For the first time literally in my lifetime the LSU men’s basketball team (18-8, 11-6) will compete for an SEC Tournament championship.
In LSU’s way is Alabama (23-6, 16-2), the SEC’s regular season conference champions and a team that, frankly, has owned LSU this season.
The Tide and Tigers have played twice this 2020-2021 season. Alabama has won both games and neither have been particularly close. In January, Alabama buried LSU with a barrage of threes and routed the Tigers 105-75 inside the PMAC. Fifteen days later LSU made the return trip to Coleman Coliseum with payback on its mind and instead “only” lost by 18. Two games, two losses by a combined 48 points.
Alabama is one of the few teams in the nation who can match LSU offensively. The Tide rank 36th in KenPom’s adjusted offense and their approach to offense resembles an NBA team: spacing the floor with shooters, which opens up driving lanes to the hoop. You won’t see Alabama take any long twos, it’s either three-pointers or layups. In fact Alabama leads the nation in threes made (308) and attempted (876).
The Tide have seven players shooting 35 percent or better from three and as a team Alabama makes 10 threes a game. Alabama, if you’ll remember, set an SEC-record with 23 three-pointers in their 105-75 rout of LSU.
But LSU is quietly one of the better teams defending the three in the nation. Opponents only shoot 29 percent from three against LSU, good for 20th in Division 1. LSU’s brought it’s three-point defense with them to Nashville, allowing Ole Miss and Arkansas to shoot a combined 12-45 from distance.
The problem for LSU is Alabama’s not only great offensively, they’re even better on defense. The Tide is No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defense and defend the three-ball as well as they shoot it, ranking seventh nationally in opposing three-point percentage (28.4 percent).
The Tide have had a magical year and have swept all the conference’s awards. Herb Jones is both the conference player of the year and defensive player of the year, while Nate Oats is the coach of the year.
But while Alabama’s had one great year, LSU’s had sustained excellence over the past three. LSU has won more conference games than anybody over the last three years. One more will make them SEC Tournament champions for the first time since 1980.
Let’s go win this thing.