What's left of the wreckage?
That's the question LSU must address after getting pummeled by Florida last weekend and with little left to play for until the SEC Tournament.
Wins by Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee have sealed LSU out of contention for the coveted double-bye in Atlanta. The Tigers will finish the regular season somewhere between a No. 6 and a No. 10 seed, with little discernible difference between them. Tonight's game will determine where they fall.
Vanderbilt, despite having little postseason hope, has been one of the SEC's biggest positives. Down to only seven scholarship players for the last two months and short on experience, Kevin Stallings has nearly performed miracles just to have this team competitive. And completive they have been, taking down Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia and Missouri this season. That's four of the top eight or nine teams in the league right there.
The Dores have started to wear down in recent weeks, though, which is totally understandable. They've scored more than 60 points just once since Feb. 8, and that was in a 67-64 loss at Missouri. They're neck and neck with Texas A&M for the worst offense in the SEC, but Vandy can get hot at home. Given LSU's road "defense," would anyone really be surprised if the Commodores "suddenly" find their shooting touch?
That is, of course, the bugaboo for LSU. The Tigers rank in the top 60 in many major statistical categories, including points, rebounding and assists. LSU is averaging 76.8 points per game, almost exactly what it averaged in the 9-3 non-conference portion of the slate. Since the Tigers routed Vandy, 81-58, in Baton Rouge on Jan. 18, teams have formed layup lines and 3-point shooting contests against LSU.
Even with Jordan Mickey on pace for an historic season blocking shots and Anthony Hickey remaining his usual pesky self, the defense has floundered, with no signs of getting better. With Memorial Gym's funky bench setup and five desperately-needed days of rest for Vanderbilt, expect LSU's defense to again look like a matador's cloth, blood-red and easily moved.
Is there anything left to salvage? The Tigers think so, and this team is good enough - and the SEC weird enough - to have a shot next week in the tournament. A decent seed wouldn't hurt. Whether or not that's motivation enough, it will be on display tonight.