This is the final piece of the 2011 LSU Basketball Preview. For one team on this preview, the season has already started. LSU begins play this Saturday at noon before the Western Kentucky game. Admission is FREE to EVERYONE so hopefully there will be a decent turnout to support the team. The future may depend on it, as 2012 recruit Ricardo Gathers, Louisiana's best basketball prospect, has decommitted from St. John's. Rumor is that Gathers will be in attendance, and Trent needs all the help he can get in landing the 30th ranked player in the nation.
Anyway, without begging anymore, here's what LSU has to look forward to in SEC West play. This may be the final year that we play these teams twice in a season. We have 10 games against them total. First up is Ole Miss.
Opponent: Mississippi Rebels
Home Date and Time: January 7 at 12:30 CT
Away Date and Time: February 25 at 12:30 CT
Coach: Andy Kennedy
Preseason SEC Rank: 7th
2010-2011 Record: 20-14 (7-9)
Postseason: NIT 1st Round
Ole Miss is perhaps the worst team that the SEC has to offer historically. The Rebels only have 6 NCAA appearances in history, which is quite poor for a major state school irregardless of conference. It doesn't look like they will be able to get that number to 7 this year. Chris Warren and Zach Graham, the two leading scorers responsible for nearly half of the Rebels total points last year are gone. Warren was responsible for beating LSU nearly by himself with his hot shooting.
The 2011/2012 team has a mix of youth and experience, but is missing a leader. Warren provided the leadership and it's never easily replaced simply by having experience. Coach Andy Kennedy welcomes 6 new players, one being a highly rated transfer from Memphis, Jelan Kendrick. Kendrick will have to sit out a year, though.
Overall, I'm expecting a slightly worse season than last year for Ole Miss. I think with the SEC West in flux there are wins out there for everyone. Lots of games will be close this year in SEC West play, and I think Ole Miss has a good coach with Andy Kennedy to get them back to the NIT. I think LSU matches up quite similarly to Ole Miss, and it's likely that they split the season series. I would guess that the total point differential in those games will be between 5 and 7.
Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide
Home Date and Time: February 11 at 6:00 CT
Away Date and Time: January 11 at 8:00 CT
Coach: Anthony Grant
Preseason SEC Rank: 4th
2010-2011 Record: 25-12 (12-4)
Postseason: NIT Runner Up
Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa, coach Anthony Grant has big expectations for the hoops team. The Crimson Tide finished as runners up in both the NIT and the SEC last season, though it benefited them a lot playing in the SEC West. The Tide start the season ranked at number 17. Personally I think that's a little bit high, because they only beat a single ranked team, that being Kentucky. But pollsters like teams that finish hot and return players, which is why they are now ranked going into the season. The "Big 3" of JaMychal Green, Tony Michell, and Trevor Releford all return along with a fantastic recruiting class filled with 4 star recruits. Trevor Lacy and Levi Randolph are the headline players of a 6 player class.
I think Alabama definitely improves this year and reaches the NCAA tournament. With an "up" SEC, there are more quality wins to be gained this year. They missed on their opportunities last year by dropping games early and they were never able to get a resume good enough after that to get to the Big Dance. LSU's chances against Alabama don't look so good this year. Alabama controlled their home court last year, and I don't see LSU going to Tuscaloosa and winning like Les Miles' crew did. It's always possible to score a big upset at home in college basketball, but it will be a big upset if it happens. I'll believe it when I see it, but for now I think LSU is swept by Alabama.
Opponent: Arkansas Razorbacks
Home Date and Time: February 4 at 12:30 CT
Away Date and Time: January 14 at 8:00 CT
Coach: Mike Anderson
Preseason SEC Rank: 6th
2010-2011 Record: 18-13 (7-9)
Another tough team in the SEC West will be the Arkansas Razorbacks. Led by new coach Mike Anderson from future SEC school Missouri, the Hogs look to get back to the postseason after a disappointing 2010/2011 season. Rotnei Clarke is gone, leaving with eligibility. He shot a sizzling 43% from 3 last year, and really tore us up in Fayetteville, which was a bad game to go to. Even so, LSU actually split last year's series with Arkansas.
Anderson brings the "40 minutes of Hell" system, which is a fancy way of saving fast paced, aggressive, full court press defense. He tries to score 100 in every game and hopefully force the opposing team into as many turnovers as possible. The turnovers will turn defense to offense. Anderson needs a highly trained and in shape team to have success, so it remains to be seen if he has enough pieces left over to make noise this season. In the past it has led the Missouri Tigers quite far in the NCAA tournament.
I hate the match up problems that the "40 minutes of Hell" will cause for LSU. Andre Stringer was terrible against the press last year, so Hickey will need to step up. His scoring ability can be an asset and turn the tide of a game, but as a freshman it remains to be seen if he can do it. A game like this will force us into using our younger guards as opposed to our centers. If we have good guard play, we win. If not, we will lose. Once again, it's going to take slow progress to rebuild this program. I don't see LSU sweeping this series, but I do see us taking another home win against the Hogs.
Opponent: Auburn Tigers
Home Date and Time: January 17 at 6:00 CT
Away Date and Time: March 3 at 1:00 CT
Coach: Tony Barbee
Preseason SEC Rank: 10th
2010-2011 Record: 11-20 (4-12)
In a way, the Auburn Tigers were nearly identical to the LSU Tigers last season. They split the season series, as they defeated LSU to end the regular season. They were terrible to start the season, but like LSU, started to play better. Tony Barbee is a coach that I really don't know a lot about, so it will be interesting to see if he can get something going at Auburn, another typically bad basketball school.
Earnest Ross, the leading scorer from last year, departs along with second leading scorer Andre Malone. There's young talent at Auburn, however, and it's likely that they continue to learn as the year goes on. Jordan Price is the big recruit for Auburn, and will be looked upon to lift the Auburn team. It's great for LSU, however, that the Auburn Tigers are young. The return of our leading scorers should be enough to defeat the Auburn Tigers, twice. I think that LSU has more talent overall than Auburn, despite the fact that we split the series last year. With the additions we have incoming, I don't think Auburn will be able to stop our offense.
Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Home Date and Time: February 14 at 8:00 CT
Away Date and Time: January 25 at 7:00 CT
Coach: Rick Stansbury
Preseason SEC Rank: 5th
2010-2011 Record: 17;13 (9-7)
Mississippi State is the final team of the 2011 LSU Basketball preview, but also the first SEC team to begin the regular season. The Bulldogs have already opened the season with a 10 point win over Eastern Kentucky. However, as I was typing this, the Bulldogs have dropped their second game to the Akron Zips by 10 points. Jimmy Dykes looked sad. It's still early in the season, but if the first two games are any indication of what is going to happen in Starkville, it doesn't look good.
Renardo Sidney is the key for the team. If he has matured at all, the Bulldogs will be tough to beat. If not, it will very likely cost Rick Stansbury his job. Dee Bost is the leader of the guards, and is one of the best shooters in the country. If he can control the volume of his shots while maximizing his production, the Dogs will be a postseason team. There is talent on the team, but the chemistry is the issue. That's Stansbury's job to mold a team, so if he can't do that this may be his last year, especially with the SEC getting stronger basketball schools next season.
I predict bad things for Mississippi State. I don't think Sidney can keep it together for a full season. With his exit, I think the Dogs go into a tailspin and perhaps finish in 10th or worse. I think LSU capitalizes with two wins over the Bulldogs.
What does that say for this season?
I think the LSU Tigers finish with a 20-10 (9-7). Unfortunately, with the somewhat large number of losses and lack of truly great wins I don't think it will be enough for the Big Dance. Of course, with the abysmal play of the Tigers over the last few years, an NIT bid would be a big improvement. It would be a chance for our players to experience postseason play for the first time and perhaps enough for a final home game.
If you would like to read the previous four posts, here they are!
2011 Out of Conference Preview