Where we're at: The Tigers came out with better energy against Gardner-Webb on Wednesday on the boards and on D. That needs to continue today (in a big way.) Shots have started to fall, and the off-ball movement has picked up (thank you basketball Jesus.) Craig Victor looked great (though I'm not sure he's going to be able to consistently drop step his way to easy buckets against major programs without at least one counter-move), and all around it was a solid team win, against a lame-duck opponent.
Now, the Tigers get a moderately successful Oral Robert's team coming out of the Summit League. This is the second of three must win tune-up games leading up to Wake Forest on December 29th. After that, we're full into conference play, with a tough match-up with Vanderbilt followed by Big Blue coming to the P-MAC on January 5th. If the season's to be saved (from a tournament perspective,) it's time to put things together and make a run. This is another soft target (currently ranked 153 in KenPom rating), the perfect type of opponent for the Tigers to cut their teeth against. The Golden Eagles have some quality distance shooting (.377% on the season as a team so far, with 4 players above .400) and one real stud in junior Obi Emegano (averaging 23.3 ppg on .42% taking a little over 6 threes a game.) Coming off back-to-back losses against Oklahoma and Missouri State (with a record of 8-4 on the season), the Golden Eagles should be motivated and looking to pull an upset on the road.
While this is another "lay-up" of sorts (or should be, from a talent perspective), this team will prove useful or continuing to develop the team-play and talking on the defensive end of the floor. Hopefully, we'll also continue to see LSU carry themselves with more confidence on the court. Now that we're starting to see the full product with Hornsby and Craig back in the mix, there is a chance this team can continue to gel and make a run at relevance come march. It starts with putting down Oral Roberts, and then American, convincingly. The supporting cast needs to continue to step up. Simmons needs to find a consistent level of aggression he can bring in terms of scoring the ball (and the notion that he's overrated/not an impact player because he doesn't go out and dominate the offense with his scoring/creating shots for himself every game is painfully ignorant of the total effect he has on his team.) We still haven't seen what this team looks like hitting on full cylinders (or even 75%), and hopefully they can put together a comprehensive win today. It needs to be a win of some sorts at least, as a loss here closes the door to the NCAA tournament (barring a domination of conference play or a Cinderella win in the SEC tournament) and likely marks the season as a failure. I'm hopeful/confident we'll see continued improvements on both ends of the floor, and they should take care of Oral Roberts with ease.
Let's see what Coach Jones and the boys have in store for us.