In the SEC opening salvo, the Missouri Tigers welcome one of the (approximate -- may not be accurate) 8 other SEC teams with the Tiger mascot. The Southern most, and Swampiest version, dubbed the Bayou Bengals because Louisiana is known for the Bayous. Get it? And Bengals are Tigers. So there you go. This is the first, and only scheduled meeting between these versions of Tigers for this season. Hope it goes well for us, not them.
Presenting the Louisiana State University Tigers
location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
By HHKB Chris: Welcome to SEC Conference Basketball version 3.0!
Welcome LSU to Mizzou Arena!
Welcome fans to a Thursday night tilt, hopefully (no seriously -- please go to the game)!
Mizzou kicks off its first of two games against the other Tigers this week with our southern-most brethren the Bayou Bengals, as they are often referred to. I’ll get into LSU, their mascot, fun facts about their alumni and a general potpourri (translated to rotten pot – cooking vessel, not the legal/illegal drug dependent on where you live) of info that you’re just itching to know, but because we don’t head down to Baton Rouge (translated to red stick) I am going to use this space to point out a court monstrosity. LSU, what in the name of the god are you doing down there? Just look at this monstrosity!
Two toned, cub scout logo at center court, I mean it’s a disaster! It’s not Vandy level terrible, but for sheer look, this takes the cake. Ugliest. Court. In. The. SEC.
It’s almost as if LSU doesn’t want people to even acknowledge they have a team with that court, it’s a court only a mother could love, and even then, the court’s mom would really consider plastic surgery. As I said, the mascot of Louisiana State University is a Tiger, not a topless co-ed covered in beads eating corndogs (I still don’t get this meme, but whatever). And LSU has a real life Tiger, his name is Mike. LSU is on the 6th Mike and he was previously named Roscoe before he was changed to Mike, see LSU didn’t feel like paying for a new Mike so they were given one by some nice people in Indiana. This is very cool, and because Mike/Roscoe and the Memphis Tiger that shows up at football games, every few years the students at Mizzou demand their own version. LSU also has the plush version and he looks like he’s in a constant state of concern about his next meal, not crazy like Clemson’s or as awesome as Truman, just lost in the grocery store 8 second before screaming for his guardian as he meanders the frozen food aisle.
LSU being a large university has many famous alumni, at least according to Wikipedia, because to be honest with you, I haven’t heard of lot of these individuals. Will Wright, he invented The Sims, so Sim City*, Sim Earth*, Sim Golf*, Sim Life*, Sim I don’t want to list all the Sims. For those unaware of the Sims, you basically create and play things, but it’s a simulation of real life. I imagine these are great for shut ins, or those who have gotten too fat to leave their house, at least until Montell shows up…or a solitary young man who used it to make friends in his dorm because he was shy and saw them playing the game and pretended he knew what it was…not that I have any idea what that would be like, LAY OFF MOM!
* cannot actually confirm that this was created by Mr. Wright
Another famous alum would be the whole band, "Better than Ezra" and they have that one song that was popular, but what I remember most is Norm Macdonald’s joke about them coming in at the top of the charts and in second was Ezra...
Man SNL used to be funny(Sam says: SNL has been funnier in the last two years than it has been in a decade. Really, give it a shot)!
Finally, for those going to the game in CoMO, I think it's only right that someone who lives in DC and frequents Columbia but once a year should give some restaurant advice. So if you need to have some dinner pre or post game this coming Thursday might I suggest "Umbria" Columbia's newest Italian restaurant that elmedico said is great and who BST's parents got a gift card from BST brother, so you know it's good! Looking at the menu I'd try the Porchetta di Cacciatore, pancetta wrapped porkloin ‘cause that sounds kick in the crotch fantastic and for the vegetarians, the four cheese gnocchi because who doesn't want to get down on some little pillows of cheese?! Let me know how it goes and if it sucks, well I refuse blame, go to Yelp and destroy them. For those not in CoMO, the game's on ESPN2, WatchESPN the Tiger Radio Network, and who am I to tell you what to eat? But if you need advice, Taco Bell and a beer are always a good bet for a good night!
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: The Tigers (LSU-style) haven't really played anyone, their Strength of Schedule is a paltry 143, which is second worst to only Mississippi State in the SEC. They've had one tough non conference game at West Virginia, and managed to hand the Moutaineers their only loss. So winning their toughest non-con is a good thing. And they've done a lot of winning, as their record stands at 11-2. Even their two losses could be worse, Old Dominion (careful, they're 12-1 with a win over VCU) and Clemson (which doesn't look great, but at least they're an ACC team). The problem is their wins have been over mostly bad teams and not a whole lot of blowouts. Texas Tech in OT, McNeese St by 11, Sam Houston State by 9, UAB by 9, most recently Savannah State by 16.
All that has led to a 56th ranking in KenPom, which is exactly 100 spots ahead of Missouri. That doesn't mean that Missouri can't hang with them, because Illinois is one spot behind them at 57. What that usually means when a team is ranked in that area is that they're good, but not great. And they have flaws that can be exploited.
LSU is led by a couple of very, very, very good big men. Jarell Martin (33.9 minutes, 18.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Jordan Mickey (33.5 mpg, 16.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg) are both pro level players and will probably be playing professionally next year. After Mickey and Martin, you have Keith Hornsby (yes, Bruce's son) who is a really good athlete and an awkwardly good shooter. He averages 33.2 minutes and 12.2 points per game. Tim Quarterman (32 mpg, 11.2 ppg) and Josh Gray (30.9 mpg, 9.8 ppg) round out the top five. You'll notice that the top 5 ALL average over 30 minutes per game. The next highest MPG average is 17 minutes, with freshman Jalyn Patterson. Then a steep drop off after that. LSU is very talented, but they just aren't very deep.
Missouri has every reason to believe they can be in this game, and if they're in the game, they'll have a chance to win.
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With And The Valley Shook
A big thanks to Chris Abshire, writer at AndTheValleyShook.com, our LSU sister site here at SBNation, for taking some time to answer our questions about the Bayou Bengals. Both Chris and PodKatt (the Editor at ATVS) are great follows on twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.
Follow @ChrisAbshire Follow @valleyshook
RockMNation: In Year 3 of the Johnnie Jones tenure, what is the general feeling of the trajectory of the program, and Jones coaching in general?
Chris Abshire: If you'd posed this question about a month ago, you would have received a much different answer. LSU was 3-2 and scuffling after a poor showing in the Paradise Jam and really just not playing adequate basketball against anybody. But consecutive wins over UMass and West Virginia (on the road, after being down 15 in the 2nd half) and subsequent wins over some mid-majors have not only resurrected the Tigers' season but really the feel of the entire Johnny Jones era. Year 1 was an unmitigated success, as he took a ragtag bunch and won 19 games with them, while Year 2 was full of talent and promise but short on delivering results. Now, most feel like everything is coming together.
LSU fans certainly don't believe Jones is a top notch Xs and Os coach or talent developer, but he's good at reaching his players and man, can he recruit. One look at the current roster and it's an enormous upgrade from when he took over 2+ years ago. Plus, there's two 5-star recruits in the pipeline for next year.
Overall, this team will play down to its competition but is capable of delivering that one emphatic run to blow you away. That's a credit to Jones, just as it is a detriment to him that the team is struggling in the first place.
RMN: Jordan Mickey sort of stole Jarell Martin's thunder last season, this year they form a lethal frontcourt tandem. What led to Mickey's early success, and what has Martin done this season to complete the dynamic duo?
Abshire: Mickey's early success was somewhat surprising in its totality, in how complete he was. It certainly helped his learning curve that he had Johnny O'Bryant III alongside him last season but he's a true do-it-all guy. His mid-range shooting is crisp and reliable, his straight-up defense is stout but aggressive and his shot-blocking is intuitive, aided by his effortless leap and keen eye for the help side on defense. He's about as reliable as they come in college basketball, and he's on pace for a second consecutive 100-block season while averaging a double-double. His game just feels mature.
Martin was the more heralded of the two when he came in last year, but he just wasn't as polished of a player and did battle an injury right out the gate, too. He looked like a guy often stuck in slow motion adapting to the high-speed blur of the college game. Not this year, though. The main thing has just been his willingness to take command of the offense and scoot inside the 3-point line when he gets aggressive. He's shooting over 50 percent from the field and that's with taking a handful of shots more per game. He's a tremendous finisher around the rim, and he's liable to throw down a nasty dunk in transition. We're finally seeing his athleticism harnessed into a viable skill set in the college game.
RMN: Outside of the two big guys, who has been the biggest surprise for the Tigers in the early going? What are they going to have to do to make the NCAA's this year, and what is the biggest concern about the team moving forward?
Abshire: The no-doubt biggest surprise on this team has been Tim Quarterman, a lanky guard and LSU's 6th man. He was often a punching bag for the fanbase last year as a freshman after some preseason hype fizzled and he was often reckless and unprepared out on the floor. It's been an entirely different story this year. While his shot still isn't pretty, he's become a consummate distributor and hustle player for the Tigers, dealing out assists, guarding the opponent's best wing player and snatching rebounds against guys 4-6 inches taller than him. He won't throw up 25 points on you but he has been the surprising engine for this team.
As for NCAA aspirations, it's going to come down to a couple things. Can LSU score consistently? Can they stay poised on the road? Outside of Mickey and Martin, Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray are probably the other two primary scoring threats. But depth is a concern, though guard Jalyn Patterson's emergence as a 3-point threat should help this team a lot. They've seemed to find the offense when they need it, but I wouldn't say the long scoring lulls that marked the Tigers' early struggles are entirely a thing of the past. And then there's the road woes. LSU has given positive signs on that front by beating a damn good West Virginia team in their gym and handling UAB in Birmingham with Josh Gray out of the lineup and Quarterman ailing. Still, this team went 2-7 last season on the road in league play. This group needs to at least double that to have NCAA aspirations and quell the major concerns around the program.
RMN: Have you paid any attention to Mizzou so far this year? What are your early impressions on the Columbia Tigers?
Abshire: I've been able to watch only a couple Missouri games and follow along with a few more. I've been largely unimpressed but the last few weeks make me nervous. Even though the wins aren't there yet, Missouri had late leads against Illinois and Oklahoma State and just couldn't finish. They almost seem due for a big one, especially in a conference opener at home. Other than that, they look like a fairly typical program in rebuild mode, with a first-year coach. Some sloppy play and adjustments to be made, sure, but there's been improvement practically every week. The SEC better get Missouri now.
RMN: Last, how do you see this game playing out? And what do you predict the final score to be?
Abshire: Even though the KenPom ratings and the RPI and everything else suggests a relatively sound win for LSU, I just can't see it happening that way. Like I said, Missouri has made some strides recently, and the purple-and-gold Tigers may still find themselves in an early hole due to an unfamiliar and intimidating environment. I expect LSU to pull out a narrow win, perhaps with the help of a few Mickey blocks down the stretch and Jarell Martin getting more calls driving to the basket than the home crowd may like. But it will not be easy by any stretch.
Final Score: LSU 72, Missouri 67
Thanks again to Chris Abshire of And The Valley Shook for taking the time to answer our questions. Please feel free to give him a follow and talk trash on twitter if Missouri actually pulls off this win (just kidding - be nice).
So it won't be easy for Missouri to win this game, but let's wrap this whole thing up with some keys to HOW Missouri might win.
1) Limiting Second Chance Points
LSU is a pretty effective shooting team, and Martin and Mickey are both big, athletic and talented. So you have to limit their chances. Giving up easy putbacks, or just losing the rebounding battle on the LSU offensive end is going to mean for a long day for the good Tigers. If Mizzou is able to maintain some balance on the glass, and do a decent job of keeping LSU off, they'll give themselves an opportunity to win.
2) Capitalize on Turnovers
LSU can be careless with the ball. Their schedule hasn't been the toughest and they still average around 15 turnovers a game. If Mizzou can find a way to hit that number in forced, and turn at LEAST half of those into points, that will help in a big way. But they have to convert.
3) Free Points
This is almost an addendum to #2, but LSU doens't really get to the foul line much. Missouri actually does a decent job with this. JW3 has been very good at attacking the rim, Jakeenan Gant does the same when he's in the game. And Mickey and Martin like to block shots, and as a team the bad Tigers block around 6 per contest. When it comes to a good shot blocker, it's best to get into their body, and hope the refs make the call. Then again, we're talking about SEC refs, so good luck with that. But if you get LSU into foul trouble, their lack of depth can show up in a hurry, and in the meantime you can shoot free throws!
Missouri is lucky that they're starting the SEC season at home, against a flawed team. LSU is the better team, there is no question about that. If both teams play their best, LSU wins, probably 80% of the time. Basketball is an imperfect game, and like most sports, the game is one by the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. Just like you aren't going to bat 1.000 in baseball, you aren't going to shoot 100% in basketball. The best way to beat a superior team is to force the guys they do not want shooting the ball, to shoot the ball. The best way to do that is to attack the guys they want shooting the ball and get them into foul trouble.
There is a big flaw there though, in that Missouri doens't have a team full of guys that are good at drawing fouls. They have a couple guys that can, and one of them is likely going to be sitting out with a back problem (if you haven't heard, Montaque Gill-Caesar is still nursing his bad back from the Leron Black foul, thanks Illinois). They're going to have to get contributions from players who haven't stepped into a big role yet. It would also be nice if Keanau Post showed up again. Something tells me we probably can't count on that though, we might be better off letting Gant loose, as he's so aggressive in attacking the rim, he might draw a couple extra fouls and knock one of Mickey or Martin out for a segment of the first half.
I don't want this to seem as though I don't think Mizzou can win without these things happening, I just see a marked advantage if one or two future NBA players aren't in the game. I said above that I think LSU is beatable, and they are. They aren't deep, and they don't blow a lot of people out because they can be careless with the ball. In the end I think they still win this game though. I'll take LSU 76 - Missouri 67.
Leave any trifecta picks below, for my own I'll take Clark, Shamburger & Gant. I think JW3 could struggle a bit in this game.