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Preview/GameThread: Mississippi State at LSU (ESPN2, 5pm)

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No excuses for the Tigers with the lowly Bulldogs in town.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

This is the free space on the Bingo card.

Mississippi State has been downright dreadful most of this season and is a mere game ahead of Missouri for last place in the SEC. The Bulldogs should be no threat on paper...

And yet, this is LSU basketball we're talking about here. I can see a way State makes this a competitive game. The Bulldogs seven SEC losses have come by an average of 5.8 points per game, including losses by 1, 3 and 6 to Texas A&M, Florida and Kentucky. State is not a good team, but that doesn't necessarily matter against LSU.

Of course, I thought LSU would be in for a fight at Auburn and the Tigers came out and totally handled business on the Plains. In a tie for first in the SEC standings, LSU needs to be razor-sharp every time out as the second half of league play gets going. A bubble resume, rightly or not, can be transformed by a top-2 league finish. This is the first step.

And LSU obviously has the advantages here. It's a home game, and State has gone 1-6 in true road games. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 11-2 inside the PMAC this year.

It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle State's Gavin Ware in the post. The senior is MSU's primary offensive option, scoring 16.3 points per game and grabbing 7.3 rebounds per contest. He's a beefy power forward type who should present a challenge for Craig Victor and Ben Simmons down low.

The gameplan should be for those guys to take it right to Ware on offense. Ware has been foul-prone, fouling out against Florida, only playing 23 minutes against South Carolina and seeing the floor for just 28 minutes (while dropping 28 points) in State's overtime loss to Alabama earlier this week. Your best bet stopping him is keeping him off the floor entirely.

Elsewhere, Malik Newman and Craig Sword form a decent Bulldogs backcourt. Newman, a freshman and former 5-star recruit that LSU pushed hard for, has had a solid, if unspectacular debut season in Ben Howland's offense. He's shot the ball well but there aren't enough playmakers around him to fully utilize his skills. See: Sword, who is very good at getting to the rim but pretty much can't shoot a lick from deep. LSU ought to pack it in on defense here.

We're still not at the point where this LSU team can be fully trusted, so a game that is tighter than the 10-point favorite Vegas pegged the Tigers as would not be surprising. But there's no room for error. LSU needs to handle its business here.