The LSU basketball team will kick off Southeastern Conference play Tuesday night when it hosts Alabama at 8 p.m. in the PMAC.
The Tigers (10-3) hope to get their SEC schedule started on the right foot, but that will be easier said than done as they host a Crimson Tide (10-3) squad that hasn’t lost a game in more than a month and is fresh off an SEC-opening win against No. 18 Kentucky.
“Obviously we have a great opportunity to start SEC play,” LSU head coach Will Wade said during a press conference Tuesday morning. “Alabama played really well against Kentucky. They’re long. They’re athletic. They’re big at every position.”
The game will serve as an interesting test for the Tigers that could set the tone for the team moving forward as the Crimson Tide represents one of several teams that will use their size and athleticism in an attempt to overmatch LSU.
Alabama doesn’t have a player receiving regular minutes shorter than 6-foot-3, that being point guard Kira Lewis who leads the team with 14.8 points and 3.1 assists per game.
Joining him in the backcourt are Dazon Ingram, an effective slasher who has a tendency to create plays even when his shot doesn’t fall and Tevin Mack, who becomes a dangerous threat when he gets going from the 3-point line.
Mack tallied 20 points in the first half of Alabama’s win against the Wildcats on Saturday, thanks in large part to hitting three 3-point shots in the closing minutes of the period.
Down low, the likes of Naz Reid, Emmitt Williams and Kavell Bigby-Williams will have to find a way to slow down senior playmaker Donta Hall.
Hall is an experienced player who will out-hustle anybody who lets him, and he’s an effective defender in the post that should provide an interesting challenge for Reid who has been an efficient scorer for the Tigers this year.
Hall averages 11.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, and his presence will likely make it tough for the Tigers to get things going in the paint while he’s on the floor.
“Donta Hall does a great job protecting the rim, playing behind the defense and getting high percentage shots,” Wade said. “Elite defensive team because they can switch so well and put big bodies on you. We’re going to need to do a good job keeping them off the glass which has obviously been an area where we’ve been up and down this year.”
Alabama plays with a deep roster, and head coach Avery Johnson does a good job rotating players in and out to best serve what the Crimson Tide needs.
If LSU tries to play small, Alabama will try to overwhelm the Tigers with size and strength, and if it plays big, Johnson will implement a lineup of fast and athletic guys who have potential to be dangerous from the 3-point line.
The Crimson Tide will also try to out-run the Tigers, as they have developed into a dangerous team in transition. LSU will have to get back on defense quickly and with purpose in order to avoid Alabama’s fast break attack.
Wade reflected to LSU’s back-to-back losses against Alabama last year, saying the Crimson Tide did a good job taking the ball out of Tremont Waters’ hands using its size and a double-team to overwhelm him. This forced the rest of the Tigers to step up, which they were not well-equipped to do last season.
“They’re big and long,” Waters said. “Everybody’s 6-3 and up. … It gives us a look (at what can be expected against the rest of the SEC). Obviously, we have taller guys this year. We he have guys who can make plays off the bounce like Naz and Darius (Days) at the 3 and 4 spot. It’s going to give us a look at what we have to do moving forward.”
The Tigers have won eight consecutive games in the PMAC, extending the program’s streak in the building to 13 games. They hope to make it 14 against an Alabama squad it has yet to beat in the young Will Wade era.