Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The Tigers limp back home after a beating from the Georgia Bulldogs. Can they pick up their first SEC win and give themselves a fighting chance heading into Rupp Arena?
The LSU Tigers limp home after another humiliating defeat, this time to the fellow bottom-feeding Georgia Bulldogs. LSU has fallen to the bottom of the SEC standings and is the only team yet to win a game in what is clearly the worst BCS conference. At this point, it might be hard to argue that there is a worse team in a BCS conference other than maybe the TCU Horned Frogs who ironically have former LSU coach Trent Johnson.
The guard play for the Tigers is still really inconsistent. The leadership and poise that Charles Carmouche seemed to provide to the team early in the year has disappeared. The offense doesn't have a good inside/outside game and the frontcourt usually doesn't trust they will get the ball enough to pass it out of double team situations. The evidence for this is of course the fact that Johnny O'Bryant has 14 turnovers in the four SEC games so far, as well as that he only has 3 assists. A post player usually doesn't have a ton of assists, but a sign of a great post player is their ability to find the open shooter and collect the assist.
At the same time, however, the guards are finding it difficult to find open shots. It's no secret that, although quite athletic, Hickey, Stringer, and Morgan need some space to get their shots off. Yesterday, Jimmy Dykes actually showed a great statistic during the Kentucky game about how taller players tend to be the best long range shooters. The examples were players like Kyle Wiltjer, James Southerland, Deshaun Thomas, Ryan Kelly, and Nick Stauskas, who all have nearly a half foot over our guards. The way guards seemingly make up for this differential is either their ability to create space by shooting from farther away, or by being open enough that they can shoot without hindrance. Hickey and Stringer have the ability to shoot from farther out, but defenses have adjusted to this to guard them farther out. To counter it, they have attempted to get into the basket and score, but too often it results in a turnover, free throws(which LSU struggles with), or a missed runner.
Tonight against Texas AM, LSU still has a chance to win, despite all of the problems. Tempo is the name of the game tonight, and if LSU can control the tempo, they can win. Even with all of the mistakes, and even with all of the missed shots. Texas AM is one of the slowest teams in the country, registering at a staggeringly slow 337th in the country in the category of tempo(while LSU is one of the fastest with the 20th quickest). So far, LSU hasn't been able to use their speed to their advantage in SEC play. The way to do that is to jump out to quick leads and be able to sustain scoring.
A lot will depend on Elston Turner for Texas AM. The senior scoring leader dictates the offense, and when he's on the Aggies are a pretty good team. When he's off, the Aggies will have a lot of trouble scoring and keeping up with an opponent. LSU doesn't even have to completely neutralize him, they just need to slow him down in the first half, and hopefully build a lead sufficient to give the Tigers a fighting chance at the end of the game. They can't fall behind by a lot and expect to make up points in a hurry, because Texas AM will take the air out of the ball and also will likely make their key free throws.
Vegas actually has the Tigers favored by a point tonight, though it fell from two and a half from the open. They also seem to think scoring will happen, as the over/under is set at 129.5. If the game got that high in scoring, it would likely favor the Tigers. Unfortunately, I've been duped too many times recently to think that the Tigers should win this game. Until they can play a complete game, I'd take the opponent. I'd also take the under.
Gametime is set for 7:00 CT and this game can be seen on the SEC Network (LA affiliates: Alexandra KLAX-DT2; Baton Rouge WBXH; Lafayette KLAF; Monroe-El Dorado KARD; New Orleans WUPL; Shreveport KSHV) and on ESPN3.