I can’t think of a better, more original opening than that. Let’s revisit LSU’s truly epic collapse from Saturday.
12-0: Texas Tech’s scoring run with less than a minute to play
Starting anywhere else would be foolish. LSU, at home, had a top-10 team on the ropes with 59 seconds left to play and choked away what would have been by far its best win of the season.
I wrote after LSU’s comeback win against Texas A&M that free throws and defense is what LSU used to power its 18-0 run to end the game. And free throws and defense, or rather a lack thereof, is what cost LSU against the Red Raiders.
Mac McClung hit back-to-back threes, the second coming off, you guessed it, LSU failing to grab a defensive rebound. The Tiger defense lost sight of McClung, Tech’s best player, and McClung made it a 70-71 game.
Sandwiched in between those McClung makes was Josh LeBlanc missing the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Then of course was the horrendous turnover by Trendon Watford.
Mac McClung with great hands to force this steal and Terrence Shannon Jr. finishes the tough lay which ends up being the game-winner. pic.twitter.com/S4X0OpMGKN— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) January 30, 2021
I’ll remind you that inbounds play was called coming out of a timeout. That’s a direct reflection on Will Wade and the coaching staff. LSU has had issues all year with things as simple as inbounding the ball and it finally caught up to them Saturday.
29: Javonte Smart’s points
Smart tied a career high with 29 points. I’m still not totally sold on Javonte Smart: true point guard, he only had one assist, but he can undoubtedly score with the best of them.
Now I think that’s a detriment to LSU. Not the scoring, obviously, but only one assist from your starting point guard. LSU already has one guard with a scorer’s mindset in Cam Thomas, I don’t believe they need a second one. Unfortunately LSU may need more 20-point games from Smart because...
2: LSU bench points
A consistent them for this LSU team is the lack of scoring off the bench and it showed again Saturday. At this point in the year I don’t think there’s any fixing the bench production. Maybe Eric Gaines gets hot one random night, maybe Josh LeBlanc can out-physical a team’s second center for a few points in the paint, but I think LSU may have to hope a trio of Smart, Thomas and Trendon Watford can outscore an entire opposing team.
-12: LSU’s rebounding margin
Again, another weakness of LSU’s that I don’t think will be improving. In fact it more than likely will get worse as Darius Days, LSU’s best rebounder, will be sidelined with a knee injury for a couple of weeks per Will Wade.
Considering LSU’s strengths and weaknesses, I’d say Days is the player LSU can’t afford to lose for an extended period of time. Not only is he LSU’s best rebounder, he’s a legit floor spacer and a legitimate threat from three.
0-5: LSU’s record against Quad 1 opponents
The good news for LSU is they still don’t have a bad loss on its resumé. But LSU simply has to start beating other NCAA Tournament caliber teams if they want to get an at-large bid. The other issue for LSU is they don’t yet have enough quality wins to offset a potential bad loss.
The good news for LSU is they still have plenty of chances to bolster its resumé. In this week’s AP Top 25 the SEC has four ranked teams—Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida— and LSU plays all four*, two of them this week. At best LSU will need to split those four games to get on the right side of the bubble.
*This is assuming LSU’s postponed game against Missouri gets played. As a reminder, the SEC built in the weekend of March 6 for makeup games to be held.