Louisville Cardinals LSU Postseason Games - 1986
Tiger Den Basketball
LSU Post-Season Games
LSU Post Season Games - 1986 Part 1

The story of the 1985-86 LSU Tigers is a tale of a team that underachieved in the regular season and then caught fire in the post-season to become the lowest seeded team to ever advance to the Final Four.

Coming off consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, Dale Brown deployed a veteran starting lineup.

  • F Don Redden (Monroe): 6'6" senior
  • F John Williams (Los Angeles): 6'8" sophomore
  • C Nikita Wilson (Leesville): 6'8" junior
  • G Anthony Wilson (Plain Dealing): 6'4" junior
  • G Derrick Taylor (Baton Rouge): 6'0" senior

1985-86 LSU Tigers
The Tigers won their first 14 games to tie a school record and move up to #9 in the national rankings.

  • The biggest conquests included Washington in Seattle 70-61 and Texas in Austin 72-65.
  • The streak continued into the first two conference games. Georgia fell 85-73 and Mississippi State 90-74.

Then came a road trip to Tuscaloosa, where none of the current LSU players had ever won, and Knoxville.

  • Bama coach Wimp Sanderson crafted an excellent game plan that stressed shot selection to keep the Tigers out of their transition game. The strategy paid off as the Tide dismantled the Tigers 83-67. The loss lowered Coach Brown's record in Tuscaloosa to 2-12.
  • Two nights later, the Tigers lost at Tennessee, 88-77.
  • The Tigers bounced back with home victories over Ole Miss (86-68) and Vanderbilt (84-67).

LSU played the Vanderbilt game without Nikita Wilson, who was ruled academically ineligible.

  • That was the first in a series of setbacks that would plague the Tigers the rest of the regular season.
  • Wilson was the third postman lost to the team. Tito Horford, a top recruit from the Dominican Republic, was suspended by Brown before the season began and transferred to Miami without playing a game at LSU.
  • 7' sophomore C Zoran Jovanovich suffered a season-ending knee injury in a car crash during the Christmas break.
  • "We've gone from an NBA-size team to a big junior high team," joked Don Redden.

Brown's fertile imagination came up with a plan.

  • Dale called Ricky Blanton, 6'7" reserve forward, to his office. "The one guy that really had a competitive heart was Ricky," Brown explained. "I decided I was going to call him in and brainwash him so badly that he could do it. When I told him I was moving him to center, his eyes got big as saucers."
  • "I'd never played center in my life, never played with my back to the basket," said Blanton. "It was a mixed bag of emotion. I wasn't fired up about it, because it made no sense. But as you process it, you say 'I get more playing time.' At that point, I wasn't playing more than 10 or 12 minutes a game as Don's backup."
  • "I was lost playing center," Ricky recalled. "I really didn't know what I was doing, but since we started three guards and me and John Williams along the back, it was pretty simple. All I had to do was play defense, rebound and set screens. You do that with the group I had around me, and you end up with 8 or 10 points a game and 8 rebounds. It's not like I had to create my own shot."

To compensate for the lack of a true center, Brown installed his confusing "freak defense."

  • He created that defense when he coached at a high school in his hometown of Minot ND.
  • The "freak" was a combination of a zone and man-to-man defense, starting from a 1-2-2 zone.
  • If the offense entered the front court throwing the ball to right side, the defense switched to man-to-man. If the ball went to the middle on the first pass, the defense switched to a 1-3-1 zone. If the ball was initially passed to the left wing, the defense converted to a 2-3 zone trap.
  • Brown would also flop the defense the exact opposite to avoid predictability. "You can't have every one of your teams play the freak," Brown said. "You have to have a little brain power to get it done."

It took time, of course, for the Tigers to master the new defense. And the team suffered more travails.

  • The team was struck by an outbreak of chicken pox, hospitalizing G Bernard Woodside and John Williams.
  • Because several other players who had never been exposed to the virus had to go into quarantine, the Tigers were left with only four players fit to compete.
  • Brown resorted to enlisting the aid of football players such as Chris Carrier to complete the roster.
  • The Tigers never won more than two straight SEC games the remainder of the regular season.
  • They endured a four-game losing streak in late January into early February, including a heartbreaking 74-72 loss at Georgetown on national TV.
  • LSU finished conference play with a 9-9 mark.

The Tigers avenged one of their regular season conference losses by beating Florida 72-66 in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

  • That sent them against Kentucky on the Wildcats' home court. UK had prevailed in both regular season contests, and the Tigers went down again but not without a fight, 61-58.
  • "We had our chances to beat Kentucky," recalled Blanton, "and it made us realize we could play with anybody if we get in the (NCAA) tournament."

Would the Tigers be selected for the NCAA Tournament and, if so, what seed would they get?

To be continued ...

Dale Brown exhorts his troops.

Nikita Wilson

Don Redden

John Williams vs Vanderbilt

Oliver Brown vs Kentucky

Ricky Blanton

Return to Basketball Magazine

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – I
Tiger Firsts: Basketball Team | LSU National Champs | Joe Adcock | Pistol vs UCLA | Eddie Palubinskas | Dazzling Debut: Chris Jackson | Tiger Firsts: Final Four | Dale Brown Takes Over

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – II
BR Sports Academy | Four Little Points | Harry Rabenhorst | Shaq's 30-point SEC Game | Maravich's Freshman Circus | First AP Poll Ranking | The Dark Knight Strikes | Ricky Blanton | Tigers Are Back!

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – III
"Most Bizarre Set of Circumstances I Ever Saw" | Joe Dean | The Cow Palace | Still Playing at 41 | Pioneer | "It's the socks, Pete!" | Largest Deficit Overcome | Maravich Is for Real

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – IV
"Little Giant" | Shaquille O'Neal | Pete Breaks His Own Mark | What a Difference a Day Makes | When Lexington Went Wild over Beating the Tigers | Superdome Sizzlers

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – V
Pistol Pete Invades the Big Apple
Memorable Games: Kentucky 1978
Profile: Bobby Lowder
1938 SEC Tournament

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – VI
First Visit to the Big Apple
Don't Look Ahead
Profile: Bob Pettit I, II, III, IV
Pete's Farewell

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – VII
Season in Time: 2005-06

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