Hop's Hoops Analysis - LSU

Aggie Websider's David Sandhop analyzes and details Wednesday's loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. He also discusses the apparent bias in officiating in favor of the home team in college basketball.

For A&M to win a game against a better, more athletic team on the road like LSU, they must be hot from the outside, minimize stupid turnovers, and in the case of LSU get Johnny O'Bryant in early foul trouble like in College Station.

After hitting a couple of early 3-pointers and taking a 13-5 lead, LSU decided to overplay Jones and the guards and take their chances in the post one-on-one. It was a great move by LSU coach Johnny Jones because even with some point blank post moves and shots by Kourtney Roberson and Antwan Space, LSU's length and athleticism forced a lot of misses and blocked shots around the basket. Parade All-American freshman Jordan Mickey had five blocks alone and the Tigers finished with seven. FOr example, Antwan Space hit just 2 of 13 shots. Granted three of those shots were bad 3-point attempts, but the other 10 shots were layups and putbacks within 3-5 feet of the basket. Think about that...shooting 20% within 5 feet of the basket for a 6-foot-8 guy.

So the game was lost in the paint...or with the bigs and forwards. Amazingly, when you take out the trash time stats by the bench warmers in the last 2-3 minutes, LSU's guards only attempted 11 shots all night compared to 31 by A&M. So it boiled down to LSU's bigs and forwards creating good shots on offense, and forcing bad shots on defense.

You'll hear other less-informed analysts say that A&M just couldn't make a basket and that they were cold. No, the A&M bigs were intimidated by better, longer LSU athletes which caused them to make hurried or changed shots which took them out of their comfort zone...and shooting the ball out of your comfort zone in the college game is a bad shot because the odds of the ball going though the hoop decrease significantly.

So we can look at the stat sheet and say that Jamal Jones' 2-of-10 killed A&M. TEchnically, that would be correct. Jones needs to score 17+ points a game for A&M to have a chance to win against a better opponent. However, it was LSU's defense and their domination in the paint that allowed the LSU perimeter players to overplay Jones and force bad shots. And when Jones decided the outside shot wasn't there and drove the lane, he was physically dominated by the post guys.

Bottom line...A&M MUST get more athletic and longer in the post. I actually think Dylan Johns is a knowledgeable player and did the best he could with his physical limitations which are more about lack of mass than it is athleticism. I don;t know if you can add 20-30 pounds of mass of him in the offseason, but if you can, this kid isn't a bad post player once he can overcome the weight/mass differential. But while I think he can be functional going forward, he's not the long-term answer in the paint. Trocha may be that guy, but we have to see him in an A&M uniform first. Sure, A&M will take a swing at Myles Turner, but we all know the reality that's about a 2% chance of happening. They MUST find an answer in recruiting this spring. I don;t know who and I don't know how, but bringing in all of these talented guards doesn't mean much against the better teams in the SEC and the nation if Roberson and Space are your primary go-to post men next season.

One other thing I want to touch on. I keep reading blogs and newspaper columns that the Aggies are an inconsistent team and the staff can't get these guys focused to string together more than a couple of wins. No...in fact this team is very consistent. Hell, until the walk-ons and benchers came in the game the final 2-3 minutes, the Aggies only turned the ball over 7 times which is amazing on the road against a longer, more athletic team. The guards only had TWO turnovers the entire game. It tells me the players are focused and comfortable running the offensive sets and they aren't playing lazy basketball like they did earlier in the year.

The issue...officiating. No, no I'm not about to blame the officials for the loss. But you do have to look at the entire league and wonder why only two teams out of 14 have a winning record on the road. Every 7-7 team coming into this week's games was at BEST 2-5 in SEC road games and most were 1-6 on the road.

In the LSU game at College Station two weeks ago, Johnny O'Byant picks up two ticky-tack fouls in the first 5-6 minutes of the game and he sits the rest of the half and he doesn't play as much in the second half because of lingering foul trouble. In Baton Rouge, he picks up his first foul early in the second half. This despite him playing very physical and crashing the boards hard and getting some questionable blocking calls that could have gone the other way. Many times when A&M would drive the lane to the basket, they were pushed, grabbed, slapped and none were called until the game was decided midway through the second half.

With eight minutes remaining and about the time the game was decided, LSU had a grand total of 8 fouls. Now, it's very funny that once the game was decided, the refs flipped a switch and started calling touch fouls. In fact, when the scrubs were in the game, the refs called five fouls on LSU, many of the ticky-tack variety especially when everybody is letting the clock run ready to call it a night. To top it off, the ref called a foul on the walk-on LSU player guarding A&M walk-on Don Thomas near mid-court and the ref blew the whistle with .6 seconds left in the game and called a foul.

So, if you look at the boxscore and see that LSU was called for 15 fouls you'll say it looked like an evenly called game....except that five of those fouls came against LSU walk-ons in the final three minutes.

My point is not to say A&M got hosed in the game. No. What I am saying is that whether conscious or not, SEC refs are calling games in favor of the home team. A&M was aided with calls two weeks ago that resulted in a 10-point win, and LSU was aided last night at home in a 19-point win.

I think that's bad for the game...but that's the way it is in basketball. It's that way in the NBA as well. I would think fans want an evenly called game, but it is clear the powers-that-be in basketball seem o think it's a better product when the home team is winning and making season ticket holders happy.

Anyway, a team like Florida is talented enough to overcome the road officiating "deficit" most nights. Teams in the middle of the pack like A&M, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee are not good enough to overcome home court officiating.

THAT'S why A&M is a "bad" road team....just like every other mediocre-to-bad team is as well.

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