For the second time this year, the Kentucky Wildcats will be taking on the LSU Tigers, this time ostensibly in the "neutral" New Orleans Arena, but this game will mostly be considered a semi-home game for the Tigers due to the fact that New Orleans is just a short trip down the road from Baton Rouge.
As before this year, for the full detailed look at the two teams, please see our earlier preview on the LSU Tigers. We'll be posting updated statistics after the jump, as per normal with repeat league games.
The Tigers were on a two-game losing streak up until their victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks earlier today, which saw the Tigers dominate the Hawgs in almost every conceivable way. The last time Kentucky played LSU down in the Deaf Dome, Kentucky crushed the Tigers in a relatively uncompetitive game which wasn't even as close as the 74-50 score.
But since then, the Tigers have been playing better basketball. The last time UK and LSU met, star Tiger freshman Johnny O'Bryant III was coming off a hand injury that had cost him five games on the bench to mend. Since then, he has returned to full effectiveness and proved that in spades against Arkansas with an 18-point, 11 rebound performance.
LSU Updated statistics:
|Johnny O`Bryant III||26||21.3||3.3||8.2||40.4||0.1||0.5||16.7||2.0||3.2||62.2||3.1||3.8||6.9||0.3||2.3||0.5||0.8||1.9||8.7|
|Andrew Del Piero||4||3.0||0.3||1.5||16.7||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.3||1.0||25.0||0.5||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.5||0.0||0.3||0.3||0.8|
No injuries to report for either team.
This basketball game could be a bit different from the last one. A completely whole LSU team has been much more effective in league play, defeating Alabama and Mississippi St., among several other SEC teams.
But with that said, LSU is still a woeful offensive team, and I mean that with all due respect. The Tigers' inefficiency on offense (0.96 points/possession) is the third worst in all the SEC, a league with a ton of very inefficient offensive teams. LSU shoots the ball poorly from two, poorly from three, and poorly from the free throw line. They do take care of the basketball and are not totally unfortunate as a rebounding team, but suffice it to say that they simply struggle to put points on the board. Compare this to Kentucky's blistering 1.2 points/possession.
Defensively, the Tigers are rather better at 6th in the SEC, although by comparison, Kentucky is far and away the best defensive team in the SEC and sixth best in the entire nation. There is little in these numbers to discern any hope for the Tigers in this contest.
There are really only two things going for LSU in this game -- proximity to home (which gives them a chance to sleep at home and bring a larger than normal number of fans) and the fact that this game means absolutely nothing, in terms of NCAA seeding or anything else, to Kentucky. At least, that's how it seems to everyone but Wildcats themselves; because win or lose, UK is almost certainly a #1 seed, so if external motivation were relevant, this would be a major point in LSU's favor.
But unlike most teams, this UK team does not need external motivation. They want to win every game in complete isolation, regardless of what the downstream implications are, as much or more than any team in the country. This team is relentless in its insatiable appetite for victory, and don't seem to give the slightest heed to the NCAA Selection Committee or seeding process. To the Wildcats, basketball excellence is the only end worth pursuing.
In short, nothing matters to the Wildcats but winning and winning well, and they have the most awesome array of talent in the entire country to go along with the implacable desire to succeed. It almost doesn't matter how well the other team plays; Kentucky is utterly determined to impose their will, and they have failed to do so but once all year, in a game which required a last-second 22-footer in the most hostile environment imaginable early in the season. The conditions that produced that lone upset simply cannot exist in a neutral arena.
This game will end just as 30 of the previous 31 have -- with a convincing victory for the 'Cats. This Kentucky team has no weaknesses at all, and just as the sun will rise tomorrow, the Wildcats will be too much for a young, but game, LSU team to overcome.