The 2013 LSU Tigers certainly put themselves in an odd position to start the season, opening on the road over 1000 miles away with a morning tip time of 11:00 ET. As part of the 24 hours of hoops on ESPN, LSU will get national coverage to start the year, but they will get it in what should be a very hostile environment against a team that could be an NCAA tournament team.
For UMass, the season has already started impressively with a win over rival Boston College last weekend. Senior guard Chaz Williams started off hot with five made three pointers in only five chances, while junior Cady Lelanne led the Minutemen with 27 points on 12-15 shooting and had 12 rebounds. The team as a whole out-rebounded BC by 17 rebounds to seal a win.
The unfortunate part of this game is that it gives UMass a lot of momentum early in the season. Chaz Williams will have the green light against the Tigers, while UMass has shown they can compete and beat a team with a similar set of expectations as the Tigers(and similar track record in recent years). Had BC been able to pull out a win, it may have put UMass into an early slump where some coaching changes could have been made early and some disruptions could have come that would have aided the Tigers. Instead, UMass is hot early and will attempt to put this game away as soon as possible.
For LSU, a key match up will definitely be Anthony Hickey against Chaz Williams. Any true college basketball fan knows how each plays as polar opposites on the court. Hickey will scratch and claw defensively to keep Williams off the scoreboard, while Williams will go at Hickey any chance he gets. He's a scorer, UMass' best scorer, and he will be relied upon to beat Hickey as many times as he can.
Although he only played sparingly in the first game, forward Raphiael Putney will present an interesting challenge for Johnny O' Bryant. Putney is an experienced player that plays a very similar style offensively that JOB does. The difference is, at this point, Putney has a better outside jump shot and can knock down outside shots if JOB gets stuck in the lane as a center against Lelanne. I wouldn't want to see Jarell Martin against Putney just yet, as Putney's experience could be key as an offensive rebounder and shooter.
If there is one player I think could be an X-factor for the Tigers, it is Shavon Coleman. Depending on how he shoots, he could really create some match up problems and allow for some steals and easy points offensively. It really depends on how he defends in the half court and rebounds, because against a forward he has the speed to drive by them.
As much as I like this LSU team and really think they could be a ranked NCAA team this year, I actually think UMass will be able to pick up a win at home in this one. I'm not quite sure LSU can gel enough offensively yet to score consistently, and with the new hand-checking rules in place, I could see the LSU guards struggling with foul trouble. Vegas seems to agree for now, as the Tigers are slight underdogs. I would probably take UMass to slightly beat the spread of 4.5 points, though really it's a toss up.
Tip time is set for 11:00 ET, 10:00 CT. The game can be seen on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.