USA TODAY Sports
The LSU Tigers hit the road for the first of two games against their rivals in Tuscaloosa. Although the game means little in terms of national relevance, I'm sure this is a game that head coach Johnny Jones really wants to win
This college basketball season can best be described as loony. There's a complete lack of elite teams at the top, mediocrity in the middle, and teams in the top 25 that are rarely in that position. Each day it seems that there is another upset and another buzzer beater. When there aren't buzzer beaters, it's something like the Florida/Arkansas game where the inferior team blows out the supposedly elite team.
Perhaps that's why I haven't totally given up on LSU's season. There's no way any kind of basketball analyst can predict what is going to happen, unlike other years where some teams had the look and feel of being champions. LSU has enough talent on the roster to still make some things happen. So far, they've found ways to win in February to get themselves back on the right track.
Today, against Alabama, I think we can get a really good idea of where LSU is going. Alabama is an equally talented team, with an inexperienced head coach, that is heading in the opposite direction as LSU. A poor showing against Auburn in their previous game probably sealed their NCAA fate unless they can win the SEC tournament. Guard play is a big part of Alabama's offensive game, because unlike LSU, they don't have a solid forward prospect.
This is a game that will be different for LSU, where the Tigers may find themselves with a lot of extra possessions. Alabama is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, and LSU has players like Johnny O'Bryant and Andrew Del Piero that can get some extra looks on offense. LSU, however, has had turnover problems in many of their games, which should keep Alabama in the game.
The key in this game for LSU is to force Alabama into the paint and not let them have outside shots. Both Trevor Lacey and Trevor Releford are 40% shooters from beyond the arc. Because Alabama typically doesn't rebound well, it will help them get long rebounds for whatever shots don't go in. So it plays into LSU's favor if Alabama simply doesn't take threes at all. That will mean that LSU should likely play straight man to man defense today and press only in short bursts rather than all game. Overall, I think LSU has to win this game on the defensive end rather than on the offensive end.
Vegas has Alabama as big 8 point favorites. I thought it might be a little closer, perhaps 5 or 6, since LSU has been playing well and Alabama is coming off a bad loss. The over/under is only 122, so Vegas thinks it will be slow and I agree with that. I would probably take the under. I would definitely take LSU and the points, not because I think they are a good pick to win, but because I can see it being close throughout.
Game time is set for 7:00 CT and the game can be seen nationally on ESPN2.