There's no way to sugar coat the loss to the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday night; it was a bad loss. However, the great thing about the regular season is that the calendar turns and another game presents a new opportunity to make something positive happen. For the Crimson Tide, that challenge will be taking on one of the most talented teams in the conference, the LSU Tigers (11-7, 4-2 SEC). Everybody knows about Ben Simmons, the 6'10 can't-miss, all-star product from Australia, but the rest of this roster has raw talent littered all over. The problem for LSU thus far this season is that talent is still, well, raw.
Johnny Jones, the Tiger head coach, has done a fantastic job of recruiting and stockpiling talent in Baton Rouge. But the on-the-court success just hasn't been there. In his fourth season, he has only made a single (one-and-done) NCAA Tournament appearance, and he's never finished better than 11-7 in conference play. If he were coaching the football team, he would have been fired in a coup by angry and overzealous boosters. Regardless, this is a good team with a very high ceiling, and Alabama will have to play much better than they did Tuesday night if they want to avoid falling to 1-5 in conference play.
- PG 6'1 Josh Gray (7.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG)
- OG 6'0 Jalyn Patterson (5.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG)
- 3G 6'4 Keith Hornsby (13.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG)
- PF 6'7 Craig Victor (13.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG)
- C 6'10 Ben Simmons (19.4 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG)
- G 6'6 Tim Quarterman (11.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG)
- G 6'4 Antonio Blakeney (9.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.7 SPG)
- G 6'5 Brandon Sampson (5.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- F 6'9 Aaron Epps (5.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
- C 7'0 Darcy Malone (0.8 PPG, 0.8 RPG)
- C 7'1 Elbert Robinson (3.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
What to Watch For
- How Alabama Responds. Losing a hard-fought game on the road against your hated rivals is never an easy pill to swallow, but the circumstances surrounding that loss on Tuesday night made it especially so. How will this team react? This is a pivotal situation for Avery Johnson, as these types of situations create the kind of adversity from which character and fortitude really start to emerge, which is something that needs to be instilled early on in a coach's tenure.
Three Keys to Victory
- Contain Ben Simmons. Stopping Ben Simmons from making a major impact on the game is nearly impossible. However, there are ways to prevent him from totally dominating. His one weakness in his game is that he doesn't have a great jump shot. It's imperative that Alabama's bigs keep him from spending a lot of time around the rim. Double-teaming him in the post would probably be the best idea. Alabama has to force the rest of LSU's squad to beat them.
- Force Jump Shots. Along those same lines, the Tide have to make LSU knock down their jumpers. The Bayou Bengals are a very dangerous team when they can get up and down the floor and take it to the rim. Simmons in particular has an incredible ability to snag a defensive rebound and take it coast-to-coast. Alabama's transition defense needs to be much better than it was against Auburn the other night, as that set of Tigers got off a lot of easy shots because of the Tide's inability to get back on defense. Outside of Hornsby, LSU has struggled to consistently knock down shots, especially on the perimeter, where they are shooting only 32.3% as a team. That number increases to 53.3% inside of the arc.
- Attack on Offense. Jump shots have hindered the Tiger offense this season, but their lack of defense has been their true weakness. LSU ranks near the bottom of the SEC in FG allowed, FG% allowed, and 2P% allowed. In other words, Alabama needs guys to get to the rim. LSU's inability to defend around the basket stems from their lack of strong post players, Simmons' desire to run the offense as a point forward, and LSU's insistence on flying up and down the court (they rank 25th in the country in possessions per game). Drives to the basket will be there, Alabama needs to be assertive in attacking it. Retin Obasohan certainly won't hesitate.