Stop me if you have heard this one before: a three seed LSU women’s basketball team will take on a woefully under seeded 6 seed from the Big Ten in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
It is a bit like last season as the 29-2 Tigers get a 23-9 Michigan team ranked inside the top 20 for a shot at the Sweet 16. But this time around there are some differences going into this year’s Round of 32 game with the Wolverines than last year’s game against Ohio State.
First, LSU has Angel Reese this year. Reese scored 34 points and had 15 rebounds in the opening round 73-50 win over Hawaii, a stat line not seen by a women’s SEC player this century.
Second, Michigan is good but they were not the Big Ten champion like those Buckeyes were last year.
Third, the Wolverines play a very different style of basketball than the three point barrage that the Buckeyes unleashed on the Tigers last year.
That might be a problem though. The Wolverines rely on rebounding and efficient shotmaking to beat opponents.
The Wolverines hit 44% of their shots including 40% from behind the arc in their 71-59 win against UNLV. They had a 41-31 margin on the boards, too.
They have size and length with four starters 6 feet or taller, something they have in common with Tennessee and South Carolina (the two teams that beat the Tigers). Three of their starters average more than 16 points, the only team in the nation to do so. Michigan might be better than its seed. Two of the five seeds lost.
The Wolverines are not without weaknesses though. They rely heavily on their starters, four of whom average more than 30 minutes and they scored all but two of their points in the UNLV game.
The Tigers have the ability to win. In fact, they are the favorites to win. To do so, they will need more from Reese’s supporting cast. In Friday’s matchup, the rest of the team shot just 33%.
Along with Reese, grad transfer LaDazhia Williams and Sa’Myah Smith will need to hold down the paint and prevent Michigan from getting good looks inside. They will also need to give LSU an edge on the boards that they struggled to get over Hawaii.
The Tigers will need more from its guards than it got in its opening match. Fifth year senior Alexis Morris had a streak of four straight games with 21+ points snapped. Sf Morris can get back to form, LSU will be well poised for a sweet 16. Senior Jasmine Carson, freshman Flau’Jae Johnson, and juniors Last-Tear Poa and Kateri Poole will need to bring their A-game too. Carson has been in a bit of a cold stretch, but is capable of going off for LSU. The Tigers need her to knock down threes to go far. In fact, LSU needs everyone to knock down threes. The Tigers made just one against Hawaii shooting under 8% from behind the arc.
Lastly, the PMAC could be an X-factor. It will be packed as LSU looks for its fist Sweet 16 since 2014 and could push LSU over the edge