Preview with Analysis
Even near the top of the SEC standings, LSU knows it has to keep winning if it wants a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Due to the weakness of the conference, the Tigers don’t have many great wins. Combine that with lackluster non-Conference play and they can’t afford to lose many more Games this year.
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Texas A&M was ranked in the Top 10 just a week ago, but slipped up a bit in recent Games, losing three straight in-conference, two to teams with losing SEC records at the time. But unlike LSU, the Aggies have some strength in non-Conference wins, having taken down a number of ranked Big 12 teams as well as Gonzaga. That’s the main difference between these teams and the reason LSU needs this win a little more.
The Aggies didn’t have too many problems in the first meeting, winning 71-57 as Ben Simmons had just 10 points in 38 minutes. Sure, he added 10 boards and five assists, but like in most LSU losses, Simmons didn’t attack enough from an offensive perspective. Texas A&M was only 6-of-25 from deep in that Game, yet that didn’t really matter.
LSU is a much better team at home, so expect a closer-fought Game, but this time the Tigers have the edge. since Conference play started, the Tigers only have one loss at home and that was a close Game against then-No. 1 Oklahoma. They took down Kentucky by 18 points in that period as well.
When the Tigers put everything together, they can beat a lot of teams, but that’s not a given. Simmons has taken up a bigger role since only attempting seven shots in the Oklahoma loss, and that could be the difference in this Game. Over the last two Games, he has 37 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists while attempting 26 shots. A&M has a good, balanced team that has some guys to defend Simmons, but Simmons is another level. There’s a reason why he’s a no-brain No. 1 pick for the upcoming NBA Draft.
OUtside of Simmons, the Tigers still have a good core of players with Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman in the backcOurt, both of who can get hot from deep. The same can be said about Antonio Blakeney off the bench, who dropped 31 points over the weekend on Mississippi State. But when those shots aren’t falling (LSU shoots 34% from 3 as a team), that’s when the Tigers run into problems, like the first time these teams played.
The Aggies are built on depth with loads of senior talent, but also multiple freshmen that can make an impact. Jalen Jones was a beast in the first meeting with 20 points, but A&M’s struggles have coincided with Jones’. He was just 1-of-13 from the field at Vandy and the Aggies lost by 17 points. Danuel House is another senior that had a good showing last Game with 10 boards and 6 assists. Their size on the perimeter presents all kinds of problems for opposing teams. But one area the Aggies exploited in that first meeting was down low with freshman big man Tyler Davis. LSU doesn’t have a ton of size and Davis really had his way with 18 points in 29 minutes of action. LSU’s Craig Victor will need to prevent that from happening again.
The Aggies have been the more consistent team throughout the season, which is why they are ranked. However, with the way they are playing now, the door is open for LSU to get a win over a ranked team. If not, the Tigers may have to win out to reach the big Tourney.