Game 2 of 2 in the regular season between the Arkansas Razorbacks and LSU Tigers tips off this afternoon at around 12:45 CT. As previously mentioned yesterday, this is the first of the "next four" set of core games where the Tigers will decide the fate of their season. Simply put, once these four games are completed, we will know the fate of the Tigers' postseason.
That said, it's far from decided. The game today could be used as a springboard for a strong end of the season, or become the game that pushes the Tigers farther down the "postseason ladder". The first game of this series was pretty one sided the entire second half, though it was close for the entire first half. The final was 69-60, though looking back at it statistically it seems like it should have been even more of a blowout.
The story of the game was 3 point shooting. Arkansas made a lot of them, and a lot of clutch shots, LSU didn't. The Hogs finished the game at 50%, 9-18 as a team, while LSU went 3-18 for a dismal 16%. Perhaps the only positive to come from that poor shooting was the abundance of offensive rebounds, which kept the Tigers in the game. LSU actually dominated the offensive glass and had 16 total offensive rebounds, and won the complete game rebounding battle by 8.
Of note is that Malcolm White will be sitting this game out due to a team suspension for the flagrant foul against Anthony Davis. It was an LSU/coach's decision to make the move. Personally, I think it's a bad move. I mean, there's a time and a place for discipline, and it's not in the midst of a 3 game losing streak. There's a difference between what White did, which was in the heat of the moment, and what happened with fights across NCAA basketball earlier this season. With the ejection from last game, he already served essentially a game for the foul. Of course, I don't know everything behind the scenes, but the quote by Trent Johnson on the matter seems like he made the decision.
Going into this game, Trent Johnson needs to make quick adjustments with the guards if LSU is to win. Ralston Turner, surprise surprise, had a dismal 1-8 shooting game against Arkansas the first time around. Sadly, I'm losing hope that he will be able to put it together this season. It's astounding how far off I was with his prediction in the preseason. I'm even struggling to figure out why he's struggling so much. His shots generally don't look like bad shots.
Anthony Hickey will once again be counted upon to lead the guards against the "40 minutes of hell" defense. Statistically, it worked the first game, as LSU had 16 turnovers, 12 of them counting as steals. However, I thought they did a better job than I had originally planned against the pressure defense. With that kind of success, I doubt the gameplan changes at all for Arkansas.
I also think Chris Bass will need to step up. Over the course of the season, I've seen him play some really good games off the bench. Against Mississippi State I thought he really played well just taking what the defense was giving him. His three point shot has improved 40%, though the numbers are extremely small which is why the increase is so big. Still though, he's making shots that he missed(badly) last year, and it adds to his game which is generally to handle the ball and find open teammates.
What to look for: With Johnny O'Bryant available for this game, it could be a bonanza for LSU on the offensive glass. I would like to see a big line up with Warren, O'Bryant, and Hamilton on the floor at the same time. Perhaps the best way to use the defense with those 3 would be a 2-3 zone, since their size would cause problem on the wing shooters that tore us up last game.
Vegas, surprisingly, has LSU as not only favorites, but as 4 point favorites. With a medium over/under of 135, it looks like bettors don't think Arkansas will win their first road game against the Tigers. Honestly, with the way the Tigers have been playing, it's difficult to know what to except. Will they play to the level that they did against Mississippi State, or Kentucky?
If I were betting, I don't touch the game. The over/under is well placed, and the trend is that LSU will play teams close at home. I don't have a good feeling about what will actually happen. As for who I think will win, I think LSU is able to get the W. I think we are finally due for a team not hitting their shots against us. Our defense has generally been quite good, but teams are getting hot and making shots. It happens, but I think that ends today.
Game time is set for 12:45, and the game can be seen on the following stations.
The game will be televised by the SEC Network (Alexandria - KLAX-DT; Baton Rouge - WAFB; Lafayette - KADN; Lake Charles - KVHP; Monroe - KARD; New Orleans - WUPL; Shreveport - KMSS)
The game can also be seen on ESPN3 by Watch ESPN.