NCAA Tuesday Night Basketball: LSU/Alabama Preview

by Big Al Staff

The nightcap for ESPN’s Super Tuesday college basketball double-header involves two red-hot teams from the SEC that play fast and score lots of baskets.

Alabama is off to their best start in conference play scene 1987 with a 6-0 start. The Crimson Tide have won seven straight games to lift their record to 11-3, and they rank 18th in the Associated Press poll. Nate Oats’ team comes off a 90-59 victory against Arkansas on Saturday, which was the largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent in eight years when they defeated Mississippi State, 75-43.

John Petty, Jr. led the way with 17 points. The SEC Players of the Year candidate bypassed the NBA in the offseason to return to Tuscaloosa. The senior is second on the team with a 13.5 points-per-game scoring average while adding 5.3 rebounds-per-game. Sophomore Jordan Shackelford leads the team with a 13.6 points-per-game average.

Oats has four starters back from his first year with the program, where they finished 16-15. He fortified this core by bringing several talented players, including former five-star recruit from Villanova, Jahvon Quinerly, and Jordan Bruner, a graduate transfer from Yale. Oats also recruited three four-star freshmen to the program to give this team depth.

Alabama is scoring 80.1 points-per-game executing Oats’ “pace-and-space” scheme that plays fast and shoots plenty of 3-pointers. The Crimson Tide are 14th in the nation in possessions per game, and their average possession length of 14.2 seconds is third quickest. They average 30 shots from behind the arc, with these 3-pointers representing 46.1% of their shots from the field, 22nd in the nation. Their 34.1% shooting mark from downtown for the season is ordinary, but Oats has seen his team improve that mark to a 39.4% clip in conference play. The Tide also rebounds 32.4% of their missed shots, 64th in the country. Their offense ranks 22nd in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by kenpom for the season.

The Alabama defense ranks 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 21.5% of their opponent’s possessions, 72nd. They also hold their opponents to a 30.6% shooting mark from 3-point land, 75th. However, Oats’ team is vulnerable to opponents committed to crashing the offensive glass. The Crimson Tide allow their opponents to rebound 29.8% of their missed shots, 239th in the nation.

This group earned a signature victory against Tennessee. They also have quality wins against Florida, Arkansas, and Kentucky during their seven-game winning streak. Their three losses are against Stanford, Clemson, and Western Kentucky.

LSU has won their last four games after their 85-80 win against South Carolina on Saturday. The Tigers are scoring 86.1 points-per-game, which has helped them earn a 5-1 record in conference play.

Head coach Will Wade has three starters and an additional rotation player back from the group that finished 21-10 last season. This program is two-years removed from winning the SEC title, so expectations remain high in Baton Rouge.

Impact freshman Cameron Thomas leads the team with a 22.1 points-per-game scoring average. Sophomore forward Trendon Watford is adding 18.7 points-per-game along with 7.0 rebounds-per-game. Junior point guard Ja'Vonte Smart is scoring 15.2 points-per-game while dishing out 4.0 assists-per-game. Junior forward Darius Days is scoring 13.7 points-per-game while pulling down 8.0 rebounds-per-game.

The Tigers do not play as fast as the Crimson Tide, but they will likely embrace the fast pace. LSU ranks fifth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are second with a 56.9% shooting percentage inside the arc. The Tigers also rebound 34.1% of their missed shots, 31st. Yet the play on the other end of the court continues to a weakness for Wade-coached teams. LSU ranks 107 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Opponents make 52.0% of their shots inside the arc, 240th in the country. The Tigers also let opponents pull down 31.5% of their missed shots, 286th in the nation.

COVID has impacted the LSU season with games postponed and re-arranged due to outbreaks inside and outside their program. Wade did not coach two games given quarantine protocols, which have kept this team at full strength. The Tigers’ two losses were against Saint Louis and Florida. Their highest-profile victory is against Arkansas. Hosting Alabama is this LSU team's biggest test of the season.

BetAnySports lists Alabama as a -1 point road favorite with the total set at 164.5. The ESPN2 broadcasts start at 9 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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