Although they have a 17-13 record, LSU was selected for the tournament because of their success against ranked teams this season. They play in the SEC, which is kind of like playing in the WNBA. Tennessee and South Carolina are practically invincible, and with Kentucky, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, the conference currently boasts five ranked teams. Three of them have lost to LSU this year. Seven SEC teams have made it to the tournament, and none have been eliminated yet. LSU is one of those really good teams in a really great conference.
The Tigers go dancing almost every year (13 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1997) and normally go deep, having been to the Final Four five times. They have improved much this season and overcome early losses to Arkansas Little Rock and Long Beach State to record ten conference victories, including upsets over the aforementioned Wildcats, Aggies and Bulldogs. In the SEC semifinals, LSU led South Carolina for more than half of the game before getting gassed and eventually losing by 20 points.
LSU is led by First Team All-SEC guard Danielle Ballard, who averages 14 points and seven rebounds per game. Her good hands also get her three steals and three assists per game. Last year at this time she really came alive, recording a double-double in each tournament game to lead seventh-seeded LSU as far as the Sweet Sixteen.
Also threatening from the guard position are senior DaShawn Harden and sophomore Raigyne Moncrief. Harden is a serious sharpshooter; she hit five of five from beyond the arc in the first half against South Carolina in her last outing. She averages eleven points per game overall, but is currently on a hot streak, with 19 points per game in her last three. Moncrief, a Ft. Lauderdale native, averages twelve points per game and is a power on defense as well. A run-of-the-mill game for her includes seven rebounds and two steals. Last year Moncrief was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team.
Senior forward Sheila Boykin is LSU's most reliable post player, with six points and six rebounds per game. She shoots close to 50%. Danish junior forward Anne Pedersen also averages six points per game and can shoot threes if she has to. Both Boykin and Pedersen were shut down in their last game, as South Carolina wouldn't let LSU get the ball inside and the Tigers had to rely on outside shooting from their guards.
Don't get downhearted now; USF is the better team. This season, the Bulls have positively outshot, outscored and outrebounded the Tigers. LSU does have the edge on steals and turnovers forced; they play great defense. But they also tend to turn the ball over much more than USF does. USF's starting lineup also averages about an inch of height over LSU's, and of course the Bulls will be on their home court.
This is USF's game to lose, and they will have to be mentally tough to get a win. LSU may jump out to an early lead, or even a late lead, but if the Bulls play with confidence, there is no reason they shouldn't take this game. After watching USF play in the AAC Tournament, it is clear that they can put together consecutive excellent complete games. They will have to do that again Saturday night if they are going to play on Monday.
This game isn't LSU's chance to shine; this is USF's time to get their second ever NCAA Tournament win. This is USF's time to show that even a sixth seed and a No. 25 ranking understate how good this team is. And it's USF's time to take the first step toward a rematch with UConn.