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GAMETHREAD: #3 LSU at #2 Utah, NIT Second Round, 8pm, ESPNU

The Tigers continue their postseason in Salt Lake City

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Mississippi State vs LSU Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Following an exciting 84-76 defeat of the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, the LSU Tigers head west to take on the Utah Utes in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. The Utes took down #7 UC Davis in the first round last week by a score of 69-59.

The Tigers and Utes have previously met four times over the years, with Utah coming out on top in the most recent three contests. They last met in a home-and-home over the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, both Utah victories, the latter in which freshman Marshall Henderson finished with 25 points and 7 assists.

Utah currently has a 20-11 record, including a 13-3 record in their home venue, the Huntsman Center. Those three losses are against two NCAA Tournament teams (Arizona and Arizona State) and fellow NIT participant USC. The Utes and Tigers are both 2-0 against Missouri and Ole Miss this season.

Utah will serve as a pretty tough, evenly matched opponent for LSU tonight. While the Utes have been a pretty bad rebounding team, they take and make much better shots than what we saw from ULL, and are rated in the top 100 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rankings. Utah is ranked six spots behind LSU in the overall KenPom rankings, but with the home court advantage, they’re projected to win 74-71.

The Utes field a pair of 6’10” senior forwards in David Collette and Tyler Rawson, and slightly out-size the Tigers as a whole. The pair and Duop Reath could prove to be the most important matchup of the game, after Reath took advantage of the new NIT rules and the wider lane to finish with a 26 point, 11 rebound effort last week. The forward duo both started their careers at smaller Utah schools before transferring to Utah and sitting out the 2015-16 season. In their senior campaign, they’ve appeared in the Utes starting lineup together in all but one game.

Projected Utah Utes Starting 5

#13 PF - David Collette: 12.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 22.0 minutes

#1 PG - Justin Bibbins: 14.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, 34.6 minutes

#21 C - Tyler Rawson: 10.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 30.9 minutes

#0 SG - Sedrick Barefield: 11.2 PPG, 2.5 APG, 28.1 minutes

#5 SG - Parker Van Dyke: 4.5 PPG, 1.6 APG, 19.6 minutes

The Tigers and Utes will tip off tonight’s contest at 8pm in the Huntsman Center, and it will be televised on ESPNU. The winning squad will continue their NIT journey sometime Wednesday evening against the winner of St. Mary’s and Washington. You can listen to the game on the radio at 98.1 FM, or follow along in the comments below or via my live (PSVue-delayed) tweets @marq113.