After a long hiatus for finals week, the LSU Tigers return to action at home against nearby rival ULM. The Tigers should be well rested after nearly two weeks off. After a somewhat impressive trip to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic, LSU is in a good position now to pick up a few more wins before SEC play starts in January.
As it stands right now, LSU is probably still a team that is on the wrong side of the bubble. The Butler win will likely end up being a decent win and neither of the Memphis or UMass losses will be considered bad losses. With UAB beating UNC earlier this season, it could end up being a good win if LSU is able to get it. Other than that, unfortunately, there isn’t much available until SEC play.
In the SEC, so far it is a lot of the same for the season. Kentucky, while talented, still hasn’t gelled quite yet. Florida is playing pretty well, but they aren’t entirely healthy or available. They may end up being the best team in the SEC again, but they aren’t quite elite. Missouri is having another good non-conference season and is ranked once again, though they won’t really be matched up with an elite team, just a lot of good teams. Overall, the conference is still entirely wide open.
In the middle of the SEC, it’s still the same story as well. Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss don’t have much to separate themselves from one another. Every team has at least two losses so far and no team really has a bad loss. They all have a decent win or two, but nothing that will be considered a huge win just yet. Talent-wise, the teams are also very similar, and it may come down to coaching and experience as to which team steps up and gets ahead of the pack.
Overall, the Tigers have, for the most part, matched my expectations for the team. Johnny O’Bryant continues to be the key player for LSU. When he plays as poorly as he did against Memphis, the Tigers look like an NIT team again. When he steps up like he did against mostly every other opponent, LSU looks like an NCAA team.
Anthony Hickey is still the leader of this team, no matter when he enters the game or how many minutes he gets. He will be counted on to lead in the final minutes. He once again hit a huge shot against Butler to go to OT, which is nothing new at this point. Hickey isn’t the consistent scorer that we need him to be still, but he impacts the game in a way no one else on the roster can.
The freshman class still looks really good. Jordan Mickey has largely exceeded expectations. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker. He may have already earned a permanent starting spot. Jarell Martin looks like he should also be as good as advertised, but an injury delayed the start of his career for the most part. Tim Quarterman still hasn’t quite found his niche, while Darcy Malone will get limited minutes still.
What to watch for tonight: rust – does LSU have it? With so much time off, I would expect LSU to perhaps shoot a bit worse than normal and perhaps have a few more turnovers than normal. ULM is a team that has played less than LSU already and has a total record of only 3-1. They have played more recently than the Tigers, but still only have played once in about three weeks.
I would expect LSU to attempt to go back to basics, pounding it inside to JOB as much as possible and controlling the paint. If one of the guards can get hot, it could become and easy win for LSU. If not it may go into the second half before it is decided. Either way, I think LSU cruises to an easy double digit win. Vegas seems to agree even more so and puts LSU as a 16 point favorite. I don’t think it will be quite that much of a blowout, but it’s a fair line.
Game time is set for 7:00 CT and the game can be seen on CST.