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LSU’s basketball struggles have eroded support for Johnny Jones

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Hey! The SEC season is about to start and Missouri has 18 SEC games to play. Let’s talk about the first one!

NCAA Basketball: Charleston at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The LSU Tigers roll into town as a fledgling team teetering on the brink of a disastrous season that could end up getting their head coach fired. They’re also 63 spots better than Missouri in KenPom. 63 sounds like a lot, but they’re awwwwful.

No, no they’re not, Kim. They’re better than Missouri but not by a lot. LSU is one of three teams in the league with a current rating in the 100s, which is doing a good job of dragging down the rest of the league along with Missouri and Mississippi State.

LSU being terrible is a little surprising to me as I thought they’d be decent with the amount of talent on the roster and fewer distractions with Ben Simmons moving on. But at this point Johnny Jones has proven he’s capable of leading even the most talented teams to mediocrity. So that’s where we are. A mediocre Division 1 team, a bottom level power conference team, and one Missouri may not be able to beat. So let’s learn more about them.

NCAA Basketball: Houston at Louisiana State Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

LSU is currently 116th in KenPomeroy ratings, which is surprising given a not all that terrible 8-4 record, but dig a little deeper and the record isn’t very pleasant. They’re worst loss was at home last week vs Vanderbilt. I said this just last week:

Oh Johnny Jones. LSU hasn’t been completely terrible, they just haven’t really been what you would call GOOD either. All of their losses are to pretty good teams, but they’ve won a lot of close games against some not great opponents. Texas Southern, North Carolina Central, North Florida... I mean, not exactly inspiring. Outside of Antonio Blakeney the Tigers don’t have much to go to, Duop Reath has been a surprise, but you wonder if he’ll be able to sustain that considering his Offensive Rating against the good teams was in the 80s. If the trends persist, it’s easy to see Jones not coming back to Baton Rouge because I can’t imagine a KenPom rating at 109 is exactly what LSU had in mind in year 5.

Five years and one trip to the NCAA tournament, and the last two years have been an absolute mess. All of this despite some incredible recruiting classes and here we are.

There is talent on this roster, including former top Mizzou target Antonio Blakeney. Blakeney was prioritized by Frank Haith and Tim Fuller and carried over under Kim Anderson, culminating with a pretty epic weekend in recruiting that ended up nowhere. Right now Blakeney is their go-to guy and he’s going to take a lot of shots. The likelihood that he scores 20 points is about even with the chances he takes 20 shots... I think they call that high volume.

The surprise of the year is the play of Duop Reath. He wasn't effective against Vanderbilt last week but Reath has been a steady player inside, which is good because Craig Victor got kicked off the team for some reason or another. Victor was the Arizona transfer and former top 50 recruit who was a very good player a year ago for LSU, but he’s gone now, and the interior without him gets a little worrisome. Certainly not because LSU doesn’t have size, they just don’t seem to play those guys. Aaron Epps is a nice athlete who’s a little on the thin side but at 37.1% of the minutes, he doesn’t see the floor a ton. Elbert Robinson is even bigger and stronger (really, 7-1 290 lbs is a real person on LSU’s roster) and he sees the floor even less despite coming in as a fairly highly ranked recruit.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Mizzou has a 49% chance to beat LSU. This is their best shot at a win remaining on the schedule... from a percentage standpoint.

KenPom Mizzou-LSU

LSU is a dangerous team offensively, they’re also offensive to watch defensively.

They’re 185th defensively and gave Vandy just about every open look they wanted. So the Tigers will get looks, but the stoppable force meets the moveable object and they may not be able to take advantage. Mizzou is pretty decent on defense but this might be the best offensive team they’ve played to date with Blakeney and Brandon Sampson who are able to create just about any shot they want.

LSU’s 118 KenPom rating makes this game a virtual toss up. The line yesterday was Mizzou +2.5 and people were shocked, but when both teams are bad and one team is at home... the home team usually gets the benefit of the doubt.

Honestly this game is kind of a mystery to me. Mizzou has obviously been awful lately in losing at home to Eastern Illinois and Lipscomb, not to mention Arizona (who’s pretty good) and Illinois (who’s pretty mediocre), but LSU is bad too. Mizzou struggles to shoot the ball but LSU doesn’t defend it. So which weakness gives more? Will the Tigers being at home be enough for them to beat the other Tigers?

WHAT TO WATCH?

  1. Blakeney’s TS%: 55.8% is his true shooting % on the season, if the Tigers want to win that number needs to be lower. Blakeney is good enough and streaky enough he could carry LSU to a win. If Blakeney is having an off night, or if Missouri forces him into bad shots, LSU becomes a lot easier to beat.
  2. Easy opportunities: LSU is not what you’d consider a careful team. They’re 271st in TO% (which isn’t a good number). If they’re coughing up the ball the Tigers (the northern version) could get themselves something they have a hard time coming by... points.
  3. Second chances: The athleticism of LSU will be a problem as they tend to pick up a fair amount of their misses, and Missouri has been pretty good at limiting second chance points. Mizzou needs to keep this stat consistent on their end and not give LSU’s offense more chances to score.
NCAA Basketball: Missouri vs Illinois Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Frankie Hughes returns but probably not to the starting lineup. SEC conference play begins and we’ll just see how this goes, eh?