While I was out getting hammered for my birthday, the Gamecocks were quietly winning their first game this February. Although it was against the equally as inept Georgia Bulldogs, it's a win that could keep them out of last place if they can get one more this season. Coming off a huge overtime win over Mississippi State, I'm definitely hoping that it doesn't give the Gamecocks any of momentum.
First and foremost, if you missed the end of the Mississippi State game, this is what it looked like.
If you are keeping track, that's two Super Tuesday games that Dari Nowkhah has been at LSU for, and both games were wins in overtime(the first being Auburn last month). No more Tueday games for the Tigers, though, so they will need to find another good luck charm.
Going back towards today's game, it's definitely going to be a lot closer than any LSU fan thinks it should be, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if it came down to the final 5 minutes of the game. In the early part of the year, LSU was surprisingly good on the road, though the RPI rankings don't reflect anything special. Both UNT and Houston are 200+, while Rutgers is hovering around 150.
Since then the Tigers haven't been good on the road. Most of the time, they haven't even played all that well on the road either. That's why I have a lot of hesitation in thinking that the Tigers will just walk away with this game, even though they are more talented.
It will start with the shooting. The 3 point shooting has continued to be dreadful in the second half of the year. Justin Hamilton actually led the way for the Tigers against Mississippi State. The Tigers won't win many more games if things stay like that. Ralston Turner did have a good overall game, which is a start for him, but one of these days he will need to truly carry the team and have a 25 point outburst.
One match up that I do look forward to is the LSU defense against the SC offense. At 62.2 points a game, the Gamecocks are near the bottom in the entire country. Most, if not all, of their offensive statistical metrics are similar to that, while LSU continues to rank highly in kenpom's computer rankings with the 28th overall defense. As I pointed out in the Mississippi State postgame, when LSU's defense is on, the 28th ranking is legitimate.
The most interesting discussion in these final weeks of the season will continue to be postseason play for the Tigers. The overall RPI is climbing, and LSU currently sits at #69 according to realtimepri. That puts them in the same neighborhood as other bubble teams like Arizona, Dayton, and Minnesota. Another bonus might be that the SEC West is currently crumbling around LSU, as Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi are all coming off losses when they head into their next games.
LSU continues to have the most impressive victory of those teams with Marquette, to go along with splits against each of those teams(and an opportunity to sweet Ole Miss). The non-conference schedule for LSU was much tougher than those teams played, with 6 games away from the PMAC, and two games against ranked teams. The selection committee will reward teams for playing riskier games in November.
Perhaps most important is the fact that Joe Alleva is on the selection committee. If you are wondering how that works, he is not allowed to be in discussions about his team. So if we were hypothetically at #68 and were competing with another team, he can't be a cheerleader for picking LSU. The common thought is that normally when in positions like that, the AD will leave with a wink and a nod. Perhaps a wild card is Dan Beebe. Is he upset at the Big 12 for kicking him out, and will he want to leave a team out, or will he blame it on the SEC and try to keep the SEC teams out?
What to look for today: Before we can go any further with that, we still need to win a bunch more games. Losing today would probably be especially damning since it would be our 3rd bad loss and would leave us winless on the road in SEC play.
As mentioned before, I think it will be relatively close throughout. I think LSU and SC will both play slow games and keep the score as low as possible. Since LSU has a reliable scoring threat with Hamilton, I don't think SC will have the answers for him, and LSU will be able to gut out a 7-10 point win, though that may be closer to a 20% edge.
Vegas is thinking pretty similar to what I am with a low 124 O/U, but they are giving South Carolina 1 and a half. Since I think LSU will win, I would take the Tigers.
Tip off is set for 12:45. The game can be seen via the following and on ESPN3.
CST on the SEC Network (Louisiana affiliates: Alexandria-KLAX-DT; Baton Rouge-WAFB; Lafayette-KADN; Lake Charles-KVHP; Monroe-KARD; New Orleans-WUPL; Shreveport-KMSS)