Green and Kyan Anderson, and that's just the starters -- made enough of those free throws down the stretch to maintain a lead. It also took care of the ball when it needed to, grabbed timely rebounds, and got stops. Kansas doesn't shoot 30 percent in an empty gym.

Even so, you couldn't watch this game and not come away more willing to indict Kansas than praise TCU. I mean, good for the Horned Frogs -- this is a rare moment in the sun for a program with almost no historical relevance whatsoever, and it should be enjoyed as such. But it was Kansas that failed to pressure the Horned Frogs well enough to generate easy points; it was Kansas that squandered mini-run after mini-run, and flung brick after increasingly forlorn brick into the unforgiving iron.

All the while, TCU fans -- who were possibly out-attended by Kansas fans -- had no idea what to do. At one point, the ESPNU cameras showed the Horned Frogs cheerleaders jumping around and cheering seemingly at random, and while cheer groups do that all the time, I joked that it was probably because they hadn't drilled for the possibility of actually, you know, cheering. It felt that way: TCU fans mustered a "T-C-U, T-C-U" midway through the second half, but mostly they just seemed to sit there and do their best to process the weirdness happening in front of them.

Then they stormed the court.

That's when Johnson, in a move reminiscent of the classic clip of NC State coach Jim Valvano, started to walk off the court, then thought better of it, then offered a few high-fives to onrushing fans -- he, like the rest of the arena, looked like he had no idea what to make of anything happened around him.

Understandably so. It was that big -- and that weird -- of an upset.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

January, 18, 2013
Kansas State has moved up a spot in this week's Big 12 power rankings -- and the Wildcats could be even higher by this time next week if they capitalize on two huge opportunities in the coming days. K-State's next two games are against Oklahoma and Kansas -- both at home. The Sooners and Jayhawks are the only schools in the Big 12 besides K-State that have yet to lose a league game. Should be a fun week. Here are the latest rankings.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks' offense has sputtered a bit lately, but defensively Bill Self's squad has been stout. The Jayhawks held Baylor to 44 points on 23.2 percent shooting Monday. Leading scorer Ben McLemore injured his ankle but is expected to play against Texas on Saturday in Austin.

2. Iowa State. After nearly upsetting KU in Lawrence nine days ago, Iowa State has defeated Texas by 20 points and staved off a late rally by West Virginia. The Cyclones' next two games are road tilts against the league's worst two teams: TCU and Texas Tech.

3. Kansas State. No other player in the Big 12 has been as good as Rodney McGruder since the beginning of conference play. The senior is averaging 22 points per game against Big 12 opponents and is shooting 54 percent from the field. Center Jordan Henriquez has given his team a nice boost off the bench in recent weeks.

4. Baylor. The Bears can't be as bad as they looked against Kansas on Monday, can they? Baylor is in for a long Big 12 season if it doesn't show more discipline and start taking better shots. Baylor plays a nonconference game against Hardin-Simmons on Saturday before hosting Oklahoma State in a crucial contest Monday night.

5. Oklahoma. The Sooners hit the jackpot by hiring Lon Kruger. Oklahoma is one of the league's three remaining undefeated teams along with Kansas and K-State. Romero Osby leads the team in points (13.7) and rebounds (6.3). Saturday's game at K-State is huge for both teams. Four of OU's next six games are on the road.

6. Oklahoma State. By the time they take the court for Saturday's game against Texas Tech, the Cowboys will have had a week to think about last weekend's 77-68 loss to rival Oklahoma in Norman. Marcus Smart has shown great leadership, but he's shooting just 41.3 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from 3-point range.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers haven't lived up to their expectations, but they certainly appear to be getting better, especially in the toughness department. Bob Huggins' squad erased an 18-point second-half deficit against Iowa State but lost when Cyclones forward Georges Niang hit a layup with 2.5 seconds remaining. WVU is a threat to beat anyone in the conference.

8. Texas. The Longhorns have lost four of their past five games, including two in overtime. With Kansas visiting this weekend, things probably won't get better soon. Sheldon McClellan played just one minute in last weekend's 20-point loss to Iowa State as coach Rick Barnes, displeased with McClellan's effort, sent the team's leading scorer a message.

9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker's squad has lost its past three Big 12 games by an average of 22 points. Jaye Crockett leads the team in points (13.8) and rebounds (8.3). Texas Tech's next two games (at Oklahoma State on Saturday and at home against Iowa State on Wednesday) will be tough. But a Jan. 26 tilt at Texas could be interesting.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs led Baylor at halftime Saturday before losing 51-40. Trent Johnson's squad simply doesn't have the personnel to compete with major college schools. No one would be surprised if TCU finished 0-18 in league play.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 21, 2012
A Big 12 team other than Kansas finally picked up a quality nonconference victory when Texas upset North Carolina in Austin on Wednesday. Don’t get too excited, though. This league still has a long way to go. Here are this week’s power rankings.

1. Kansas. Saturday’s tilt with No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus will be the first true road game for Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks’ three most recent victories -- against Colorado, Belmont and Richmond -- came by an average of 31 points. Jeff Withey leads the nation with 5.4 blocks per game.

2. Oklahoma State. Kudos to the Cowboys, who have won four straight since losing at Virginia Tech on Dec. 1. Travis Ford’s squad, which gets a combined 30.2 points per game from Le’Bryan Nash and Markel Brown, hosts Tennessee Tech on Saturday and then has eight days off before a New Year’s Eve date with Gonzaga in Stillwater.

3. Iowa State. Christmas has come early for the Cyclones, who don’t play again until Jan. 1. Guard Tyrus McGee has been playing extremely well for Fred Hoiberg’s squad. He’s averaging 13.3 points and shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. Iowa State is 9-3 with losses to Cincinnati, UNLV and Iowa.

4. Baylor. The Bears host Brigham Young on Friday. They. Have. To. Win. Seriously, a team that’s already toting home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern can’t afford to drop another non-league game against an inferior opponent. Baylor has zero chemistry on offense.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats’ two losses are to Michigan (in New York) and to Gonzaga (in Seattle. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, even against mediocre teams at home, Kansas State has struggled to score. That’s not a good thing for a team that takes on Florida on Saturday in Kansas City.

6. Texas. Myck Kabongo won’t play for the Longhorns this season, but Texas didn’t even need him during Wednesday’s 85-67 whacking of an alarmingly sloppy, uninspired North Carolina club. Texas, which is getting 15.5 points from Sheldon McClellan, could pick up some additional momentum with a victory at Michigan State on Saturday.

7. Oklahoma. Wouldn’t you know it? The minute I start complimenting the Sooners for the strides they’ve made under Lon Kruger, Oklahoma goes out and drops a game to Stephen F. Austin. That’s inexcusable, boys. The Sooners' next game, a Dec. 29 visit from Ohio University, won’t be a cakewalk.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers ended a two-game losing streak by squeaking past Oakland on Wednesday. Still, Bob Huggins’ squad may be the Big 12’s biggest disappointment thus far. Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten are averaging a collective 20.5 points.

9. Texas Tech. Chris Walker is going to have a tough time earning the permanent head-coaching position if his team can’t beat McNeese State at home. The Red Raiders showed some fight against Alabama three nights later but still lost 66-62. Arizona State, Saturday’s opponent, is pesky.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs haven’t caught any breaks in Trent Johnson’s first season. Aaron Durley and Amric Fields were both lost to ACL injuries, and now Jarvis Ray is out six to eight weeks with a broken foot.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

December, 7, 2012
Last season, the Pac-12 was the toughest conference in the country to power-rank each week. This season, that honor falls on the Big 12. Other than Kansas, the league is filled with mediocre teams that -- at least for now -- don’t appear to have much potential for a deep run in March. But hey, on the positive side, the parity will make for some close, exciting games once Big 12 play begins in January. Here is how the conference looks thus far.

1. Kansas. The Jayhawks clearly have separated themselves from the rest of the Big 12, yet even Bill Self will admit his squad hasn’t looked all that great. Chemistry and depth are issues in the backcourt, and Kansas still is searching for a leader. Saturday’s home game against Colorado is scary.

2. Iowa State. As I mentioned, ranking the Big 12 is a crapshoot at this point, but Iowa State is 6-2 with losses against a pair of ranked teams (Cincinnati and UNLV). The Cyclones boast plenty of weapons with Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. And they’ve got a great coach. Good enough for me.

3. Oklahoma State. I know Virginia Tech has surprised some people, but the Cowboys still shouldn’t have lost to the Hokies by double figures last week in Blacksburg. Travis Ford’s team is too talented to let that happen. Oklahoma State deserves credit, however, for bouncing back with a nice effort in Wednesday’ 61-49 home victory over South Florida.

4. Kansas State. Rodney McGruder appears to have snapped out of his funk and is averaging 19 points in his past two games. Kansas State has played just one good team (Michigan) and lost handily. It’s tough to get a read on the Wildcats at this point, but they’re definitely one of the more experienced squads in the conference.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger has made the Sooners relevant again. Oklahoma competed its tail off before losing to Arkansas 81-78 in a difficult road environment Tuesday. Romero Osby is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game for the Sooners, who are off until Dec. 15.

6. Baylor. It seems unheard of for a team to beat Kentucky in Lexington and then drop four spots in the power rankings. But the Bears can’t be trusted. Not yet, at least. Considering its depth and talent, Baylor’s home losses to College of Charleston and Northwestern were two of the worst setbacks by any Division I team all season. And it easily could have lost to downtrodden Boston College. There’s no excuse for this team to be playing so sloppily and uninspired.

7. West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be on an upswing following Wednesday’s victory over a solid Marshall team, although the victory was marred by a near-brawl that led to the ejections of four WVU players for leaving the bench. Bob Huggins’ squad could gain even more momentum by beating undefeated Virginia Tech on Saturday.

8. Texas. As if a 12-point loss to Division II Chaminade wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Longhorns scored a measly 41 points in Tuesday’s setback against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic. Even the return of point guard Myck Kabongo might not be enough to save Rick Barnes’ team, which plays UCLA on Saturday in Houston.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders finally played a quality opponent last week and, predictably, got exposed in an 85-57 loss to Arizona. Still, there are reasons for optimism in Lubbock. Guard Josh Gray is averaging three steals, and Jaye Crockett is scoring 15.3 points per game. This team will win some Big 12 games, and not just against TCU.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs lost to Houston on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back at Tulsa on Saturday. Coach Trent Johnson is doing well on the recruiting trail but simply lacks the personnel to win many games during his first season in Fort Worth.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

November, 30, 2012
While most Big 12 programs are mired in a “transition year,” the team at the top -- not surprisingly -- remains the same. Ranking the league beyond Kansas isn’t quite as simple, but here’s my best guess three weeks into the season.

1. Kansas. Jeff Withey leads the Jayhawks in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (8.7) -- and his 6.2 blocks per game rank first in the nation. Kansas, though, needs to improve its outside shooting. Bill Self’s squad is making just 29.6 percent of its 3-pointers. KU needs more leadership from senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

2. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ victories over Tennessee and North Carolina State are the two best wins of the season by any Big 12 team. Guard Marcus Smart is playing as well as any freshman in the country and Le’Bryan Nash has made noticeable strides.

3. Kansas State. Wildcats fans were upset that K-State lost to No. 3 Michigan. But seriously ... who thought they had a chance to win that game? Bruce Weber is doing a nice job as he experiments with his roster. Eleven players are averaging double-digit minutes. That’s too many.

4. Baylor. The league’s most talented team has been its biggest disappointment thus far. The Bears lost a two-point heartbreaker to Colorado, but the game would’ve been lopsided if the Buffaloes had hit their free throws. Even without Brady Heslip, losing at home to Charleston was inexcusable. A victory against a vulnerable Kentucky squad in Lexington on Saturday could get Baylor back on track.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger is in just his second season in Norman and already the hire is paying off. The Sooners are 5-1, with the only setback coming against a top-10-caliber Gonzaga squad. Four of Oklahoma’s five victories have come by single digits. A win at Arkansas on Tuesday would be huge.

6. Iowa State. The Cyclones have the potential to move all the way up to No. 2 in these rankings -- especially during a down year for the league. Iowa State’s two losses came against ranked teams (UNLV and Cincinnati) and Fred Hoiberg’s squad performed admirably in both games. Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious (28.6 field goal percentage) needs to get on track.

7. Texas. The Longhorns’ 13-point loss to Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational ranks as one of the worst setbacks in Big 12 history. This team has no chance of making the NCAA tournament unless the NCAA clears point guard Myck Kabongo. And even that might not be enough to save a squad with one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Texas plays Georgetown on Tuesday.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers are attempting to incorporate three transfers into their rotation, and it isn’t working. At least not yet. Bob Huggins’ squad is shooting just 41.2 percent overall, and point guard Juwan Staten is only averaging 1.8 assists. Upcoming games against Marshall and Virginia Tech won’t be easy.

9. Texas Tech. Interim head coach Chris Walker has made a good impression thus far -- but the undefeated Red Raiders haven’t played anyone. That, of course, was by design as Texas Tech tries to build momentum for its dormant program. Saturday’s home game against No. 9 Arizona will be Texas Tech’s first test against a formidable opponent.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs have won five games by single digits, but none of those victories came against good teams. The most telling score is a 24-point loss to Northwestern, in which TCU only scored 31 points. Trent Johnson’s squad averages just 55.3 points per game.
1. It will be interesting to hear how Trent Johnson explains why he’s leaving LSU for TCU. Comparing these two basketball jobs isn’t close. LSU has a rich history in the sport. TCU does not. LSU plays in the SEC where there is constant stability, access to a wider talent pool, and plenty of money. TCU joins the Big 12 in the fall where the Horned Frogs should feel more at home, but still aren’t close to the top of the pecking order in the state. Johnson was coaching at a high level when he was at Stanford. He took a gamble by leaving his native West for the Southeast but he left too soon. The money was more at LSU and reportedly even more so at TCU. But the best job he had for him was at Stanford.

2. Now LSU athletic director Joe Alleva needs to make the right hire to replace Johnson. North Texas coach Johnny Jones has strong ties to LSU and to the region. Jones tried to get the job before Johnson but to no avail. He has done wonders at North Texas, a school that is consistently in the Sun Belt chase. Alleva went out of region in luring Johnson from Stanford. This time, he should go with someone familiar with the area and especially the SEC. This is a critical time in the league: the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, Frank Martin now coaching at South Carolina, and an increase to 18 conference games. Not to mention, of course, the dominant teams already at the top of the league led by Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt.

3. Thomas Robinson is a great example of a player who maxed out his career in college over a three-year period and is now ready to play in the NBA. He wasn’t a year ago. He had an exemplary season, led Kansas to the national title game, and now enters the NBA as a player who can contribute, not just be a high draft pick.

Casting our ballots: SEC

February, 29, 2012
Editor’s Note: To see our expert picks for each of the nation’s 12 top conferences, click here. To cast your vote in these races, visit SportsNation.

A quick assessment of the player and coach of the year races in the SEC:

Player of the year

No player in the SEC has altered the outcome of games more than Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis. Opposing coaches have to worry about him blocking, altering and affecting shots before they’ve even been attempted.

[+] EnlargeDavis
Mark Zerof/US PresswireKentucky freshman Anthony Davis has been the most dominant player in the SEC this season.
He is now scoring facing the basket as well as on the offensive backboard, on the break or on an alley-oop. He had his most complete performance against Vanderbilt last weekend with 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Davis was seen as a huge get for John Calipari last spring because of his ability to dominate the defensive end. But his evolution as an offensive threat has made him a complete player, Kentucky a national title contender and Davis the SEC player of the year -- and possibly the national player of the year as he tussles with Thomas Robinson of Kansas.

If there was a No. 2 in the SEC race, then it might be Davis’ teammate in Lexington, fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins have put up great numbers, but haven't always been great in the biggest games as the Commodores vacillated between a true contender and a team that is a notch below the Wildcats.

Coach of the year

You could make a case for Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin or maybe LSU’s Trent Johnson if either of those schools finishes in the top four, which is still plausible here in the final week of the regular season. Both of those programs were picked to finish in the bottom third of the league and both coaches have done outstanding jobs surviving rough stretches of play.

But really, there is no other choice than John Calipari. Kentucky’s dominance in the SEC has been as impressive as the sport has seen in a power-six conference this season. For the third straight season, Calipari has taken a team led by freshmen and risen to the top of the league.

Calipari has managed sophomore Terrence Jones well and found a way to work around a still-developing Marquis Teague at the point. Davis has continued to become a complete player by being a much more offensive presence to match his dominance on the back line. Kidd-Gilchrist has been the most impressive offensive player with the Cats and their hardest worker. Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Kyle Wiltjer have all had their moments.

Calipari has blended each one of them and used them effectively. The road woes of a year ago are no more. This may not be his most talented team at Kentucky (the first one still holds that distinction), but it clearly is his best shot at winning a national title.

Kentucky obviously has the most talent of any team in the SEC, but Calipari still had to manage it and win consistently. He’s done that without a hiccup. He’s the SEC Coach of the Year.

LSU is back on track after beating Marquette

December, 20, 2011

LSU senior Storm Warren has gone through the frustration of back-to-back seasons with last-place finishes. But on Monday with the Tigers knocked off previously unbeaten Marquette, he made a statement with the dunk of the day.

"This game shows us that the work we've put in and our dedication and commitment that we have to each other and on our defense pays off," Warren told reporters. "Our team members and fans really helped out a lot. Our confidence has been up."

LSU is off to an 8-3 start, with Trent Johnson's young team showing that it could become a contender in the SEC considering how it battled back against Marquette.

The Tigers not only trailed 13-0, but also were playing without leading scorer Andre Stringer, who has been out indefinitely since fainting during a practice earlier this month.

Yet behind sophomore Ralston Turner and Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton, they managed to pull off the upset. Another talented young player, McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant III, recently entered the starting lineup and adds to the frontcourt.

Still, Johnson, who found success at Nevada and Stanford before arriving at LSU, is quick to not get too excited about all this just yet.

"Again, I don't want to take away from the guys' excitement and enjoyment, but it is one win," Johnson told reporters. "Like I told them going into the game, regardless of what happens, there is still a lot of basketball that needs to be played."

Trent Johnson will pelt you with a dodgeball

October, 12, 2011

Crop this image of LSU coach Trent Johnson in The Daily Reveille from the waist up, and it appears he might be trying to get the attention of one of his players or a referee during an intense game. But while gripping a dodgeball with his right hand, the overall picture becomes hilarious.

Johnson was an active participant in Tuesday's Maravich Maniacs dodgeball tournament as he was last year. A highlight reel of the event shows another side to Johnson as he jokingly declined a pregame handshake before mercilessly pelting students with dodgeballs and getting hit with them as well. It seemed to be a good workout and tons of fun for Johnson as well as his players and staff.
"Obviously at my age, you don't have very many opportunities to come out meeting with the students and meeting with the ever-loving fun media when they're not asking you however many questions," Johnson said. "I thought it was a great, great time. A great experience because we won!

"In all seriousness, it's great fun with the students to get out here and interact with the players. Obviously, we've had a lot of fun. I think it's good for them to see us as players and coaches in a different light."

Johnson also spent this offseason challenging his sports information director, Kent Lowe, to a bowling contest when the coach hadn't bowled before in his life. It showed he was willing to laugh at himself. At the dodgeball tournament, Johnson and his staff even took on a team of media members and won.

Now at the Maravich Center, Johnson just has to come away with some more victories this season.

LSU honors Shaq with 900-pound statue

September, 9, 2011

Blown away, the Big Aristotle had expected something smaller.

When Shaquille O'Neal was informed that LSU would be honoring him with a statue dunking the basketball in a Tigers uniform outside the program's new practice facility, the former All-American couldn't have imagined being depicted in 900 pounds of bronze.

"I had no idea that it was that big," O'Neal told reporters Thursday. "I thought it was going to be like some little thing, but I think it's beautiful.

"I'm not just saying it because it's me, but that right there is the probably best sculpture in the country. It really is. It's fabulous."

O'Neal said he would call the statue "the Big Bronze" and that at times he thought current LSU coach Trent Johnson was joking when he kept e-mailing photos of what the sculpture would look like.

But what about Shaq wasn't big? There was his size and there was his production, as he racked up 1,941 points and 1,217 rebounds in three seasons at LSU and became national player of the year in 1991. He said the reason he came to LSU -- joking that he chose it over "B.S. colleges like Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida" -- was because of then-coach Dale Brown.

Not everyone is happy O'Neal was honored with a statue, but he did graduate from LSU, and now after retiring from basketball, he is planning to get his doctorate from the school. He said his nearly-completed dissertation is on "The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles."

"A lot of people don't know this, but hopefully I will graduate in December and become Dr. O'Neal," he told reporters. "I've been working on that the past four years. I didn't want to let a lot of people know until I actually became a doctor. I'm working on my dissertation now, and hopefully I pass that, and I'll be Dr. O'Neal. Unfortunately, I will no longer answer to 'Shaq.'"

No matter. With the statue, Shaq's outsized personality and legacy at LSU has been immortalized.

Another LSU player transfers

August, 8, 2011
LSU has now seen its fifth, sixth and seventh-leading scorers from a year ago leave the program this offseason after it was announced that Matt Derenbecker had decided to withdraw from school in order to address personal matters.

As a freshman, Derenbecker started 15 of 16 SEC games and averaged 6.5 points. The departures of he and senior Garrett Green, who is transferring to San Diego State to attend graduate school, were not expected because both traveled with the Tigers on their tour of Italy in May. Aaron Dotson transferred to Utah to be closer to his mother.

Taken all together, the losses certainly hurt the team, but coach Trent Johnson sounded more concerned about Derenbecker in his statement today.

"Matt is going through a tough time right now," Johnson said. "Playing basketball is not important. We wish him the best as he moves forward."

Derenbecker said in a statement he would take time away from basketball, and an Associated Press report indicates at least part of the issue involved academics.
His father, John Derenbecker, said his son is academically eligible to continue playing for the Tigers, but has struggled to meet "personal standards" as it relates to his course work.

"Matt has to become more adept at balancing all of the requirements of being a student-athlete and that begins with the academic side of it," said John Derenbecker, a former Vanderbilt basketball player. "He is eligible, but he can do better in the classroom and that has always been our major emphasis."

In any case, LSU has to hope that its freshman class highlighted by McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant makes an impact alongside its top four returning scorers.

Behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt, there is a chance for many teams in the SEC to improve in the standings. For the Tigers, who finished last in the SEC last season, losing the transfers doesn't help.

Johnny O'Bryant hopes to go one-and-done

July, 19, 2011
The addition of freshman Johnny O'Bryant at LSU is a big deal. Bringing in a 6-foot-9 McDonald's All-American who has a presence on the block should do wonders for a team coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons and last-place finishes in the SEC.

LSU made its freshmen available to the media on Monday, and O'Bryant was open about the high expectations for himself. In fact, he already has the NBA draft on his mind before having played in college.

[+] EnlargeJohnny O'Bryant
AP Photo/Brian KerseyIncoming LSU freshman Johnny O'Bryant has NBA aspirations.
From the Times-Picayune:
O'Bryant said he's aware of the expectations among Tigers fans that he will help turn the program in a positive direction. One question mark will be how long he stays. If he improves at an accelerated rate, he could declare early for the NBA draft.

"Of course, I want to have a big impact from Day One," he said. "When I signed, I knew a lot would be expected of me. I'm going to accept the role and try my hardest to get better each day. (On the NBA) I just know if I come out and play hard, let the NBA decide. Hopefully, I won't be too long, but if I do, (I'll) try to help the team."

When asked if he would like to be a one-and-done player he added: "Of course."

Coach Trent Johnson would love it if O'Bryant came through with the kind of freshman season that would warrant his young big man some one-and-done consideration. But the idea of losing a talent with clearly-stated NBA aspirations like O'Bryant so soon can't be easy to hear at a time when his college career is months away from beginning. Ideally for Johnson, O'Bryant would have a long-lasting impact on the program.

O'Bryant realizes he'll have to work to be one-and-done and told reporters his first order of business is to lose 10 pounds to get down to his listed weight of 250 pounds.

"I'm just the type of person that wants to come in and work hard," O'Bryant told reporters. "The transition is hard. The game is much faster and everybody is much stronger and athletic. I just want to come in from day one and do everything I can to help. I am not making any promises, I am just going to try my best to help as much as possible.

"I do not think there is any pressure. Coach [Trent] Johnson and I have sat down and talked a lot. I am going to do what I can, but if I am the only one doing something then there is no team."

Trent Johnson hilariously tries bowling

June, 21, 2011
The dog days of summer are no fun for the college basketball fan looking to pass the time, and for a coach looking to fill the void with intense competition, it can apparently drive you a little stir-crazy.

So LSU's Trent Johnson took up bowling. According to WVLA-TV, the veteran coach recently put on brightly colored shoes and threw a bowling ball for the first time with mixed results.

Johnson wanted to challenge Kent Lowe, the team's sports information director and resident bowling enthusiast, and the two faced off at Circle Bowl Action Alley. The sign outside where the showdown took place read, "Trent vs. Kent tonight," and fans gathered inside to take in the action. Johnson responded by ending up on the floor after rolling a gutter ball and wildly celebrating picking up a spare.

Johnson lost to Lowe, but is happy with the way the offseason has gone overall. The Tigers got an early start with their tour of Italy in May and went undefeated on the trip while trying out some things in a motion offense.

"They were obviously a little tired and a little fatigued, but I know they have all said they enjoyed the experience and the trip," Johnson told reporters. "That's what winning does for you. It was a great experience, but more than a great experience it was productive for our basketball team and our basketball program moving forward."

After returning home, Johnson was relaxed enough to start training for the bowling event. He had his staff rolling as he used basketballs and bottles of iced tea to practice in the hallways at the office, getting all fired up over the strikes.

LSU is smiling right now, and it's only June.

Trent Johnson gets vote of confidence

February, 17, 2011
LSU has lost eight straight games heading into tonight's game against Alabama, with the Tigers 10-15 this season under third-year coach Trent Johnson.

Johnson did get a vote of confidence from athletic director Joe Alleva despite losing streak, according to The Times-Picayune.
"I don't care if we lose 20 games in a row this year, the program is in good shape and is going to be just fine," said Alleva, who hired Johnson.

"You've just got to let it play out. I see a lot of good things for next year. People just need to have some patience."

Said Johnson: "The bottom line is we're 10-15 despite three or four games that could have gone either way. Nobody feels worse than the players or I do. Everybody wants instant gratification; they don't have patience right now. I understand. But I always believed it's better to understand than to be understood."

Johnson doesn't have a senior on his roster and has dealt with some injuries, but the hope is that things get better next year with the arrival of McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant, who ESPNU has rated as the No. 7 power forward recruit in the nation.

Still, with LSU at this point in the season still not having eclipsed last year's 11-win total and the Tigers having already tasted success under Johnson with a 27-win season in his first year, fans might already be turning their attention to football with spring ball coming soon.

And according to Louisiana Gannett, the basketball games aren't exactly a hot ticket for the football team:
Basketball games at LSU used to be popular spots for football players, football coach Les Miles, his assistants and recruits. Bringing a recruit to a basketball game at LSU or Auburn these days could mean an immediate de-visit. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who hired basketball coach Trent Johnson after the 2007-08 season, has not even been to a lot of games.

7-foot-2 tuba player walks on at LSU

September, 23, 2010
Tuba player Andrew Del Piero has been a member of the LSU Tiger Marching Band for the past two years, and now he's going from playing music in support of LSU athletics to playing for the basketball team.

LSU coach Trent Johnson added Del Piero to the roster as a walk-on despite him having played only one year of high school basketball in Texas, but there's a perfectly good reason for adding a guy with double the tuba playing experience.

This music major is listed at 7-foot-2, 286 pounds, making him the program's first 7-footer since 1992, according to the Daily Reveille.
"Andrew is a young man that hasn't played a lot, but we knew of him last year," Johnson said. "Anytime you see a guy in the band walking along with that size, you're like ‘Oh my goodness.'"


"His biggest contribution that he can give us is once he gets to practice, he can assimilate some size against some of the people we're going to be playing," Johnson said. "But our expectations for him are just to enjoy it, get through this year, work hard and have fun."

Johnson isn't the only one to have marveled at his previously undiscovered talent.

An LSU blog, And The Valley Shook, discovered a YouTube video entitled "Tallest Tuba Player I've Ever Seen" that appears to show Del Pietro marching with the band after last year's LSU football game against Alabama.

At the sight of the giant, people can be heard saying, "There's our left tackle. Holy crap. Wow! Is he on the basketball team?"

He is now.