For the second time this week, the LSU Tigers will go up against the Alabama Crimson Tide. While Alabama is in a good position for future postseason play in NCAA basketball, LSU still has a little bit of work to do. I've already mentioned how important this game is for the LSU fanbase, but it's equally important if LSU wants to put themselves onto the NCAA tournament bubble.
ESPN recently released Joe Lunardi's bracketology and it was weird to see a team like Florida State as the last team in, while LSU wasn't even considered in the last 8 being left out. It's weird that he would have two teams with such similar resumes so far apart. I might even argue that LSU's is better because we've won multiple road games, have fewer losses, and beat a top 25 ranked team. Because it's still early in the season, it matters little at this point.
Jerry Palm agrees with me, and actually has LSU in one of the play-in games in his most recent Projecting the Field. Neither FSU or Virginia Tech, who Lunardi has in the play in games, are in Palm's bracket. It just goes to show how a big time win can provide big movement when you are one of the 60th to 80th ranked teams.
Wins over conference foes on the road have been scarce so far this season, irregardless of what conference it is. LSU has had a bad road record over the course of Trent Johnson's career at LSU, winning just 12 of 36 such games. None of the wins were in Alabama's home gym.
This year, however, Trent Johnson has his best chance of picking up his first win in Tuscaloosa. Led by Justin Hamilton, the Tigers will put forth a formidable line up that could give the Tide a lot of problems. Most LSU fans probably didn't see the Tide's first loss against Georgetown, but it was a good blueprint for how to beat the Tide. Henry Sims did a good job passing out of the post to open shooters, while also providing some points of his own. Justin Hamilton is perhaps a slightly better player than Sims, and with a bit more size and shooting touch, Hamilton can exploit the Tide's defense.
Hamilton is coming off his best statistical game for LSU, as the Tigers beat Mississippi up last weekend with an 81-55 blowout. Hamilton's stat line was a wonderful 23 point, 16 rebound game with 9-12 shooting and 5-6 from the free throw line. Storm Warren was equally as effective against the over-matched Rebels, as he provided 15 points and 11 rebounds.
It will take another big effort from the forwards if they are to beat the Tide tonight. Tony Mitchell and Jamychal Green are the forwards for Alabama, and combined they provide 30 points and 14 rebounds a game. A defensive effort like we saw against Ole Miss would help immensely if the Tigers are to win the game.
LSU will be with Malcolm White once again, after he missed playing his former team so that he could mourn the loss of a family member.
The battle of the guards, however, could put an interesting twist into tonight's game. Alabama has an equally young core of guards as the LSU Tigers do, with all freshmen other than sophomore Trevor Releford. One thing that can be said about both set of guards is that they are also very talented. Trevor Lacey, a freshman point guard, has also played quite well this season.
That's mostly where the similarities end. Unlike LSU, Alabama doesn't have a guard on the roster shooting better than 31% from three thus far in the season. This is the point of the game where LSU could build a gameplan around. Alabama features somewhat bigger, more physical guards than LSU does. With the terrific defense that LSU has played this season, one way to win this game would be to force the young Alabama guards into mistakes. The way to do that is to draw charges, something that LSU has done well this season, as the guards goal is usually to either get to the rim or get fouled in the process.
What to look for: It's highly unlikely that LSU will get the total team production and efficiency that they had against Ole Miss last Saturday. It was a thing of beauty to see the team play such hard nosed defense and have such a hot shooting game on offense. Anthony Hickey, while going 4-5 from three, took a few bad shots that probably won go in when he's defended by a bigger Alabama guard.
The crowd, I imagine, will be out in force for Alabama to really rub it in our faces if they were to win again. I'm sure watching on TV won't be too pleasant when they have the inevitable lowlights from Monday's game. Just remember you can't triple stamp a double stamp.
LSU comes into the game as big 12 point underdogs, while seems quite high for a game between two teams that generally play low scoring games. An over/under at 118 suggests that they expect Alabama to score 65 and break our streak of holding opponents under 60 points. Keeping the Tide under 60 would be another great achievement, while a win would be better.
Unfortunately, I can't get that nagging feeling out of my head. "When it rains, it pours." It just seems like whenever something bad happens, something worse is always there to follow. I don't have a good feeling at all about the game because of that, though I think LSU does have a reasonable chance to win the game. In the end, I would expect the Tide to win again, but I think LSU beats the spread because of the slow pace.
Tip-off is set for 8:00 CT and the game can be seen on your local Cox4 channel or on Comcast Sports Southeast. It's also available on ESPN3 and can be found at the link below.