Gorged on turkey and stuffing, the Game Day blog is back.
Fittingly, LSU dined on a bird Thursday, withstanding an early second-half push by Saint Joseph’s to come notch an 82-65 victory in the Old Spice Classic.
The reward: A tilt at 4:30 p.m. today against 21st-ranked Memphis in the semifinals of the winner’s bracket.
And the Tigers did it with a different formula, shirking the 28-percent clip from the three-point arc to can 8 of 12 in the first half and 12 of 26 overall. Meanwhile, its front court duo of Jordan Mickey and Johnny O’Bryant III didn’t have to carry the overall load with the Tigers’ bench keying a first-half run to build a cushion the Hawks never pared below eight points.
LSU now has access to a decent set of teams to pad its potential postseason resume. A win over Memphis is gold. If it results in a tilt against No. 5 Oklahoma State, all the better. (The play of Marcus Smart alone makes the Pokes a tough draw). But a loss to Memphis might still mean a matchup with Butler, which gets the Cowboys first.
Regardless, Johnny Jones’ team will leave Orlando with some quality depth on its profile.
Oh, and don’t forget Robert Kirby. You know, the former LSU assistant coach now on Memphis headman Josh Pastner’s bench.
The pace will be up and down. Two sets of elite recruiting classes filled out the rosters. And there’s some talented vets to boot.
On the whole, this is the test LSU needed to simulate the environment it hopes to enter in March.
- When: 4:30 p.m. tonight.
- Where: HP Fieldhouse, Orlando, Fla.
- Records: LSU 4-1; Memphis 3-1
- TV: ESPN2.
- Series: Mphis leads 3-2.
- Last Meeting: Memphis won 70-61 on Nov. 21, 2010.
NOTE: The NCAA has not updated its statistical database, so rankings for various categories are impossible to use right now. KenPom.com has just added its player breakdowns and usage stats, so I’ll utilize those metrics in the Players to Watch section. If you have questions about the statistical categories, head here.
- Points Per Game: 86.0
- FG %: 45.4
- 3FG%: 31.8
- FT%: 68.1
- Rebounds Per Game: 49.2
- Assists Per Game: 17.4
- Turnovers Per Game: 16.2
- Adjusted Efficiency: 110.9 (No. 59)
- Adjusted Tempo: 72.8 (No. 45)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 14.7 seconds (No. 19)
- Effective FG%: 50.4 (No. 137)
- Turnover %: 20.8 (No. 279)
- Off. Reb %: 43.8 (No. 7)
- FTA/FGA: 34.4 (No. 278)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 70.2
- FG% D: 40.2
- 3FG% D: 32.6
- FT%: 61.2
- Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 35.2
- Rebound Margin: +14.0
- Assists Allowed Per Game: 11.4
- Turnovers Forced Per Game: 14.8
- Adjusted Efficiency: 95.2 (No. 36)
- Effective FG% D: 44.6 (No. 52)
- Turnover %: 19.0 (No. 142)
- Off. Reb. %: 27.4 (No. 58)
- FTA/FGA: 30.1 (No. 32)
- Points Per Game: 90.0
- FG %: 49.8
- 3FG%: 32.0
- FT%: 64.2
- Rebounds Per Game: 44.8
- Assists Per Game: 17.5
- Turnovers Per Game: 14.2
- Adjusted Efficiency: 111.2 (No. 46)
- Adjusted Tempo: 75.4 (No. 12)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 12.6 seconds (No.1)
- Effective FG%: 52.9 (No. 76)
- Turnover %: 17.9 (No. 157)
- Off. Reb %: 40.9 (No. 20)
- FTA/FGA: 51.7 (No. 53)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 72.2
- FG% D: 40.8
- 3FG% D: 31.9
- FT%: 60.5
- Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 37.8
- Rebound Margin: +7.0
- Assists Allowed Per Game: 13.0
- Turnovers Forced Per Game: 19.0
- Adjusted Efficiency: 93.2 (No. 16)
- Effective FG% D: 45.2 (No. 68)
- Turnover %: 23.9 (No. 10)
- Off. Reb. %: 34.1 (No. 241)
- FTA/FGA: 32.8 (No. 56)
Sadly, I’ll be in a press box watching LSU and Arkansas tangle in football. But you should settle in and watch two teams that are inside the top 20 nationally for adjusted tempo and the top 15 for average possession length. Remember how fast the LSU-UMass game was? This should settle in at that pace. Keep an eye on three areas: Turnovers (Memphis is good at forcing them), Offensive rebounding (LSU wipes the glass) and bench points (both teams are deep). With that, here are the keys.
- Value the ball: The Tigers have averaged 16.0 turnovers per game. And it hasn’t cost them dearly. Yet it’s been bigs in the lane with Mickey and JOBIII that have struggled, combining with 34 giveaways. Not that it matters who it is today. Memphis wants to run, revving its offense with offense with guards Joe Jackson and Missouri transfer Michael Dixon. The tempo shouldn’t bother LSU, which rolled through 10 players against St. Joe’s. But they don’t want to waste possessions.
- One and done: Both sides are stellar on the offensive boards. Memphis starters Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols along with reserve Nick King are grabbing 7.5 offensive rebounds per game. This front line is the first that can legitimately battle with Mickey, O’Bryant and John Odo in the lane. It’s also been a source of points for Mickey, who has four double-doubles to start the year. Zero in on the Goodwin-O’Bryant matchup in the lane overall.
- Tapping the reserves: Memphis first three players off the bench in King, Dixon and guard Damien Wilson average 34.4 points per game. Or, put another way, 38.2 percent of the Tigers’ offense. As for LSU, it’s trio of Shavon Coleman, Darcy Malone and Malik Morgan are posting 16.3 points per game. Hickey is back in the starting line, up, so subtract his 10.2 points from the total, but overall the LSU bench needs to do its share today. Coleman (8.2 ppg) has been effective knifing into zones off the bounce, but he and Morgan have struggled with jumpshooting. So, the question looms: If Stringer or O’Bryant are neutralized, who can chip in points.
In this section, two players for each team you should keep an eye on are highlighted.
- F Jarell Martin, Fr., 6-9, 241 pounds: The freshman finally resembled a McDonald’s All-American with his 15 points on an efficient 4 of 5 shooting. More importantly, Martin looked decisive in his movements. Sure, rehabbing a high ankle sprain nagged at confidence, but this was about more than a sore joint. Martin looked at home on the perimeter. He was assertive on the dribble. He rose confidently for jumpers. He picked his spots with precision. And it started to have the intended effect: Spacing the floor to clear out room in the lane for his brothers up front. Now, can Martin put together back-to-back stellar outings.
- G Anthony Hickey, Jr., 5-11, 185: His offensive rating is 124.9, the best on the roster. His 27.4 assist percentage leads the Tigers. And he’s swiping steals on 5.9 percent of his defensive possessions. Tonight, he’ll need to clamp down on Jackson and Dixon for Memphis. Distributing the ball would be nice, considering he’s been adept at worming into the lane for dump offs and pitch outs. There’s risk, though, Jackson draws 7.4 fouls per game. Hickey is aggressive on the perimeter. If he gets in early foul trouble, freshman Tim Quarterman hasn’t shown he can handle the full-time duty of piloting LSU’s offense.
- F Shaq Goodwin, So. 6-9, 242: The Atlanta native is trying to translate potential into production, averaging just 9.7 points per game. Against Siena, he had 10 points in the first 10 minutes, a fast start inspired by a chat with Kirby. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and he’ll need to produce at a similar rate tonight against LSU. If he doesn’t, King, a freshman, might be called upon to fill the void.
- G Michael Dixon, Sr., 6-1, 200: The Missouri transfer brings a wealth of experience to a young roster. And there’s no drop off when Jackson heads to the bench. Dixon is a boon defensively, considering he was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 Conference. He left Mizzou after he was accused of accused of sexual assault. No charges were filed, and he enrolled this summer at Memphis and was granted a waiver to play immediately. Expect him to be a pestering presence on the ball — a counter to Jackson’s scoring punch.
Las Vegas installed Memphis as the favorite, with the line settling between 2.5 points and 3.0 points.
KenPom Prediction: Memphis 81, LSU 79 (51 percent confidence)