This is the one LSU isn't supposed to win.
After rattling off three straight victories and four of five to bounce off the mat from an 0-4 start in SEC play, the Tigers – by the numbers historically and this season – are decided underdogs heading into tonight's matchup in Tuscaloosa.
LSU (13-7, 4-5) has lost eight straight contests at Coleman Coliseum dating back to 2004 while Alabama (14-8, 6-3) is undefeated at home in four tries versus SEC opponents this season. The two familiar foes will tip off at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and ESPN2 will have the television broadcast.
Here are the projected starting lineups for tonight's contest.
LSU (13-7, 4-5)
G Anthony Hickey (So., 5-11, 178) – 12.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, 3.4 spg
G Andre Stringer (Jr., 5-10, 182) – 10.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 40.4% 3s
G Malik Morgan (Fr., 6-4, 188) – 5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.7 spg
F Johnny O'Bryant (So., 6-9, 258) - 11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 45.7% FGs
C Andrew Del Piero (Sr., 7-3, 254) – 4.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 54.1% FGs
Key Rotational Players: G Charles Carmouche (Sr., 6-4, 187; averages 9.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg and 2.2 spg) and F Shavon Coleman (Jr., 6-5, 195; averages 11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg)
Alabama (14-8, 6-3)
G Trevor Releford (Jr., 6-0, 195) – 15.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.0 spg
G Trevor Lacey (So., 6-3, 215) – 12.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 41.8% 3s
G Levi Randolph (So., 6-5, 205) – 7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 78.4% FTs
G/F Rodney Cooper (So., 6-6, 215) – 10.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 41.6% FGs
C Moussa Gueye (Jr., 7-0, 255) – 1.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 36.7% FGs
Key Rotational Players: G Andrew Steele (Sr., 6-4, 225; averages 4.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg and 1.3 spg) and F Nick Jacobs (So., 6-8, 265; averages 6.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg and 50.8% FGs)
Now, the difference between not expected to win and not able to win are two very different things.
The Tigers, confident and in good form following a string of three consecutive W's, have the horses to compete with the Crimson Tide and reverse the purple-and-gold history inside the Coliseum, but they'll have to perform better than they have all season on the road.
And, in a game like this against an Anthony Grant-coached team, they're going to need some toughness.
One look up and down Alabama's seven-man rotation shows the following weights: 195, 215, 205, 215, 225, 255 and 265. Even the guards are thick and know how to use their weight to body you off the ball defensively and hold their own on the glass.
So, with the Tide's distinct size advantage (and a 7-footer starting at center), look for Andrew Del Piero to get his first start since the Missouri game. Even more importantly, versatile forward Shavon Coleman (6-5, 195) will have to play above his size yet again to compete with the likes of Rodney Cooper (6-6, 215) and Nick Jacobs (6-8, 265).
Elsewhere in the Tigers' starting lineup, freshman Malik Morgan is expected to get his third straight start in place of Charles Carmouche. Both will play a big part for LSU, which has really trimmed down to a six-man rotation (considering Del Piero's down to less than six minutes per game in the Tigers' last five outings), with Morgan more of an offensive threat and Carmouche defensive.
Then of course there's the point guard matchup between Anthony Hickey and Trevor Releford, both of whom lead their respective teams in scoring. Each player also averages at least two steals per game, with Hickey still leading the country (3.4 spg).
The order is fairly tall for LSU to extend its winning streak and climb back to .500 in league play, but it is worth considering the list of teams who have won in Tuscaloosa this season (even if no SEC team has): Dayton, Mercer and Tulane.
Tonight Johnny Jones' squad will try to add its name to that distinguished list.
PREVIEW: LSU vs. Alabama
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