The grace period is over.
Sure, LSU easily could have gone 2-0 instead of 0-2 last week in the Legends Classic, but they will only show up as losses come March. There's no more room for error with a relatively weak non-conference slate.
The Tigers hit the road against the College of Charleston, a solid-enough 3-2 squad that presents a challenge more in environment than quality. That's not calling the Cougars bad, as they've lost a couple nail-biters to quality teams in Davidson and Coastal Carolina (which beat LSU in a similar early-season South Carolina road trip four years ago).
LSU beat CoC by 24 at home last season, but road games are a whole different ballgame if you're relying heavily on three freshman. I'm not particularly worried about Ben Simmons here, but I'm curious to see how Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson respond. Both seemed to press in a pro arena during the Legends Classic, and a road environment makes it no easier.
They'll also have their hands full defensively with Cougar guards Canyon Berry and Cameron Johnson. Berry's averaging 21 points per game and can get into the lane with ease, drawing contact and opening up open looks on the perimeter. That's where Johnson works best, as he's a 43% shooter beyond the arc and averages a shade below 14 points per. This is an interesting challenge for LSU.
Charleston would much prefer to keep LSU out of transition, and not just because they don't have the athletes. The Cougars just seem to prefer a slower pace in general, with most of their games being played below the 70-point mark. That makes rebounding key. LSU needs Simmons and Elbert Robinson to gobble up the glass to prevent second looks and keep the fast-break game rolling.
As far as early-season road challenges go, this is a fairly mild one. But after seeing this team in Brooklyn last week, any game in a tough environment -- CoC fans will probably be pretty amped with an SEC team coming to town — or against a competent team may be tough, at least until LSU's at full strength again. It's too bad we won't be able to watch it.
Expect a close game, expect a challenge but also expect a Tiger win. Anything else is selling this team short.
No TV for the game tonight, but it will be on the radio on 98.1 fm in Baton Rouge and across the stat on the LSU Radio Network. College of Charleston is offering a free live video feed, but I've got no idea as to it's quality. You can't beat the price, though. http://portal.stretchinternet.com/charleston/