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LSU Needs More Than the Black Hat to Advance Past the Sweet 16

Wanna be the Big Bad? You need to keep winning.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Maryland vs LSU
Emmitt with a co-conspirator
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Being the villain is so much fun. We should do this more often.

With the recent release of more information about Nike’s pay-for-play scheme now implicating Oregon’s Bol Bol, I know expect the Ducks to become fellow outcasts, victim of scoring hot takes from the media and I’m sorry I couldn’t finish that thought from laughing so hard.

Of course no one gives a damn. You shouldn’t give a damn. There’s just as much smoke that Zion got paid by Duke, and CBS has responded by, instead of talking about how distracted the team is, employing a dedicated camera to cover just Zion. More Zion!

You know what? Good. College basketball needs more stars and all businesses should pay their labor. The proper response to every other program paying their players should be your complete and utter indifference. Of course, that’s what makes the selective outrage over LSU so infuriating.

But LSU is the only program that’s been dumb enough to suspend their coach, giving the story the oxygen it needs to keep burning. So instead of the national shrug of the shoulders aside from the usual suspects, we still have designated ESPN college basketball hype man Dick Vitale coming on Baton Rouge radio to spit venom about LSU.

(Shout out to Friend of the blog, T-Bob Hebert, who is far classier than we are…)

I mean, do you know how hard it is to get Dick Vitale to say something negative about a program or a coach? This is a guy who still defends Rick Pitino, and Louisville was stripped of its national title. Now, go find a Louisville fan that cares.

Because here’s the thing. The NCAA can’t take away memories. So who gives a rat’s ass what the NCAA may or may not do to LSU in the future. Especially given that the investigation will likely embroil nearly every single school, and they aren’t going to put all of college basketball on probation.

The only logical response is to ride this train all the way to the Final Four. CBS is going to portray LSU as the black hats against Michigan St. and Duke? Aside from being laughably hypocritical… bring it. (OK, Virginia Tech seems cool, but my brother is a Hokie, so let’s burn those Gobblers to the ground).

Every negative tweet, every snarky aside from the play-by-play crew, every hyperbolic editorial asking us to please think of the children… that is what gives us strength. This negative energy only makes us stronger.

But you know what? Spite can only get you so far. The big thing which will carry the Tigers is that this team is pretty f’n good. Yes, it is frustrating that LSU consistently builds double digits leads and then slowly lets them erode over the course of the second half. You know what? As problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.

At this point, though, I think we’re all familiar with LSU’s weaknesses. The Tigers shoot abysmally from beyond the arc, and they have problems grabbing defensive boards, despite being one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation. Not everything makes sense. Also, LSU has relied all year on getting to the rim, creating contact and drawing fouls. That strategy might have a major flaw in it so long as LSU is team non grata.

Michigan St is, put simply, a nightmare matchup for LSU. Their 34.2% offensive rebounding rate ranks 24th in the nation and their defense ranks fourth in effective FG% allowed. The Spartans also slow the game down to a crawl, something which gives LSU fits. Think of Sparty as a better, more talented version of Florida, and you can see the problem.

Oh, and Michigan St can shoot lights out (15th in effective FG%, 24th in three-point %, and 28th in two-point %). We’re looking at a team that can limit LSU to one shot, doesn’t commit a ton of fouls, and on the other end can light it up from anywhere on the court.

It sounds crazy, but LSU matches up a lot better with Duke. Duke is even worse at shooting threes than LSU, and they run virtually their entire offense through Zion. Now, Zion is an incredible player, but LSU has the frontcourt depth to match up with him or at the very least, spend multiple fouls to stop. Duke also likes to push the pace to a tempo LSU is far more comfortable with.

It wouldn’t be an easy game, Duke is the overall #1 seed for a reason, but LSU plays a style that matches far better to Duke than Michigan St. The problem here is that LSU has to play Michigan St in the Sweet 16. Hey, Hokies… wanna trade?

If LSU makes it to the Final Four, they will have made it the hard way. The other three teams left in the East region are ranked 3rd, 4th, and 11th in the KenPom, respectively. LSU has the talent, but we might need some of that spite to carry us over the top.