The 3 seed LSU women’s basketball team (25-5) will host the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014.
Coincidentally, 2014 was LSU’s last sweet 16 run – and its last tournament win.
The Tigers will look to break both, but they will have four other teams in their host site. The PMAC will host a Thursday night play in game of the 11 seeded Missouri State Bears (24-7) and the Florida State Seminoles (17-13). The winner of that match will play the almost comically under seeded 6 seed The Ohio State Buckeyes (23-6) while LSU will play the 14 seed Jackson Tigers (23-6) at 4 in the PMAC.
Here is what to know about each team:
If you haven’t been to the PMAC and do not know the team, first – why? Second, here is what you need to know. LSU is legitimately good, perhaps even underrated. The Tigers have 6 wins over ranked teams and played No. 1 South Carolina closer than UConn or Stanford. They finished 13-3 in the SEC (tied for 3rd most wins in SEC play by an LSU team) and 25-5 (most wins since 2007-08 Final Four). There is a strong case that LSU could have been up a seed line. Still, it is hard to be upset about a three seed instead of a two seed.
The Tigers are led by a dynamic backcourt of seniors Khayla Pointer and Jailin Cherry and juniors Alexis Morris and Ryann Payne. Pointer and Morris are the only players who average in double digits with Pointer averaging 19 points per game and Morris averaging 15.77 ppg. Morris should return from an injury in the tournament but may be a little rusty and might not play much in the opening round game. LSU can also add junior Sarah Shematsi and freshman Timia Ware into the rotation in game one.
LSU’s frontcourt is where they have the biggest advantage. The Tigers are the only team in their host site with two players taller than 6’5” in senior Faustine Aifuwa and sophomore Hannah Gusters. Both of those players should see significant minutes in game one as Aifuwa averages 9.7 ppg and 6.6 rebounds per game. Gusters has come on strong lately and do not be shocked if the former McDonald’s all-American plays her best basketball in the NCAA tournament. Seniors Autumn Newby and Awa Trasi will also help in the four, especially Newby who at 8.6 rpg.
LSU may have surprised a lot of teams this season, but they have the talent and more importantly experience to make a deep one. LSU has four seniors on its starting rotation and one of, if not the, best coaching staffs in America. The PMAC should be packed for the ideally two remaining games and should be one of the toughest places in America to win. The Tigers are more than capable of making a deep run.
The first game is the only game LSU is guaranteed to play. In that regard, this is the most important LSU can and will face. A strong showing in this game could set LSU up for a deep run. Jackson State can put up a fight. They have won 21 straight games and won the SWAC. Outside of the SWAC, they went 2-6, but their average margin of defeat was 9 and that was against several tournament teams. Admittedly, they have yet to get a win out of quadrant 4. Still, They have talent. They typically shoot the ball well (several games of over 50%), do not commit many fouls, and rebound well. They are led by senior center Ameshya Williams-Holliday, who at 6’4” provides significant size in the paint to matchup with LSU. She is 28th in the nation in points and 14th in rebounds.
Of the 14 seeds, Jackson State is clearly the best. Still, ESPN’s bracket predictor gives LSU a 98% chance of victory and no 3 seed has ever lost to a 14 seed. The LSU coaching staff is also familiar with the matchup. Baylor won 101-52 in the NCAA tournament against them last season. Jackson State, which does not take too many threes is also not built like the teams LSU has struggled against. LSU should win, but I would not be too shocked if this is closer than LSU would like.
Fun Fact: LSU is undefeated against teams that played Southern this year with a strong 7-0 record against teams that played the Jags.
The Ohio State:
The Ohio State ending up in Baton Rouge is a bit of a surprise. After all, the Buckeyes are ranked 14 in the AP Poll and tied for the regular season Big Ten title. You know, things that typically get you seeded higher than 6. Still, the committee was not as impressed with the Buckeyes. I am! If Jackson State is not built like teams LSU has struggled with, the Ohio State is. They make on average 8.4 three pointers a game and LSU has not done a good job at all from behind the arc. The Buckeyes are led by a dynamic guard duo of junior Jacy Sheldon and senior Taylor Mikesell who combine for over 38 points per game. Their biggest vulnerability is rebounding where they have a negative margin. They have two players taller than 6’2”. LSU has a size advantage, so that could be where the Tigers can find the win.
Fun Fact: Weirdly enough, LSU’s last tournament appearance was as a 6 seed in Columbus when the Buckeyes hosted. It was also the Ohio State’s last tournament appearance.
The Seminoles have been a consistent team. They are on their 9th straight tournament appearance. Frankly, Florida State has been a disappointment. The team entered the season ranked 16 but has struggled mightily. They have lost 13 games and struggled to find scoring. Only one of their players averages in double digits. They are not a particularly strong three-point shooting team and lacks height with only two players with a height of over 6’2”. They have had issues with health over the season and are finally healthy now. They have the talent to make a run but have yet to live up to it.
Fun Fact: Florida State and their opponent Missouri State are both in the same beach volleyball conference as LSU.
Of all the teams in the bracket, Missouri State might feel like the one LSU would most want to play. LSU might be the only team in America to feel that way. Missouri State has been to consecutive sweet 16s and is extremely well coached by Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, who has been mentioned in many coaching searches. The reason LSU can feel a little bit relieved to see them is that the Tigers already beat Missouri State, and that was before leading scorer and rebounder Jasmine Franklin suffered a season ending injury. Still, any team that has made consecutive sweet 16 runs will be a tough out.
Fun Fact: Missouri State has the third highest scoring basketball player in NCAA history in Jackie Stiles as an alumna. LSU, obviously, has the first in Pete Maravich.