For the first time since 2015, the Tigers are back in the NCAA tournament. This year LSU is the No. 3 seed in the East Regional and open NCAA tournament play against the No. 14 seed Ivy League champion Yale Bulldogs. Tip off is set for 11:40 and will be broadcasted on TruTV.
The three-seed is LSU’s highest ranking in the tournament since being a No. 1 in 1981. LSU and Yale have only met on the hardwood once, a game that Yale won 97-94 back in 1969. Despite a lack of history between the two, LSU and Yale play a similar style of ball.
Yale (22-7) has one of the more potent an offenses in the country. Yale’s 80.9 points per game average is the 13th best figure in the entire country and mere decimal points behind LSU’s scoring average (81.4). If you look at all the team scoring statistics, you’ll find Yale right near the top of several key categories. Yale is fifth in total field goal percentage (49.6), 32nd in three point shooting (37.4) and tenth in assists per game (16.9). Like LSU, the Bulldogs like to push the pace, are also top-50 squad in offensive efficiency and don’t mind getting into a shootout.
Where the Tigers and Bulldogs differ, however, is in rebounding and how they take care of the ball. Yes Yale is tenth in the entire nation in assists per game. But Yale is also 210th in the country in turnovers per game with about 13. Mix in the fact that LSU is one of the best teams in the country in terms of steals, 9.1 per game, and there’s a chance that Yale’s uptempo style of play could be turned against them by Skylar Mays and Tremont Waters.
LSU also has a significant advantage when it comes to rebounding, especially on the offensive end. LSU is second in the country in offensive rebounds with 12 and grab nearly 40 a game on the defensive end. This keeps getting brought up in every preview, but LSU must control the rebounding battle. Yale is 20-1 when they out-rebound opponents, but 2-5 when they don’t.
Despite being an Ivy League school, Yale has some serious talent on its roster. Junior guard Miye Oni is a future NBA player and can score with the best of them. Standing at 6’6”, Oni averaged 17 points a game this year and has scored at least 30 three different times. Oni, the league’s player of the year, can score anywhere from the floor, shooting 45 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three.
Oni’s running mate is senior guard Alex Copeland, a first-team All-Ivy League member. Copeland was the Most Outstanding Performer in the Ivy League tournament thanks in part to his 25 points over Harvard.
Yale also has an experienced roster. The Bulldogs have four seniors and that group was part of the Yale team that beat Baylor in the opening round of the 2016 tournament and cut a 27-point second half deficit against Duke down to three points in the final minute of regulation. Yale’s been here before; LSU, aside from Kavell Bigby-Williams, has not and will still be without head coach Will Wade.
This is a scary match up for both sides. Yale probably doesn’t want to play a team that also likes to get up and down the court, can create a lot of turnovers and has the size and athleticism advantage. LSU, on the other hand, is only going up against one of the best shooting teams in the country. The three ball is a legitimate weapon for Yale, the same can hardly be said for LSU. The Tigers cannot get away from attacking the rim and grabbing offensive rebounds and try to out-three the Bulldogs.
LSU is a three-seed for a reason. Yale, for all its fanfare, is still a mid major. The Tigers have the talent advantage, while the Bulldogs are the more experienced group. LSU can either flex its muscles and show why its a Final Four threat, or be on the wrong side of a Cinderella story.