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October 31, 2012LSU's first opportunity against outside competition occurred last weekend in Houston when it scrimmaged against Rice.
The Tigers' last chance to go against another opponent before the Nov. 9 season opener will take place Monday at the PMAC when they play host to Arkansas-Monticello in an exhibition game.
At his pre-practice press conference Wednesday afternoon, new coach Johnny Jones indicated that he is getting close to settling in on a starting lineup. It appears that four of the five starting positions are set.
"Anthony Hickey will be the point guard, Johnny O'Bryant will be the five and Eddie Ludwig will be the four," Jones said. "Andre Stringer has looked really good at the two. Then, it depends how healthy we are."
The two wing positions are the only places where there is still some indecision. It would be a big surprise if Stringer is not one of the two starting wings. Therefore, the lineup would include the four most experienced returnees from last season's squad.
The health of Memphis transfer Charles Carmouche will influence Jones' thought on a fifth starter. Carmouche didn't participate in the Rice scrimmage. He was replaced by freshman Malik Morgan in the starting lineup against the Owls. Carmouche is back at practice this week.
As expected, Jones learned quite a lot about his team from its scrimmage against Rice.
"Scrimmaging against another opponent is a great indicator where we can see where we are," Jones said. "You play another opponent and you can be exploited in the areas you need to improve on. We got some good work against Rice. They were someone like us. They were not big or deep in the post area."
LSU is breaking in a new offensive philosophy under Jones. The Tigers will be employing a fast-breaking style of offense. It's going to take time for the players to get used to the up-tempo pace.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge with a new system," Jones said. "Execution is the big part. A lot of times guys will revert back to their old habits. We are going to push it on all accounts - after makes, misses, turnovers. Once we get it (frontcourt), we have to make decisions.
"The guys are learning each other. They are learning where the open guys are going to be. They have to see where the help is coming from on defense so they know where to go with the next pass. I just have to be patient with them. This is something they didn't do on a consistent basis in the past."
LSU also had some problems defending the 3-point shot, around which the Rice offense is built.
"We have to do a better job guarding the 3-point line," Jones said. "Our rotations have to get better. We are going to be mostly a man-to-man team. When we run into problems, there will be some different things we can do defensively."
The Tigers had not taken on an opponent in an exhibition game under former coach Trent Johnson. Division I teams are permitted to play an opponent from a lower classification.
"We're all anxious about the process of getting the season started," Jones said. "The lights will be on for the first time (Monday). It will be different for the high school guys and the junior college guys. They have to embrace the atmosphere.
"Once they are between the lines on the court, it's all about the opponent. They have to block everything else out. For 40 minutes, they have to focus on being as good as possible."
LSU will open the regular season one week from Friday night when Cal Santa Barbara visits the PMAC. The Tigers' first six games are at home.