It's Senior Night in the PMAC!
Okay, I can hear the crickets chirping through your screen right now.
Yes, there won't be much to celebrate, with John Odo the only scholarship senior being sent off. And let's be honest, he's better known for giving fouls and failing to catch passes than contributing.
So there won't exactly be an emotional atmosphere in the PMAC, save for hopefully a somewhat amped crowd to see the last home game of the year. And who knows, it might be your last chance to see Jarell Martin or Jordan Mickey in person, though one can hope. Still, this lack of emotion could play to LSU's advantage, since there's nothing to distract from the task at hand.
It's mostly a simple one. If LSU even brings its C+ game, this is a win, no doubt. The Volunteers have been in a tailspin since the Tigers blew them out in Knoxville last month, as that was the first of five straight losses. The skid has turned a once promising NIT hopeful into an SEC also ran, one still in danger of playing on the first day of the SEC Tournament as an 11 seed.
In that 73-55 win, almost everything went right for LSU, as the Tigers led 47-20 at the half, shot almost 50 percent beyond the arc, outrebounded the Vols and got some help from UT, which missed a ton of layups. Even Jarell Martin getting into foul trouble couldn't stop the freight train that was LSU that day. I don't expect it to be nearly that easy again, but LSU has no excuses here, with advantages across the board.
The Vols are a mess offensively, in the 200s in the country in almost every significant offensive category, including points, assists, rebounds and shooting percentage. They've averaged 54 points a game dating back to the LSU loss. They're not a very deep team, either, which negates an advantage most have on the Tigers.
Careful though, because UT does have one remnant of a team that was overhauled after making the Sweet 16 last year. Senior guard Josh Richardson is still among the SEC's scoring leaders and he can get hot quickly from outside. He'll probably need to carry Tennessee for large chunks of the game, and he's at least capable of it.
Last time out, Jordan Mickey scored 20 and boarded 11 in Knoxville, and it was the last time he really looked like Jordan Mickey. Since then, he's been in a four-game funk, failing to reach his scoring and rebounding averages in each while barely eclipsing a cumulative double-digit block total. It only hurt LSU against Texas A&M, since the Tigers won the last three with relative ease. Still, the top priority in this game needs to be getting Mickey back on track. This team can't go very far in March without him being the steady rim protector and inside presence he'd established for 1.5 seasons.
Overall, I can't see much of a way LSU drops this game. The focus should be laser sharp with SEC seedings and NCAA hopes up in the air. With a three-game winning streak in hand, there should be a nice turnout. And these are two teams headed in very opposite directions of late. A close game is in play, but it's a poor sign if the Tigers can't put the Vols away before the last few minutes.