A tight travel schedule has me on a compressed timeline today — have you seen three different terminals at Houston International, by the way — for our Game Day post. So, it’ll be shorter than usual.
DALLAS — If LSU’s players aspire for professional careers, they’ll get a taste of the grind today.
Maybe tomorrow, too.
If the fifth-seeded Tigers knock off top-seed SMU in the second round of the NIT, they’ll have a one-day turnaround before playing Wednesday night. Only they won’t know until a couple hours after their done — in the middle of the night — whether it’s a trip back to the West Coast or a third-meeting with a SEC West foe.
The winner of No. 2 seed California and No. 3 seed Arkansas would have home-court advantage, meaning the Tigers’ coaching staff and support crew will face some sleepless hours trying to get a scouting report knocked out, accommodations double-checked and players moving on from a tilt featuring two teams analysts pegged as potential NCAA tournament squads.
LSU is benefiting from off days late last week, but there’s no telling whether spending the better part of two weeks on the road in the past month will finally take its toll.
Players can talk about the routine mimicking a summer on the grass roots hoop circuit, but they weren’t dealing with a 30-game schedule that came before it, either.
Keep in mind, too, that SMU’s rotation can go up to 11 deep, and contrasts with a Tigers’ roster where seven bodies chew up minutes. The contrast is stark, too. Five players on LSU’s roster play more than 25 minutes, with Johnny O’Bryant III, Jordan Mickey and Anthony Hickey logging more than 30 per game. SMU? Only guards Nic Moore and Nick Russell see a similar work load as the Tigers trio of starters. After that, only one other player goes longer than 24 minutes.
The Mustangs, who were upset in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament, have played just twice since March 8. One of those was their NIT opener against UC-Irvine. LSU has played four times, with three of those at a neutral site and on the road. The last time LSU played in Baton Rouge was its March 8 against Georgia in the regular-season finale.
So, the question looms whether the Tigers, now on their third road trip and with a fourth potentially ahead of them, beginning to feel the effect of all those miles logged.
- When: 8 p.m. today.
- Where: Moody Coliseum, Dallas.
- Records: No. 5 LSU 20-13; No. 1 SMU 24-9
- TV: ESPN
- Series: Tied 2-2.
- Last Meeting: LSU won 91-88 on Dec. 10, 1965, in Baton Rouge.
NOTE: The NCAA updates its statistical page only once a week, so I’ve decided to forgo using the rankings given that it doesn’t provide a real-time idea of where LSU stands. KenPom.com has 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: 74.9
- FG %: 44.4
- 3FG%: 34.2
- FT%: 67.0
- Rebounds Per Game: 39.5
- Assists Per Game: 14.1
- Turnovers Per Game: 13.7
- Adjusted Efficiency: 109.7 (No. 78)
- Adjusted Tempo: 70.0 (No. 31)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 17.0 (No. 69)
- Effective FG%: 50.0 (No. 147)
- Turnover %: 19.2 (No. 246)
- Off. Reb %: 35.2 (No. 49)
- FTA/FGA: 34.5 (No. 309)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 71.0
- FG% D: 41.0
- 3FG% D: 35.1
- FT%: 70.5
- Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 36.6
- Rebound Margin: +2.9
- Assists Allowed Per Game: 11.1
- Turnovers Forced Per Game: 12.8
- Adjusted Efficiency: 98.9 (No. 60)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 17.2 (No. 45)
- Effective FG% D: 46.2 (No. 47)
- Turnover %: 18.0 (No. 197)
- Off. Reb. %: 31.8 (No. 206)
- FTA/FGA: 39.2 (No. 149)
- Points Per Game: 71.3
- FG %: 48.2
- 3FG%: 37.4
- FT%: 68.3
- Rebounds Per Game: 36.3
- Assists Per Game: 15.1
- Turnovers Per Game: 13.5
- Adjusted Efficiency: 108.4 (No. 99)
- Adjusted Tempo: 66.5 (No. 166)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 17.6 (No. 134)
- Effective FG%: 52.5 (No. 45)
- Turnover %: 20.3 (No. 295)
- Off. Reb %: 34.6 (No. 65)
- FTA/FGA: 44.8 (No. 58)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 60.2
- FG% D: 37.7
- 3FG% D: 31.8
- FT%: 69.2
- Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 31.9
- Rebound Margin: +4.4
- Assists Allowed Per Game: 11.5
- Turnovers Forced Per Game: 14.2
- Adjusted Efficiency: 93.1 (No. 10)
- Avg. Poss. Length: 18.4 (No. 262)
- Effective FG% D: 43.9 (No. 7)
- Turnover %: 21.4 (No. 25)
- Off. Reb. %: 31.9 (No. 149)
- FTA/FGA: 40.3 (No. 168)
- Protect the lane: I touched on this aspect last Friday, so I’ll be brief here. LSU has size, but not much proven depth after O’Bryant, Mickey and Martin, who has spent more time recently operating on the wing. SMU can roll at least five men through that are at least 6-foot-9, and only starter Markus Kennedy (24.9 mpg) chews up much time. Outside of Kentucky and Tennessee, few front lines in the SEC matched what LSU rolled out. Lets’ review what the Vols and Wildcats did to the Tigers. It’s not pretty. In four games, UK and UT averaged 38 points in the paint, yanked down 43.2 rebounds and owned a plus-8.0 margin on the backboards. The Mustangs led the AAC in rebounding margin and in rebounds allowed. See where I’m going here, folks? Imagine if LSU runs into foul trouble up front. Who can Jones turn to? There’s Darcy Malone and John Odo, but do you think either can fill the void?
- Slow down Nic Moore: Finally, LSU doesn’t face a hulking guard. But it hardly matters that the sophomore is only 5-9, 170 pounds. He averages 4.9 assists per game. He owns a glittering 62.2 true-shooting percentage while posting 14.2 points per game. Oh, and he knocks down 44.4 percent of his 3-pointers, which should make a LSU defense that’s struggled defending the 3-point line nervous. And he makes great decisions on the break, dishing out 35.8 percent of his assists in transition. Anthony Hickey loves the challenge of matching up with ace point guards, and he’ll get his fill tonight against a prospect that was a member of the All-Freshman team in the Missouri Valley Conference before transferring from Illinois State.
- Good timing: LSU’s improved defensively on the road in recent weeks, and it’s been able to eke out a couple of close road wins at Vanderbilt and in its NIT opener at San Francisco. But as we detailed here, the Tigers’ made enough timely plays against the Dons to extend the lead to as many as 16 points, but wasted five possessions inside the final five minutes that opened the door back up slightly after USF trimmed the lead to six points. The Tigers got 14 points from Jarell Martin in the first half, only to see him disappear after the break. A combined 19 points from seniors Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer helped offset Martin fading into the background. LSU coach Johnny Jones said Martin did a nice job fitting in to flow of the offense and wasn’t shot hunting. And you always expect the home team to make their push, he added late last week. But the margin for error — giving up 40 points in the paint, missing free throws, and losing players on back door lobs — gets narrower this week. Can LSU evolve and mature? Can they clean up late-game execution? Do that and they may live on to Wednesday.
KenPom Prediction: SMU 74, LSU 67 (77% confidence).