LSU finally takes a bit of a step up in competition tonight, as they open the Brooklyn portion of the Legends Classic with a semifinal matchup against Marquette.
While the name recognition is there for the Golden Eagles, the results are not. Marquette is 1-2 with a lone win by four points over IUPUI. They got smoked by 28 against Iowa last week, and it really wasn't that close. The other loss was to Belmont. Yikes.
That means LSU is a considerable favorite here (seven points, according to Las Vegas), a strange position for a team still establishing itself as a contender. It's warranted enough given LSU's first three games. Sure, the final scores against McNeese and South Alabama were within a dozen points, but the Tigers controlled both games sandwiched around a beatdown of Kennessaw State.
The winner of this game will face either Arizona State or North Carolina State on Tuesday, so a revenge game against the Wolfpack could be in order. But more importantly, it means another game against a power conference opponent, though LSU is actually the only unbeaten among these four teams. It's still a chance to prep for the rigors of SEC play and mimic a tournament atmosphere.
There will be a fun battle of potential lottery picks on display. Ben Simmons has been every bit the potential No. 1 draft pick expected of him, essentially averaging 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists per game so far. He'll be complemented by an explosive freshman backcourt of Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson. Look for Tim Quarterman to get it going after a slow start to the season, too.
For Marquette, it's the 6-foot-10 Henry Ellenson. His college debut hasn't been as smooth, though he did score 39 points in his first two games. But he's also been turnover prone and Iowa shut him down. He should still be a big-time measuring stick for Simmons on the big stage of the Barclays Center.
It's a game LSU should win, but health could throw a wrench in that. Center Elbert Robinson III is likely out with an ankle injury, joining Keith Hornsby (injury) and Craig Victor (eligibility) on the bench. That means LSU's rotation will be down to eight, at most, and Simmons' fellow Aussie Darcy Malone may see more significant minutes.
So expect a competitive game. A loss is certainly in play, though it wouldn't say too much about this team given the limited roster. But a win would be a nice springboard and keep this team barreling toward a big season.