So what to expect from a cross-country NIT trip to San Francisco?
For starters, a lot of points.
The Tigers and the Dons both average right around 75 points per game and love to hoist shots. Pace will not be lacking in this one. That could be a disadvantage for an LSU squad with a hobbled Andre Stringer and coming off a lengthy flight. There will be no breathers.
And that could be a problem for a team already known for a slew of road issues. LSU's only three road wins came against Texas Tech (9th in the Big 12), South Carolina (SEC bottom feeder) and Vandy (playing on fumes in March with seven scholarship players. Other than that, the Tigers have been lost and confused in eight road losses and two neutral-site defeats. Let's call a spade a spade at this point. LSU is a piss-poor road team, and that's not changing by mid-March.
As far as the actual matchups, surprise surprise, LSU has an advantage inside. There's some decent height in the paint for the Dons, with Cole Dickerson, Kruize Perkins and Mark Tollefsen all averaging in double figures scoring. But none of them grade out over 6-foot-8. Jordan Mickey and Johnny O'Bryant should handle the glass. The key word is should, because I'm not so sure about this team's motivation.
The players have said all the right things and Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman should certainly possess copious motivation as seniors. But the rest of this team? I wouldn't be surprised if JOB is already thinking about the pros. Jarell Martin's already talking about next season and missing the NCAA Tournament is certainly not what he - or anyone - would have expected back in October.
So it's a fair question. Will LSU care? Because an engaged and active Tiger squad is more than capable of handling San Fran. Given the location and circumstances, I don't have faith in that coming to fruition. I see a fired up USF squad ready to beat a major-conference foe weathering some LSU sharp shooting early and riding experience and effort to a second-half win.
Still, one NIT win would be nice for this squad. Anything else would be gravy at this point.