Here’s what LSU basketball must do to win SEC Tournament
SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryLSU, @bigahickey or by email to Alex at email@example.com.
Question of the Day: Thursday, March 8
With a couple more wins in the regular season, LSU basketball would be entering the SEC Tournament in very comfortable shape. The Tigers’ win over Big Ten tourney champion Michigan looks especially strong right now.
Unfortunately, the Tigers (17-13) are not in great shape. Earlier this week coach Will Wade cited losses to Marquette and Stephen F. Austin as “the ones that got away.” But he’s not lamenting the past. He’s looking to the future. There’s still a path to the big dance for the Tigers. It just requires an SEC Tournament crown.
What does LSU need to do to make a run in the SEC basketball tournament?
To try and keep it simple, I’ve created a primer for the best way to beat each of the Tigers’ potential opponents in the tournament.
Fortunately, the formula for this one is pretty fresh. The Tigers finished the regular season with a 21-point beatdown of the Bulldogs.
Two keys to the win for LSU: defense and 3-point shooting. The Tigers forced 9 steals and made 11 3s to beat State on Saturday. Playing at an unfamiliar neutral site, the 3-point shooting might not be there, so the defense will need to be.
If LSU gets past Mississippi State, No. 2 seed Tennessee looms. This matchup is more problematic. The Vols handed the Tigers their worst SEC loss this season. LSU isn’t well-equipped to handle this team.
But the Volunteers do have some weaknesses that can be exploited. Defensively, Tennessee allows a lot of offensive rebounds and a lot of free throws. (They rank 280th and 269th nationally in those two categories.)
LSU needs monster games from Aaron Epps and Duop Reath, and then has to take away one of Tennessee’s strengths. The Tigers rank 32nd in steal percentage, which indicates that they’d be capable of forcing the Vols into more turnovers than usual.
Team you want in semifinal: Arkansas
There is one opponent that sticks out as the best possible semifinal matchup for the Tigers. That is No. 6 seed Arkansas, which LSU swept with ease in the regular season. The Hogs obviously play well against other teams, but LSU is a nightmare for them.
If it’s Florida…
The most likely semifinal opponent would be No. 3 seed Florida.
When LSU went to Florida, the Tigers committed 16 turnovers and shot below 0 percent at the free-throw line as Tremont Waters had one of the worst showings of his career. If the Tigers are able to get a typical performance from Waters, they have a shot.
Anyone but Bama or Auburn
If the LSU season is still rolling into the SEC Tournament final, things are going very well. At that point the Tigers will be playing with so much confidence that the opponent might not seem like it matters. But it does.
Two teams loom as the worst possible matchups for LSU in the final — No. 9 Alabama and No. 1 Auburn. LSU is 0-3 against the Alabama schools and simply doesn’t have the personnel to push either one.
The dream would be to face No. 8 Texas A&M if the Aggies make a run. No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 Missouri are other teams LSU is capable of beating, but it will be a virtual home game if either of those teams reaches the final in St. Louis.
The best hope for LSU is that a run to the final would be enough to impress the selection committee regardless of the outcome.
To see prior answers to our Question of the Day, we have you covered.