If any members of the LSU men’s basketball team need advice on what to expect when the Tigers begin play in the NCAA tournament Thursday night, they don’t have to go too far.
They don’t even have to pick up a phone.
All they have to do is look at the end of their bench. Before this year’s trip, coach Johnny Jones has been a part of 13 NCAA tournaments as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
Jones played in the tournament twice as a point guard at LSU, reaching the Final Four in his freshman season in 1981, then was an assistant under Dale Brown for nine consecutive NCAA tournaments from 1985 to 1993. Jones also guided North Texas to the Big Dance in 2007 and ’10.
In a way, he can impart some wisdom on his players, only one of whom has played in the NCAA tournament, in the same way he received it as a fuzzy-faced freshman.
“As a player, I was certainly excited,” Jones said after LSU secured a spot in the 68-team field for the first time since 2009. “The guys that were around me were experienced.
“They were seniors, and they had gone to the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16 (earlier). They had been there and done that. Being a freshman and going to the NCAA tournament, I was glad those guys were used to it.”
When LSU takes the floor Thursday night against North Carolina State, only guard Keith Hornsby will have NCAA experience; he played in the 2012 tournament with UNC Asheville.
Forward Jordan Mickey has experienced no lingering effects from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for one game. He is slated to start Thursday against North Carolina State.
After missing the regular-season finale at Arkansas, Mickey returned for LSU’s quarterfinal loss to Auburn in the SEC tournament Friday. He played only 16 minutes because of foul trouble and fouled out with 5:12 remaining in regulation with just one point — 15 below his season average — and eight rebounds.
Jones said Sunday night that Mickey was doing well.
“He’s doing good. … He had a good workout (Sunday),” Jones said. “He’s constantly getting better, and this is going to be good for him because can go full speed and get his wheels back under him.”
Jones said Mickey will compete in some game-like situations in practice before Thursday’s game and will be “pretty close to 100 percent” by tipoff.
What are the odds?
According to Bovada of Las Vegas, LSU is tied for 21st among the 68-team field with 100 to 1 odds of winning the national championship.
Of the four No. 9 seeds in the field, LSU has the shortest odds of winning followed by St. John’s (150-1), Purdue (200-1) and Oklahoma State (300-1).
Unbeaten Kentucky is the prohibitive favorite to win it all at 6-5, with Arizona next at 15-2.
Mickey, Martin honored
After earning first-team All-SEC recognition from the coaches last week, Mickey and fellow forward Jarell Martin have been honored by writers and broadcasters who cover the league.
That duo was part of The Associated Press’ seven-man All-SEC first team that was announced on Monday.
Martin, Mickey and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns tied for the fifth and final spot, but all made the first team because ties, like the coaches’ team, aren’t broken.
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Associated Press SEC honors
The 2015 Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference men’s basketball team announced Monday, with name, school, position, height and class (u-unanimous choice to first team; t-tied for final spot on first team):
u-Bobby Portis, Arkansas, F, 6-11, So.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, C, 7-0, Jr.
Stefan Moody, Ole Miss, G, 5-10, Jr.
Josh Richardson, Tennessee, G, 6-6, Sr.
t-Jarell Martin, LSU, F, 6-10, So.
t-Jordan Mickey, LSU, F, 6-8, So.
t-Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky, F, 6-11, Fr.
KT Harrell, Auburn, G, 6-4, Sr.
Danuel House, Texas A&M, G, 6-7, Jr.
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt, C, 6-10, So.
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky, G, 6-6, So.
Michael Qualls, Arkansas, G, 6-6, Jr.
Devin Booker, Kentucky, G, 6-6, Fr.;
Alex Caruso, Texas A&M, G, 6-5, Jr.;
Levi Randolph, Alabama, G, 6-5, Sr.;
Marcus Thornton, Georgia, F, 6-8, Sr.
Player of the Year
Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Coach of the Year
John Calipari, Kentucky
Freshman of the Year
Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky