For the first time in two years, LSU basketball will be celebrating Senior Night at the PMAC. The Tigers welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to Baton Rouge for the final regular season home game at 8:00 CT tonight. The Tigers will have three honorees, point guard Chris Bass, forward Storm Warren, and forward Malcolm White.
After an extremely disappointing 72-48 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, the Tigers look to regroup and battle the Volunteers for the 5th place spot in the SEC standings. The loss dropped LSU to 17-11 (7-7), while Tennessee is coming in with a 16-13 (8-6) record, which is why the winner would be in place to finish 5th.
LSU should have a decent chance at making the postseason so long as they pick up two wins between now and the end of the SEC tournament. With a semi- home court advantage in the SEC tournament, LSU should have a goal of getting to the semi-finals, especially with the relative weakness that every team other than Kentucky has shown recently.
There’s still a lot of ways the season could end for LSU. The dream still has to be to win the SEC tournament and make the big dance as an automatic bid. It’s not entirely impossible with some breaks and a win over at least one team we got beat by this season.
There could be some extreme chance that we finish as the 5th seed, beat South Carolina, and then Alabama to get our computer numbers high enough for an at large bid after a loss to Kentucky, but I don’t think that is likely and would require a lot of other teams falling apart.
Of course, there’s always the NIT to fall back on. NITology has LSU as a 3 seed in their current projections, and yes, there is such a thing. You can see some of the teams we need to lose on the lines ahead of us, such as NC State, Northwestern, Texas, everyone in the Pac 12 not named California, Miami, UCF, and USF. Obviously, the number of teams you are rooting for goes up exponentially when you get into the conference tournaments, but basically no upsets are wanted there. A 3 seed would give LSU another home game, with the potential for more if the above seeded teams in their bracket were to lose.
Before any of that can happen however, LSU needs to take care of what they already know they have, and that is the UT Vols. Tennessee comes into the game hotter than any team in the SEC other than Kentucky, having only lost a single game in February. Trae Golden and Jeronne Maymon have thrown their names into the hat for All-SEC honors, and perhaps head coach Cuonzo Martin has put himself into a position for SEC coach of the year.
Jeronne Maymon has been on fire during the Vols big stretch. He hasn’t scored lower than 12 since the UConn game back on January 21st, while also averaging 8.5 rebounds during that time. He’s also been very efficient, and only once during this stretch of 10 games did he shoot worse than 50% from the field.
To say that he has been carrying the team would be unfair, however, because Trae Golden has been quite good himself. Perhaps the best game he had was during a road win at Florida when he scored 17 and had 7 assists.
What to look for tonight: Tennessee, at times, can be a very good shooting team. Skylar McBee might be best known for his heroics against Kentucky in 2010, but he hasn’t exactly disappeared since that game. If left alone he can put points up in a hurry.
For LSU, there needs to be a total disregard for last game against Ole Miss. Everything about the game was just bad. The shooting was bad, the passing was bad, the rebounding was bad, and I even though the players just looked slow during the game. The gameplan didn’t revolve enough around the forwards, and it will need to be that way tonight.
Jarnell Stokes, while he has cooled down since early in the year, is an explosive player and will be one of the best freshmen that Johnny O’Bryant will face this season. It’s actually a good battle of the future of the SEC, and SEC basketball fans might be in for a surprise tonight if they decide to tune into this game. Both players are definitely trending upward going into next year.
Justin Hamilton will also need to help out JOB down low. I thought at times against Ole Miss he looked like he was losing his cool that normally is an asset for him. When the guards would make a bad pass he looked a lot more flustered than usual, and perhaps it affected his effort later in the game.
Vegas doesn’t know what to expect tonight, as the Tigers are favored by a point tonight. The over/under is set at 125, which I wouldn’t want since the game could go in a number of different directions.
I’m torn on this game more than I have been in a while. I really liked what I saw from LSU up until Ole Miss. I’m hoping they don’t fall back into the bad habits that they had in the rough patches, and instead choose to forget about it and resume with the regularly scheduled programming they had before Saturday.
If I had to say, I think LSU wins this one the same way they have all season for these weeknight games. I think it will be a back and forth game, with Tennessee perhaps taking a small lead late, but LSU is able to hit just enough shots at the end of the game to pull out a win.
Now for the miscellaneous stuff. Gametime is set for 8:00 CT, but fans are encouraged to come early with a Shaq bobblehead giveaway. You should also get in a little bit early to congratulate the seniors for their hard work both this season and over their careers. I don’t think I need to tell you that they deserve some praise for sticking with coach while so many other players have bailed early.
The game will be televised on CSS/COX4 and live and on tape delay on Cox Sports Television following the New Orleans Hornets game (beginning at approximately 10 p.m.).
Of course, it's also available on Watch ESPN.