Welcome to another edition of the LSU Basketball Roller Coaster Ride.
You must be at least this cynical to ride.
Okay, okay, so things aren't that bad yet but the Tigers embark for a crucial week on the road, starting tonight at Florida. And hoo boy, is it ever a tough task. Don't be fooled by Florida's record. The Gators are clearly an upper echelon SEC team and are relatively healthy after a rash of injuries and missed time led to some narrow losses against an elite non-conference slate. It's not last year's Final Four team but this is still a scary test, especially with the Gators coming off a loss at a fired-up Georgia.
Meanwhile, LSU isn't quite in a must-win situation yet but is certainly desperate after gacking away a home game it dominated against Texas A&M. With a trip to the always-wonky Vanderbilt looming on Saturday, falling below .500 in SEC play could be dispiriting.
As far as the on-court product goes, LSU and Florida are not completely dissimilar. Clearly talented squads with underwhelming results so far but a sense that they'll get it together by March. The Gators definitely bog down on offense a good bit, so LSU's best bet may be to run a ton of depth and length (think Tim Quarterman, Aaron Epps and Darcy Malone) at UF and hope for a dry shooting night, which wouldn't be a surprise.
One thing that is surprising: with Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, this might be the first time I can clearly remember LSU having perhaps the two best players on the floor while facing Florida. Just like in the first half against A&M and Ole Miss, the Tigers really need a big-time showing from the two post studs. They're due for a game where they combine for 45 or 50 points and really show off why they could be the league's best duo.
Overall, I expect this to be a tight game. LSU should come out fired up and with a purpose - maybe even to the tune of an early double-digit lead. However, Florida may be just as desperate and ready for a big league home game. If I had to bet on it, I'd take the Tigers to cover the nine-point spread but lose a truly hard-fought affair. Anything less than that will be disappointing for a team with so much to play for.