This may not get the same hype as last weekend’s Tennessee-Kentucky Game, but it’s just as important for the SEC title with LSU and Tennessee both sitting near the top of the conference. The Tigers have had a lot of close Games and that happened again on Wednesday, losing at home to Florida. It’s been a little shakier for the Vols as of late, not only losing big at UK, but also having some trouble against Vandy on Tuesday. It doesn’t help that this is the only time these teams play and Tennessee still has to go to Mississippi and Auburn with a home contest against UK in between.
These teams are not only vying for the SEC regular season title, but also seeding in the NCAA Tournament and with this possibly being the only matchup, it will be important come Selection Sunday. The biggest outlier in this Game is LSU’s defense, which doesn’t rate well. While the Volunteers are solid on both ends of the floor, the Tigers are last in the Conference in defensive two-point field-goal percentage. That’s a clear issue when facing Tennessee with guys like Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander down low. Even on the other end, Tennessee’s biggest weakness is three-point defense and that’s not an area LSU excels.
While Tennessee has some edges in the underlying stats, LSU has a balanced squad with a stud point guard leading the way in Tremont Waters (15.9 ppg, 6.0 apg). He’s smaller, but he’s also quicker than most and draws a lot of fouls as a point guard. He’s a big part to LSU’s success, but there’s also a stocked frontcOurt with Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams and Emmitt Williams all able to play big. Most impressive was their performance against Kentucky, holding strong against the likes of Reid Travis and PJ Washington. Then you throw in guards Skylar Mays and Ja’vonte Smart, both of whom can drop 20 points on a given night, and it’s easy to see why this team is winning.
Of course, a lot of LSU’s Games have been too close for comfort and that’s because of an unreliable defense, which will be problematic against a normally reliant offense. Stopping the duo of Grant Williams (19.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Admiral SChofield (16.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) is the biggest task for opponents and they could be a problem all Game. Williams gives up some size, but that’s nothing new for him, while SChofield could take control of guys like Smart and Marlon Taylor when he’s at the three spot. But to get back to elite levels, the Vols need Kyle Alexander to play a little smarter and not get into foul trouble. The big man has seen his time drop since earlier in the season and that’s often moved Williams to more of a center role, which may not work against LSU. The other part to Tennessee’s offense is the trio of guards between Jordan Bone, LAmonte Turner and Jordan Bowden. They aren’t as important as Williams and SChofield, but they can all shoot and average at least 10 points per Game. Waters, at 5-foot-11, could have some issues guarding those guys, which is what happened last year when Tennessee won 84-61, albeit in Knoxville.
LSU is at home, but Tennessee knows it can’t afford many more losses, whether it’s looking to the SEC title or to the NCAA Tournament and a possible 1-seed. The Vols have been looked at as the better team all season, but that could change quickly if the Tigers steal this Game.
Our Pick – LSU +2