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Paradise Jam Preview: Is LSU the favorite?

We briefly run down the Paradise Jam field, as LSU hoops looks for some momentum against a so-so field of NIT contenders.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't a Maui Invitational or a NIT tip-off, with ranked teams and national championship coaches galore. No, this is the Paradise Jam, a nice test for LSU but nothing special.

The average Ken Pomeroy ratings of the eight teams in the field is 122. That's a lot of NIT and CBI quality. Which is good and bad, depending on how you want to look at it. There's a chance to earn some decent wins with less risk of a loss. However, it's less likely there's a signature win in this field, barring a surprise.

But that also means LSU is maybe the favorite, with only Seton Hall having a case otherwise. Winning one of these tournaments would be a major confidence boost while also preparing the Tigers for the SEC Tournament and other postseason play, when several games are played in a short span of time.

The Jam has a bit of a funky format, as you play the second-round contest on Saturday or Sunday, depending on if you win Friday's opener. That means the championship and 3rd place games are played on consecutive days, which could be a problem for an LSU roster that has shown no depth so far. We'll see how Johnny Jones handles the minutes this weekend, especially in the warm and muggy gym in the Virgin Islands.

Paradise Jam bracket

We'll look at each team separately and briefly, but there's no team to be scared of in this tournament. In fact, it would probably be a disappointment if the Tigers don't make the championship game, especially with Clemson and Seton Hall on the other side of the bracket.


LSU's foe in tonight's first round game is laden with experience and driven by guard play. After a .500 season last year, the Monarchs added a couple post transfers in Jonathan Arledge and Javonte Douglas, with junior guard Aaron Bacote leading the way with 15 points/game in the backcourt. Perimeter defense will be paramount against the Monarchs, who are coached by former Virginia point guard Jeff Jones. Expect this to be a close game, but the Tigers should be favored by any metric.


The Redbirds made the CBI semifinals this season and are probably a legit NIT contender. But the season got off to a bad start with a home loss to Utah State last week. However, they've got a nice starting guard combo but are grossly undersized in the paint. Expect a lot of three-guard sets to counter that, which will probably be enough against first-round opponent Weber State but not against LSU or Old Dominion. The Redbirds are the Tigers' most likely second-round foe.


The Wildcats were an NCAA Tournament team last year - something no other team in the Paradise Jam field can boast - losing to No. 1 seed Arizona in the round of 64. The core of that squad is mostly back, but the ceiling isn't very high. Like the Redbirds, Weber State has a loss to Utah State under its belt already but should be a Big Sky conference favorite. They'll be physical in the post but likely struggle to score. If LSU gets them in the second round, expect a slugfest.


Arguably the team with the most variance in potential in this field, especially with some unknowns after losing stud scorer K.J. McDaniels from a squad that just missed the NCAA field last season. The field's other Tigers appear to be vulnerable this year, with a loss to Winthrop already under its belt. I'd favor Seton Hall over Clemson on this side of the bracket, meaning a 3rd place matchup of Tigers is more likely than a championship bout.


LSU fans are already familiar with the Bulldogs, who played the Tigers tough in the season opening 93-82 win last weekend. Clemson should on guard, because Gardner Webb is absolutely sound enough in its sets and mistake-free game to sneak by. However, their inability to match up with power schools in the paint is a concern and probably why a 5th place finish should be a realistic goal for the Bulldogs.


The Pirates were a bubble team down the stretch last season, so there's a mild set of expectations on them heading into this tournament. Seton Hall is neck-and-neck with LSU in the KenPom ratings at 78 and 79, respectively, so co-favorites is a fair assessment there. Honestly, getting Nevada is a bit of a breather since you can argue the Wolfpack might be the worst team in the field. After struggling with Mercer in its opener last week, Seton Hall will probably need some more scoring firepower to claim the crown on the islands.


The Wolfpack don't return much from a disappointing 15-17 season last year. That could be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but there's no question this team shouldn't threaten to win this tournament after eking out wins against Cal Poly and Adams State to start the year. Junior center AJ West and sophomore guard D.J. Fenner are good enough to keep Nevada in a lot of games, but like Gardner Webb, the depth and firepower probably isn't there to make the finals. It's unlikely LSU will see this team.

Overall, not a bad field but a bit underwhelming for one of these exotic early-season tourneys. After some struggles in two wins in the PMAC, it would be nice to see LSU come out and handle business in the first two rounds and then get a nice test from Clemson or Seton Hall in the finals.