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2011 LSU Basketball Preview - Out of Conference

It's time to switch gears a little bit with the LSU basketball previews.  If you've been following the previous reviews that center around the LSU team, I hope you enjoyed reading them and will continue to do so.  If you missed them and would like to see them, they are posted at the bottom of this story.

Up next in the series is a season preview, starting with our out of conference opponents.  LSU, in my opinion, did a very good job creating this schedule.  It mixes in a lot of road and home games with good opponents, and also includes a competitive preseason tournament.  If LSU is to make a run at a post season bid, whether it is NCAA or NIT, they shouldn't fear being "snubbed" because of their preseason schedule.  Alabama found this out the hard way last year, and had to settle for the NIT because of their weak out of conference performance and schedule.

A team worthy of the NIT would win at least 10 of the games in the preseason.  Keep in mind that we have two more games following the Northwestern game as part of the Charleston Classic.  The field is composed of LSU, Northwestern, VCU, Seton Hall, Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech, St. Joseph's, and Tulsa.  Each team is guaranteed to play three games, so even if LSU were to lose against Northwestern we would play two more teams.  The second game will take place against either Western Kentucky or Tulsa.  The third is against any of the remaining four teams.

The field is quite balanced and I think LSU has a real shot at winning this tournament because we open with perhaps the second best team in Northwestern.  VCU has to be the favorite coming off of their 5 wins in the NCAA tournament to reach the final four, while Northwestern always seems to find a way to be a bubble team but never has enough to get through and reach their first NCAA tournament ever.


Opponent: Nicholls State Colonels
Date and Time: November 12 at 12:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: Southland
2010-2011 Record: 14-14 (8-8)
Postseason: N/A

Before we play in the Charleston Classic, we have some very good games to start the season and a good opportunity to see where this team is going.  Nicholls State, as you may recall, ended LSU's dominance of the local Louisiana teams with a 62-53 beat down in Baton Rouge.  Normally when a small team beats a "BCS" team it is on a fluke play or a last second shot.  This was not the case.  Nicholls State was the better team.  The rest of their season was nothing special, as they finished at .500 and one and done in their conference tournament.  I'm sure LSU remembers this game and Trent will have them ready.

In the 2011 rematch, look for LSU to resume their winning ways against this Louisiana school.  Gone is leading scorer Anatoly Bose, who torched LSU for 28 points.  Fred Hunter returns, who is NSU's second leading scorer and had a game high 6 steals last year to go along with 18 points, but I don't think he will have enough support to win two years in a row.  Anything can happen, but I think LSU gets the win in this game.


Opponent: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Date and Time: November 15 at 6:00 CT
Location: Conway, SC
Conference: Big South
2010-2011 Record: 28-6 (16-2)
Postseason: NIT 1st Round

Up next is a good road test to get read for the next 3 games in South Carolina.  Coastal Carolina is another small team that defeated LSU last year 78-69 in overtime.  They were really rolling through the season before it was derailed with a suspension to their leading scorer Desmond Holloway, who was responsible for 18 points last year against LSU.  It was a crushing suspension for Coastal, as they were in the driver's seat for an NCAA bid.  The Big South uses the regular season's champion's home court, and CCU had it locked up in February.

For the second straight year, CCU was knocked out of the NCAA's on their home floor during the Big South championship.  They received their negotiated NIT bid for winning the regular season title, but were knocked out without making any noise by Alabama.

CCU was one of the highest scoring teams in the nation last year and used a fast tempo game and would outscore opponents.  The Chanticleers lose their top 3 scorers, as well as 3 of the top 4 rebounders, but do return some solid players from last year's team.  They also have quite an experienced team with 11 juniors and seniors.  I'm not quite sure LSU is ready to go on the road and win against such an experienced team, especially one that is great at scoring.  LSU struggles to put points on the board, and that's why I think they will fall again to CCU.


Opponent: Northwestern Wildcats
Date and Time: November 17 at 2:00 CT
Location: Charleston, SC
Conference: Big Ten
2010-2011 Record: 20-14 (7-11)
Postseason: NIT Quarterfinals

Northwestern follows Coastal and starts the Charleston Classic in Charleston, SC.  This game is actually one of the most under-rated games that the early season might have.  Both teams have struggled over the past few years in reaching their goals.  NW hasn't really ever been closer to the NCAA tournament than in the last two season's, and the Wildcats are hopeful that this is the year they can finally do it.  A loss to LSU, especially if LSU doesn't improve, would be damaging to their resume.  A win for LSU would do wonders for the Tigers resume, as they haven't defeated a "BCS" out of conference opponent since Washington State in 2008.

I think LSU is left waiting for another chance.  Northwestern looks to be good enough to finally get over the hump this year, as they return four of their five leading scorers and their star player John Shurna.  Look for Shurna to torch LSU from three as he will do to most teams NW plays this season.  He shot an incredible 43% last season from 3 and has good players around him to allow him to continue to flourish.


Opponent: South Alabama Jaguars
Date and Time: November 23 at 7:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: Sun Belt
2010-2011 Record: 12-16 (6-10)
Postseason: N/A

After a couple of games after Northwestern, LSU returns home for a game against South Alabama, who the Tigers defeated on the road last season 80-65.  South Alabama had a subpar season, and really didn't make too much noise in the Sun Belt tournament, losing in the first game.  Four of their five leading scorers are gone, so expect this game to be a repeat of last year and a good way for LSU to build some confidence before going back on the road.


Opponent: Houston Cougars
Date and Time: November 29 at 7:00 CT
Location: Houston, TX
Conference: Conference USA
2010-2011 Record: 12-18 (4-12)
Postseason: N/A

LSU follows up USA with a return game to Houston to take on the Cougars.  On the football field, this might actually be a very interesting game.  On the hardwood, not so much.  Houston loses their three leading scorers, which seems to be a trend with the teams that LSU is playing now.  They had a very subpar year last year with a losing record, though they did score an upset win over then ranked Central Florida.

I think LSU wins again on the road.  Houston won't have the manpower or size to match up with LSU down low, and LSU cruises to another easy victory.


Opponent: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Date and Time: December 3 at 6:00 CT
Location: Piscataway, NJ
Conference: Big East
2010-2011 Record: 15-17 (5-13)
Postseason: N/A

The timing of the game against Rutgers couldn't be worse, Saturday, December 3rd.  I think everyone already knows what is happening then, but another LSU team goes on the road to play the State University of New Jersey.  Rutgers had an improving year last year under first year coach Mike Rice.  They showed sings of life at the end of the season, though they were rudely tossed from the Big East tournament with some terrible officiating.

Controversial Ending Of St. Johns/Rutgers Big East Tournament 3/9 (via AwfulannouncinBGreen)

Rutgers looks to build on their breakthrough at the end of the season that featured an overtime loss at highly ranked Syracuse, an overtime win over state rival Seton Hall in the first game of the Big East tournament, and a highly competitive game against home town team St. John's that they could have won.  Gilvydas Biruta is one of the most under-rated players in the Big East because he plays for a usually terrible Rutgers program.  However, they have a decent incoming recruiting class.

This is a great test for LSU.  All of the pressure is off for this game because of what the football team will hopefully be doing.  I think they have enough to get it done, because this game is the classic battle of youth and talent vs. experience and size.  Rutgers simply doesn't have the bodies to stop the LSU forwards, and LSU scores a win for the SEC in the Big East/SEC challenge.

For the record, I feel that the Big East wins the Big East/SEC challenge 7-5.  I think the SEC goes 4-0 on day 1, 0-4 on day 2, and LSU is the lone victorious team on day 3, though it isn't enough to salvage a win for the SEC.  Day 2 has the big match ups between Louisville and Vanderbilt along with Florida and Syracuse.  Another under-rated game might be Georgetown vs Alabama.


Opponent: Boise State Broncos
Date and Time: December 10 at 7:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: Mountain West
2010-2011 Record: 22-13 (10-6)
Postseason: CBI Semifinals

Another game that would be a lot more interesting in the football field, and what a lot of "experts" think might happen in the Sugar Bowl.  I'm confident in our football team, so I don't think it will happen, but we shall see.  Boise State basketball is also somewhat up and coming, finishing with a respectable 22-13 record and an appearance in the CBI semifinals.

In what is becoming a trend, however, Boise loses their top 4 scorers and leaders from a year ago.  It's another benefit to LSU, and I once again see LSU's experience and size getting past Boise's inexperience and somewhat smaller lineup.


Opponent: California-Irvine Anteaters
Date and Time: December 15 at 7:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: Big West
2010-2011 Record: 13-19 (6-10)
Postseason: N/A

LSU will look to stay on a roll against the best named mascot on the schedule, the Anteaters of UC Irvine. I'll just copy/paste what I have been saying for this entire preview, but they also lose their top 3 leading scorers, who accounted for 45 of 75 points a game. And once again, LSU will be playing a team that is inexperienced, as they don't have a senior on the roster. Look for LSU to win this game easily.


Opponent: Marquette Golden Eagles
Date and Time: December 19 at 8:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: Big East
2010-2011 Record: 22-15 (9-9)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

This is the marquee game on the schedule. Marquette is expected to improve off of their highly successful 2010-2011 season in which they defeated my hometown Orange twice, and once to end our season and reach the Sweet 16. They are perhaps the most complete team on the out of conference schedule, with superstar Darius Johnson-Odom. He's one of the best shooters in the Big East, and probably would be considered such if not for Ashton Gibbs on Pittsburgh. They also return a good shooting forward with Jae Crowder, though they lose their next best player in Jimmy Butler.

I'm not too optimistic about this game.  Marquette, while losing quite a few games last year, is one of the most battle tested teams in the country.  Going on the road to LSU won't phase them and I think they dispatch of LSU easily.


Opponent: North Texas Mean Green
Date and Time: December 22 at 7:00 CT
Location: Denton, TX
Conference: Sun Belt
2010-2011 Record: 22-11 (8-8)
Postseason: N/A

The out of conference slate doesn't get any easier after a game against Marquette, as LSU will then travel to take on the Mean Green of North Texas.  This is another game where LSU looks to avenge a loss against a small team, though North Texas played big with a 75-55 demolition of LSU in Baton Rouge.  However, after the high of a win, UNT would have an extreme low later in the year as they were nipped by Arkansas-Little Rock(a team they defeated twice before) in the Sun Belt championship game on a "March Madness" 3 pointer with only a second remaining on the clock.  Since they did not win their conference regular season title, it turned out to be the final game of the season for the Mean Green and a game that fans will never forget.

In another repeat of above, North Texas loses their top four scorers, and it looks like they too will take a massive step back this season.  I think LSU gets revenge and wins comfortably in Denton.


Opponent: Grambling State Tigers
Date and Time: December 29 at 7:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: SWAC
2010-2011 Record: 12-21 (8-10)
Postseason: N/A

In the final game of 2011, LSU will take on the Tigers of Grambling.  Grambling is a member of the SWAC, a conference known for teams that must "put out" and play lots of road games for the cash.  They only play one home game in non-conference play against Oakland University.  Copy/paste again, as Grambling loses their top for scorers, though it shouldn't matter as much because of the general lack of talent of the SWAC conference, which only had 2 teams with winning records.  LSU ends 2011 with a relaxing win.


Opponent: Virginia Cavaliers
Date and Time: January 2 at 6:00 CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Conference: ACC
2010-2011 Record: 16-15 (7-9)
Postseason: N/A

Last but certainly not least is another big game to welcome the new year.  On January 2nd, the Cavaliers of Virginia give LSU their return game and travel to Baton Rouge.  After a disappointing year last year, the Hoos look to Mike Scott to pick up where he left off before a crushing ankle injury ended his season.  He averaged just under 16 points a game and 10 rebounds a game to lead the Cavs in both categories.  Had he continued that pace all season, we might've seen them finish in line for an NCAA tournament bid.  Instead, he was only available for 10 games, and it really hurt their season.

They lose Mustapha Farrakhan, their second leading scorer, but he's the only real loss.  If Scott can come back healthy and continue to produce, LSU(and the rest of the ACC) will have a battle when they play UVA.  I think this game will be a close one, and perhaps the only game in the out of conference schedule that goes to overtime.  LSU has just enough down low to match Scott with Warren, and I think the Tigers score the win and beat the first "BCS" team in three seasons.

In conclusion, I feel that LSU finishes the out of conference portion of the schedule with a respectable 9-3 record for the games that we know will happen.  I also like the match ups with either WKU or Tulsa in the Charleston Classic, so look for at least one more win to come from there.  I would also say that we likely beat Seton Hall and St. Joe's if we were to play them, lose to VCU, and would have a 50/50 shot against Georgia Tech, giving us a possible record of 11-3 going into SEC play.  That would certainly be enough to earn an NIT bid as long as LSU continued to win games and reach about 18 or 19 wins.

If you missed the first two parts of the 2011 LSU Basketball Preview and would like to read them, here they are:

2011 LSU Basketball Preview - Guards

2011 LSU Basketball Preview - Forwards