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Preview/GameThread: LSU at Auburn (SEC Network, 6pm)

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LSU hits the road for let-down game in an environment that has historically given them fits.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Not to be too dour, but this has classic LSU faceplant written all over it.

The Tigers are coming off a crushing loss to No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday, a win that would have propelled them into solid NCAA Tournament position. They also lost a pair of games to Auburn last year, and while the other Tigers are 9-11 this season, they also finished last season 15-20. The records aren't really relevant here.

Strangely enough, LSU's only win in three tries against Auburn last season was a total romp in Auburn Arena. Otherwise, the Plains have mostly been a horror show for LSU in recent seasons. Auburn won five of the previous seven meetings despite being totally downtrodden as a program.

Bruce Pearl might be slightly behind schedule in his revival effort. I thought he'd have this team to an NIT level by year two, but it hasn't materialized. The Tigers own a pair of three-game losing streaks in league play already yet have played feisty at home, compiling a 3-1 SEC mark on their home floor.

They're also getting big man and leading rebounder Cinmeon Bowers back -- he's also the recipient of SEC Basketball's Andre Debose award "That guy's still there?" -- and he's a noted LSU killer. He averaged 14 points and nine rebounds in the trio of games against LSU last season and seems to revel in facing LSU's talented frontlines in recent years. Ben Simmons and Craig Victor must avoid foul trouble against the 265-pound bruiser.

But this game is far more about LSU's mental state.

Have they moved on from the OU loss? Are they ready to turn on the jets for a very manageable February slate after proving they can play with the very best? Or did the sting of that loss demoralize them?

If you're expecting the LSU team that showed up against the Sooners on Saturday to be on display Tuesday evening, I wouldn't bother watching. It would be too frustrating.

So set your expectations low here, and expect a tense, drag-out affair with a team that will be fired up to play Ben Simmons and co. LSU is in for a total fight.

Still, let's be clear. This is an absolute must-win for LSU. The non-conference schedule was bad enough that LSU can't afford the horrific RPI in-conference results that it got away with en route to the NCAA Tournament last year.

There's no shame if the visiting Tigers struggle in this one. However, they are in deep trouble if they can't cobble together a win against one of the SEC's bottom-tier teams.