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Bama Basketball Breakdown: LSU

Alabama followed up its worst performance in a long time with its most lopsided conference win in history. What does the Tide have in store for today?

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

What a roller coaster ride the past week has been for the #4 Alabama Crimson Tide (19-3, 9-0 SEC; Kenpom: 4; T-Rank: 4; NET: 4). After getting embarrassed in Norman, OK last Saturday by the Sooners 93-69, a motivated Tide team came out and absolutely demolished the Vanderbilt Commodores by a ridiculous margin of 101-44. That’s an 81-point swing in three days. Granted, Oklahoma is quite a bit better than Vandy, but that’s a crazy turnaround. It also happened to be the largest margin of victory ever for Alabama against a conference opponent, and the first time since 2005 that an SEC team beat another SEC team by 50+ points. Not even some of the best John Calipari Kentucky teams or Billy Donovan-led Florida teams ever did that, even when the SEC was awful in hoops at the beginning of the last decade.

But the most impactful event of the week happened just yesterday, as the Board of Trustees approved Nate Oats’ contract extension, which will keep him in Tuscaloosa through the rest of the decade:

Even more exciting than the announcement and the terms of the contract agreement were the quotes that followed from Oats:

Insert obligatory #BTDA

We’ve officially got our man locked down and committed for a long time. This is a massive deal for Tide Hoops, as Oats has resurrected the program to the glory days of C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson - and even exceeded them in some areas. This move signals to the SEC and the country as a whole that Alabama basketball isn’t going anywhere. We should expect Tide Hoops to continue to be one of the conference’s elite programs on the hardwood for the rest of the 2020s.

That’s quite unfortunate for the likes of conference rivals such as the LSU Tigers (12-10, 1-8 SEC; Kenpom: 125; T-Rank: 148; NET: 139), who went all in on known-crook Will Wade and are now at the bottom of the standings with the dregs of the conference because of it. Oats has mostly owned the Bayou Bengals, and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.

From Last Time

Three Keys to Victory

The Three-Point Line. LSU is an aggressively average team, but the one area where they can make an impact is on the perimeter. The guards are nothing special in this regard, but McMahon has LSU’s bigs run pick-and-pops all game long with Fountain, Reed, and especially Williams. That may work on smaller, lesser teams, but Alabama is 10th in the country in 3P% allowed for a reason. With the Tide’s combination of size and quickness, it’s tough to get off uncontested shots from deep. LSU themselves is actually ahead of Alabama at 9th in the nation in 3P% allowed. So, if either team can get going from long-range, that will be a key differentiator in the game.

Rebounding. LSU is not exactly a bunch of bullies on the boards, but Alabama’s kind of lost their way a little bit in this area during conference play. The Tide ranks 12th in OREB% in the SEC since conference play began, and 9th in OREB% allowed. It would be nice to see Alabama get back to their dominating ways on the glass today.

Keep Feeding the Hot Hand(s). It’s honestly kind of wild how many dudes Alabama has this season. Against the Hogs on Wednesday, Brandon Miller had a pretty quiet day, as Devo Davis did a fantastic job taking him out of the game. So instead, Mark Sears (26 points) and Noah Clowney (15 points) carried the weight most of the night, until Miller decided he was done playing with the Razorbacks and put them to sleep with a pair of pull-up treys just before the under-four timeout to seal the deal. This team is something else.

Check out this link to read the full Breakdown for the last meeting

As I just mentioned, Nate Oats has owned LSU in his time in Tuscaloosa, and the previous meeting last month was no exception. Alabama rung up 106 points in a 40-point beatdown that would make Jerry Stackhouse blush. The Tide shot a laughably high 54 three-point attempts and connected on 20 of them. They also made 16/20 free throws, won the rebounding margin 52-38, only turned the ball over 8 times, and held LSU to just 29.5% from the field. It was an absolute mauling, and pretty much a perfect game from the good guys. Brandon Miller dropped 31 points and the Tide had four others score in double-figures. There’s really not much more to say about it. It was a clinic.

An Apology from the Writer

In my last write-up, I called LSU “an aggressively average team”. I want to go on the record now and apologize to the faithful readers of RBR for such an embellishment of LSU’s ability. These guys stink. They have lost 9 straight games after their fraudulent 12-1 start, where they mostly feasted on the absolute worst of college basketball in non-conference play. They are in the top 100 in one single relevant category - three point shooting, where they rank 92nd at 31.9%. So, at least I was on-point with that being the number one key to victory last time.

Since their loss to Alabama on January 14th, LSU has only stayed within single digits of a single opponent - Texas Tech last Saturday. The same Texas Tech team that was winless in conference play until this past week. I’m really struggling to find positive things to say about this team. Their starting big man, K.J. Williams, is a legitimately good basketball player. He would start for Alabama. When the Tide has struggled this season on defense, it has been against good big men. The Tide needs to be ready to defend him on PnR and PnP actions, especially the way Alabama has struggled to make decisive plays on the high ball screens. Adam Miller has real talent. Justice Hill and Trae Hannibal were really good at Murray State last year.

But yeah, this game is all about the Tide. It’s a maturity game, as Oats likes to call it. We’ve seen how dominant Alabama can be both coming off of a loss and against LSU specifically, but can the fellas keep their minds right in a game where everyone expects them to go on the road and win by 20+? We know what happened just last week when the Tide played away as a heavy favorite.

Alabama is favored by 12 points in Baton Rouge today. The game will be televised on ESPNU and tip-off is set for 3:00 PM CST.