The NIT opener is tonight at MKA. To help us get ready actioncuse, the basketball writer for our LSU sister blog, And The Valley Shook, answered some questions about LSU basketball for us. Our answers to their questions should also be appearing today on ATVS.
1. When I look at LSU profile on KenPom, the first thing I notice is that the Tigers rank #23 in the nation in defensive efficiency, giving up 91.8 points per 100 possessions. What can you tell us about the style of defense that LSU runs, and what makes it so effective?
To tell you the truth, I'm actually surprised that the defensive efficiency that high. Five of the first six games were relatively poor where opponents scored 70 or more. For the remainder of the season, LSU opponents scored 70 only six more times total. LSU typically plays a basic man to man defense, and I feel the strength of the defense is due to the players commitment to it. Ralston Turner, while sometimes having bad games, has played very well in the SF spot for us. Anthony Hickey is also a great pest defender and has had many games with full stat sheets because of it. The forwards also play very well together. Freshman Johnny O'Bryant has become a better rebounder as the year has progressed, while Justin Hamilton's size keeps a lot of players out of the lane. The defensive game plan is actually very basic, but the execution is what makes it successful.
2. Conversely, the Tigers have really struggled on offense, especially shooting the ball, where they rank among the bottom of the country in eFG%. What is the story behind LSU's shooting woes?
The answer to this question is actually the simplest reason, the shooters just aren't making open shots. At times it can be frustrating, because the guards do run the offense and get open looks, they just don't make the shots. I really want to give shooting guard Andre Stringer the benefit of the doubt for his shooting woes, though. He started off the year shooting well - just over 40% from three - but he had to miss a couple of weeks with a medical condition relating to fainting. From that point forward, he reverted back to his freshman year tendencies and took a lot more tough shots, but was also unable to make the easy shots that he was making early in the season. Ralston Turner, however, has no such excuse. Coming into the year I really thought he would be an All-SEC kind of player. When he is on, he can really score points in a hurry and is difficult to guard. However, that only happened on rare occasions this year, and the offense as a whole suffered because of it. None of the guards on the bench are good enough shooters to make up what the starters didn't give us.
3. LSU has some really good wins on their resume, when you look at beating Marquette, Alabama, and Mississippi State, but they were unable to break through against the SEC's elite, and had some not-so-great losses to Auburn (by 15), Ole Miss (by 24), and Coastal Carolina. What was with the inconsistency this season?
Is it wrong if I say there's really not much of a reason for it? The easy answer might be that an injury to Johnny O'Bryant slowed his progression down, but I don't think we lost a game because of it. It's a young team, but I think with three seniors and a junior transfer there is enough experience on the team to say they should have won more on the road. If I had to answer, I would just say that we are who we are. There's not an abundance of raw talent, athleticism, or size, and I think we are pretty much where we are supposed to be.
4. Tell us about LSU's personnel. Who do Oregon fans need to worry about on both sides of the ball?
I kind of hinted at it earlier when talking about the defense, but it's definitely Anthony Hickey. Against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, he was spectacular on both sides of the ball. Hickey totally outplayed Marquis Teague and gave a glimpse of the complete player that he can become. Hickey's season totals for shooting are still quite low, but recently it seems as though he has a much better three point shot, along with a better sense of when to shoot. He seem to get open a lot more on the wings and has been able to hit the shots that Stringer misses.
Fellow freshman Johnny O'Bryant is also equally capable of having a great game, but also has had games where he was a turnover machine. As previously mentioned as well, he's improved his rebounding tremendously mostly due to just being coached and playing all year. On offense, his jump shot still isn't as good as it needs to be, nor is his ability to finish around the rim. However, he is a great offensive rebounder, but the problem is that he generally can't score down low when everyone else is bumping into him and he doesn't have space to move. Perhaps with an off season to bulk up that will change for next season.
5. When LSU hired Trent Johnson, Pac-10 fans found it to be a rather curious choice because, other than his last season at the farm, he had really underachieved at the farm. In four seasons at LSU, it looks to be a lot of the same, and the Tigers appear mired in mediocrity. How do Tiger fans feel about Johnson, and how hot is his seat?
LSU fans are definitely getting impatient with Trent Johnson, and I don't blame them whatsoever. The previous two years were just horrible, and with a good but not great 2012, the hot seat is hot. An NIT bid will likely keep Johnson here for at least another year, especially since the starting five will return for the 2012-2013 season. However, should he fail to make the NCAA tournament in 2013, I think LSU will have to go in a different direction. At the same time, the LSU athletic department will have to be willing to pay for a coach. Johnson's salary isn't very high, and I'm not sure LSU is a place that can steal another coach without paying $2 million a year.
Thanks again to actioncuse and the guys over at ATVS. Here's to a great game that is pretty much the opposite of what the football game was.