After another close loss(that's way past old), the Crimson Tide turn their attention to the LSU Tigers (12-5, 3-2 in SEC play). Coach Johnny Jones has really gotten his Tigers going here in his second year in Baton Rouge, and they may even be good enough to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Alabama has yet another chance to grab a big win, but the Tide has to finally learn how to make the plays to get over the hump. LSU is a very athletic team, and they are fantastic at rebounding (10th in the country in RPG), so it will be a tough matchup. But Alabama has some advantages here.
In the backcourt, the Tigers are led by a pair of experienced guards with a couple of nice, young players behind them. Senior G Andre Stringer (12.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG) is a very good all-around player. He shoots well (42.5% FG%, 39.8% 3P%, 84.8% FT%), handles the ball well (2.9 APG to only 1.1 TOPG) and has great athleticism that makes him tough to both guard and get separation from. Junior G Anthony Hickey (8.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.3 SPG) is an artist at stealing the basketball. He's been fantastic in this regard his whole career, and that hasn't changed. He doesn't shoot very well (35.0% FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 58.3% FT%), but his quick hands aren't just for swiping the ball away, he also dishes the ball well. Sophomore G Malik Morgan (4.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG) is a solid guard. He doesn't shoot well either (38.0% FG%, 22.2% 3P%, 51.4% FT%), but he can take the ball away at a decent percentage, and his height (6'4) is put to good use on the boards. Finally, Freshman G Tim Quarterman (3.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG) rounds out the rotation. He is a very good defensive player, with a defensive rating of 93.7. He also averages a steal a game despite only playing about 13 MPG. He isn't much of a threat to score either, as his shooting numbers are even worse than Hickey's and Morgan's.
The backcourt is where LSU hangs their collective over sized hat though. Junior F Johnny O'Bryant (14.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG) is a beast in the middle. He's only listed at 6'9, though he seems to play a lot bigger than that. O'Bryant shoots 50.5% from the field and plays very good defense. However, O'Bryant can have his struggles. He fouls a bunch and turns the ball over even more. He averages three fouls a game, which puts LSU in a bind at times, and his 3.4 TOPG is horrible for a guy that doesn't even get the ball as much as, say, a guard would. Freshman F Jordan Mickey (13.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 3.6! BPG) and Jerell Martin (8.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG) are the two highly touted guys that look to be the foundation of the LSU frontcourt for years to come. Mickey's ability to swat the ball speaks for itself, it's phenomenal. He shoots 57.3% from the field and 74.0% from the free throw line, which is very good for a freshman big man. He also has a defensive rating of 93.0. He is quite the presence on the inside. But he also has troubles turning the ball over, averaging 2.5 turnovers a game. Martin presents more of a threat away from the basket (45.1% FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 76.2% FT%) and doesn't play nearly the kind of defense that the other two do. But he has a ton of potential. Finally, Senior F Shavon Coleman (8.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG) is a solid veteran. He doesn't do anything spectacular, but he is a good forward and plays well on both sides of the ball (43.7% FG%, 33.9% 3P%, 67.6% FT%, 95.4 DRTG).
What To Watch For
1. Retin's Injury. Retin Obasohan was a late scratch for the Florida game, and the quick turnaround doesn't bode well for him. Fortunately, a strained hip flexor isn't usually serious enough for him to miss a ton of time. He might be able to go, but as of this writing, there hasn't been any confirmation of that.
2. The Quick Turnaround. Every SEC team has to deal with it, and now it's Alabama's turn. After going all 40 minutes with one of the best teams in the country, Alabama will have to play another very good team in exactly 47 hours. That's tough to do. Heck, with real life rearing its ugly head, I even had to make this preview a bit shorter than usual due to the limited time.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Be Aggressive Defensively. I know Alabama already plays pretty aggressively on defense, but the Tide really needs to let it go against LSU, especially at home. LSU turns the ball over a lot (262nd in the country), especially in the frontcourt, and they (surprise!) aren't good enough at the free throw line to make us pay for fouls (66.4%, 277th in the country; insert terrible free throw defense joke here).
2. Limit LSU's Advantage in the Post. At the very least, Alabama really needs its big guys to prevent LSU from going off on us down low. This is a huge advantage favoring LSU: on offense, on defense, and on the glass. I was very proud with how well our guys played against Florida. The Gators only out-rebounded the Tide by three, Patric Young and Dorrian Finney-Smith were held to a combined 4/13 shooting and 11 points, and Nick Jacobs's 12 points on 5/7 shooting was big. One of the keys last game was for Alabama to develop an inside presence, and they did pretty well. Heck, it was almost enough to get the win, even without Retin playing.
3. Be Efficient Offensively. What I mean by this is that Alabama needs to take care of the ball and get good shots. LSU is in the top 25 in the country in both steals and blocks. They aren't extremely sound like Florida, they are looking to either swipe the ball away from you or swat it away. And the Tigers will capitalize on fastbreaks. They like playing it that way, so Alabama will have to slow things down a bit, and be efficient.
Alabama has another opportunity to beat another quality team at home. I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready to see the Crimson Tide actually come out of one of these battles with a W. I don't care what is or isn't at stake, our team just needs this. The game is set to tip-off at 7:00 pm CST and the game will once again be on ESPN2.