ON THE BEAT: Tiger Talk

TigerSportsDigest.com Publisher Ben Love is heading up to Pittsburgh today to cover LSU's run through the NCAA Tournament. Love spoke in-depth with Pack Pride about the Tigers, and here is Part I of our interview.

TigerSportsDigest.com Publisher Ben Love is heading up to Pittsburgh today to cover LSU's run through the NCAA Tournament. Love spoke in-depth with Pack Pride about the Tigers, and here is Part I of our interview.

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Looking at LSU's schedule, it appears like they had some very good wins and suspect losses. What type of a season has it been for the Tigers?
It's been largely a good season, but it's been uneven.

They lost at Missouri and was swept in the regular season by Texas A&M... an NIT team. The discouraging thing has probably been LSU hasn't been able to consistently put it together at home.

This is year three under Johnny Jones, and they've been horrible on the road, but I think this year they went 6-3 or 5-4 on the road in SEC play... finally put it together. Bu, then they'd go and lose at home to Auburn.

The best way to sum it up is they play to the level of their competition. They play down to inferior opponents and then have some big games against top teams. They won at West Virginia and at Arkansas... beat Georgia, played Kentucky to a two-point loss.

I believe LSU went 6-1 against NCAA Tournament teams, which is good, but they had some bad losses, head-scratching defeats.

Keith Hornsby

What does LSU try to do schematically on offense and defense?
Offensively it's been a big change. The last two seasons they had Johnny O'Bryant and worked through him a lot in the post.

Without him, they've been opening it up more. They have Jarell Martin, who at 6'10 is a slasher. They've been encouraging Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman, and Jalyn Patterson to attack the basket. LSU will work occasionally through Jordan Mickey and Martin in the post and then kick out to shooters.

They've certainly been more versatile on offense.

Defensively, they play man-to-man for sure, but they will adjust and play some zone. Against bigger, physical teams, they'll play more zone so they can limit the fouls for Mickey and Martin. With Mickey's shot-blocking ability he can play in the middle of the zone where he is dangerous as a weakside shotblocker.

They don't have a ton of depth so they will play some zone to avoid foul trouble, but they want to play man.

Looking at their stats, they seem to turn the ball over a lot. Has that been a concern all season?
For the first two-thirds of the season they turned it over a lot. They had Josh Gray starting at point guard, and he'd get in the lane where he'd struggle with his decision making. It wasn't great so he was removed as the starter and they went with Tim Quarterman there.

Quarterman is 6'6 and slows the ball down, gets them in their sets. He's not as dynamic or quick as Gray, but the turnovers have decreased with that change.

Have a lot of teams played zone against LSU because of their size and athleticism?
Yes, LSU has seen a ton of zone this year and probably more since they've entered SEC play. It's been a little bit of a struggle for them... struggling to find the gaps. When they can rely on Martin to slash that can be effective.

LSU has seen a lot of zone, and they need guys to shoot it well when they face a zone.

What are LSU's major concerns, outside of turnovers?
There are two things: foul trouble and rebounding.

The two big guys, Martin and Mickey, they can't lose them... it changes the entire complexion of LSU's games. When they get in foul trouble they are on the sidelines and they bring in guys who frankly aren't at the same level as the starters. The level of play drops off.

Another concern is rebounding. They rebound it well, but I know NC State rebounds it well and has big bodies in the paint... you get the impression that they know how to hit the glass. If LSU gives up second-chance points and offensive rebounds it could be a long night.

Jordan Mickey

So really it would be foul trouble and rebounding.

If you had to guess, what do you believe worries LSU about NC State?
At the beginning of the season they had a problem with elite guards getting into the lane with ease, and I think that's another reason why they pulled Gray and stopped worrying about playing [Darcy] Malone at center. They basically said we'll go with Martin and Mickey inside with Quarterman at point guard and Patterson at the two.

That changed things a lot for LSU. They weren't turning it over as much and limited defensive penetration because Quarterman can defend.

Lacey and Turner, they've seen them in SEC play and know what they are about. Lacey can create his own shots so easy, so I think they would want to try and really defend him.

They also want to limit transition scoring and second-chance points... just make it difficult to score. If they can rebound and do those things, I think they feel like they can win this game.


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