For the second straight season LSU will spend a portion of Thanksgiving week playing in a three-game tournament in a desirable location.
Only this time the venue is even more desirable than the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Orlando, where the Tigers finished third in last year’s Old Spice Classic. This November LSU basketball is in the Virgin Islands for the 2014 Paradise Jam.
TSD is looking ahead to the eight-team field, providing a look at LSU’s schedule for the long weekend and sharing the significance of the tournament from a purple-and-gold perspective.
CLICK HERE for an in-depth preview of LSU’s opening game this afternoon versus Old Dominion.
LSU’S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
If LSU wins the opener . . . Game two is SUNDAY (8 PM CT) – Winner of Illinois State/Weber State
If LSU loses the opener . . . Game two is SATURDAY (4 PM CT) – Loser of Illinois State/Weber State
No matter what transpires LSU’s final game will be MONDAY . . . The championship game is at 8 PM CT while the third-place game is at 5:30 PM CT.
** The four teams on the other half of the bracket are Clemson, Seton Hall, Nevada and Gardner-Webb. Also CBS Sports Network will televise LSU’s first-round game and then all winner’s bracket games.
The Redbirds from the Missouri Valley Conference are 0-1 on the young season after a narrow 60-55 home loss to Utah State on Sunday. Senior guard Daishon Knight, who put in 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the opener, is ISU’s biggest scoring threat. Transfer swingman DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell recorded a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds, in his first game in an Illinois State uniform. The Redbirds do have some size inside, mainly in the form of starting center Reggie Lynch (6-10, 257).
Coach Randy Rahe’s Wildcats, who play in the Big Sky Conference, are 1-1 this season. Their loss came at the hands of the same team that defeated Illinois State – Utah State. That game, a 72-61 USU victory, was contested on the road, though, us Logan, Utah. Weber State bounced back on Monday, winning a home game versus Presentation College 74-49. Three Wildcats are averaging double figures scoring so far – junior power forward Joel Bolomboy (16.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg), sophomore guard Jeremy Senglin (15.0 ppg, 2.0 apg) and sophomore forward Kyndahl Hill (10.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg).
OTHER HALF OF BRACKET
The Tigers are already familiar with Gardner-Webb after beating them 93-82 in both team’s opener Saturday in the PMAC. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have since collected a valuable 80-67 road win at College of Charleston. Senior guard Jarvis Davis has emerged as G-W’s best offensive player, averaging 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds . . . Gardner-Webb’s first-round opponent is Clemson, off to a 1-1 start after splitting a pair of games at home. The Tigers beat Florida A&M 86-41 before falling to Winthrop 77-74. Junior center Landry Nnoko is pacing Clemson on the interior, averaging 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while senior point guard Rod Hall is the main distributor, dishing out a team-high 5.5 assists per game.
Seton Hall has played only one game on the season, dispatching of Mercer 63-47 at home. The Pirates, now in the Big East under fifth-year coach Kevin Willard, rely heavily on the trio of Brandon Mobley (19 points, nine rebounds in the opener), Sterling Gibbs (17 points, five boards) and Angel Delgado (eight points, 12 rebounds). Outside of LSU, SHU may be the favorite to win the Paradise Jam . . . The final team in the tournament, Nevada, is undefeated at 2-0 after a pair of lay-up home victories over Cal Poly (65-49) and Adams State (69-64). The Wolfpack has four players averaging double figures scoring so far, led by the duo of D.J. Fenner, a sophomore guard, and A.J. West, a junior forward.
MEANING FOR LSU
In all honesty it’s clear LSU is in the lesser of the two bracket halves, meaning it would be a major disappointment if the Tigers fail to make it to the final on Sunday. A loss to any of the three teams in LSU’s side would be a blemish that follows the Tigers around until Selection Sunday in mid-March.
Taking things a step farther: A team with real aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament needs to win the whole thing with a field the caliber of this one. This doesn’t really begin to compare to the competition LSU saw last Thanksgiving week, when it played in succession St. Joseph’s, Memphis and Butler. The Tigers’ RPI won’t skyrocket with three wins this week, but the title would be a nice feather in LSU’s cap from an overall résumé standpoint.