Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Tourney Warm-Up Time

One of the immensely regrettable things about college basketball is how the NCAA tournament, the 64-team behemoth, sucks all the air out of the room. It is truly the end-all, be-all of college basketball, to the exclusion of all else. The point of the regular season and the conference tournaments is to set the field of 64. Success in the pre-tourney season is measured by what kind of a draw you get in the tournament.

I wish that was not the case. While I find the NCAA tournament to be very enjoyable, I believe that winning your conference regular is an important accomplishment. Winning your conference tournament is another important accomplishment. Most people believe that it's only important to win your conference tournament if you need to do so in order to make the tournament.

In order to win the SEC tournament, a team has to win 3 or 4 games in quick succession, fighting fatigue and playing against multiple different styles of game. After your first or perhaps your second game, you no longer have any opportunity to actually prepare for any given opponent, because you won't know who it is in time to do anything about it. You just have to go out there and play. May the best team win.

LSU is one of about 6 teams in the SEC whose season is probably over unless they win the conference tournament. Bama is another. Our opponent South Carolina is another. I know here in Alabama, some people are reportedly high on the Tide's prospect of actually winning it, despite the fact that Bama hasn't won two consecutive SEC games since the 2006-2007 season, and has won only one conference game outside of its home gym in the last two years.

LSU has played much better of late, and I believe we are a dangerous team. We are capable of going out there and beating anyone. We get South Carolina first, and I think we match up well against them. Their best player is their point guard Devan Downey, and we have good on-ball guard defensive play with Garrett Temple. They lack size and physicality near the basket, so they won't be able to muscle Randolph and Johnson away from the goal quite as easily as other teams can. We may have a big mismatch near the goal in this game.

Last time these two teams played, Randolph got 20 points, and Johnson was also in double figures. Temple held Devan Downey in check, allowing him only 6 points on the game.

What South Carolina does very well is shoot the 3-pointer. Zam Frederick can go out there and light it up, which he did against us in scoring 21 points. Of course, we have Marcus Thornton, who can do the same thing.

Where LSU finished the season on a relatively strong note, winning 4 of its last 5 games, South Carolina went the other way, losing 5 of its last 6 and 7 of its last 9.

I think we should win this game, but of course you never know. That 4-game winning streak that ended on Saturday could have taken it all out of us. We shall see. Or rather, we will see the highlights, because I will be at work while this game is going on at noon.

Speaking of poor scheduling, the only really good team playing today is scheduled to start up at 2:15pm, when most people are still working. Could this have been more poorly planned.

But hey, that barnburner between Bama and Florida is in prime time. Good show.

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