The LSU men’s basketball program can send Texas A&M a thumbs up emoji for helping the Tigers solidify the fourth seed in the Southeastern Conference tournament this week, and earning a double-bye to the quarterfinals.
However, after an embarrassing loss in the regular season finale at then-No.22 Kentucky, LSU players pointing fingers at each other is no way to end the season. For Ben Simmons to be declared as ineligible for the Wooden Award is a double whammy.
The consolation prize is now the Tigers are given six days to regroup between the loss at Kentucky and their Friday opening game of the SEC tournament. Luckily, being one of the top four seeds means win three games and the Tigers are in the Big Dance.
Earning an automatic berth by winning the SEC Tournament is the only chance the Tigers will go dancing. Now that their backs are against the wall and it’s do or die or time will LSU finally play with urgency? After arguably their best conference win against then ranked No.15 Texas A&M Aggies on February 13, LSU has been outscored in the second half of all six games.
This doesn’t bode well for LSU as it is likely to play the fifth-seeded Vanderbilt on Friday in a de-facto home game for the Commodores as the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Playing competitive for two full halves of a basketball game is key for the Tigers to advance into the weekend.
If LSU can get beat the Commodores for the second time this year in Nashville, some momentum should be gained heading into the semi-finals matchup, most likely against No. 1 seeded Texas A&M.
Already splitting the season series with the Aggies should give the Tigers some confidence heading into this neutral site contest. The key to this matchup on defense is making the Aggies take contested shots, minimizing second chance opportunities and staying out of foul trouble.
On offense taking smart shots, avoiding turnovers and converting a high percentage of free throw attempts are musts. LSU converted 23/29 or nearly eighty percent of its free throw attempts in the Feb.13 contest against A&M. If the Tigers play a well-managed game, look for an appearance in the championship game on Sunday.
The opponent in the championship game will most likely be the No. 2 seeded Kentucky or No. 3 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks. The favorable matchup for LSU would be the Gamecocks. Kentucky basketball draws similar comparisons to how well LSU football fans travel.
Each and every year there is a sea of blue and white at the SEC Tournament. After Saturday’s performance at Rupp Arena, the Tigers’ best chances are to keep the game in Nashville and not in Lexington.
With only one meeting against South Carolina this season, which resulted in an away loss, the Tigers are able to play the revenge factor.
After analyzing potential matchups for LSU, it’s time to look at the positives heading into Friday’s opening game for the Tigers. The starting lineup has no excuses when they step on the floor. Antonio Blakeney is playing his best right now, Jalyn Patterson is making a high percentage of threes and Simmons needs to show the nation he can deal with setbacks after being ineligible for the Wooden Award for academic reasons.
If Craig Victor can stay out of foul trouble and Tim Quarterman makes smart decisions then look for the Tigers to be a threat.
Now is not the time for the Tigers to dwell on what the season could have been, it’s time to prove that the team who started the season ranked is finally ready to compete.