One team from the Bayou state is going to have a monumental victory this weekend. That team is not the LSU Tigers. Coming into the game on what one could call a tremendously godawful 8-game losing streak (all SEC games), the Tigers will almost certainly make it 9 when the more-talented-in-every-respect Kentucky Wildcats come marching into Baton Rouge. The Cats should easily march away jazz funeral-style, leaving the Tigers wondering how to pry open the lid on their proverbial coffin.
LSU may be the first SEC team Kentucky has faced that hasn’t had one genuinely decent win all season long, though they do have wins against several teams they should have beaten, including elite-level Division One programs like Louisiana-Lafayette, Nicholls State, McNeese State, and Rice. Truthfully, if you’re beating the teams you should beat, you’re doing something right; LSU just can’t seem to get over the hump of beating someone no one expects them to.
Their best player is senior forward Tasmin Mitchell, who averages a double-double (18 pts, 10 rebs) per game. Two other players average double figure points: Junior guard Bo Spencer with 15, and sophomore forward Storm Warren with 12 points (also contributing 8 rebounds per game). If anything, the battle down low between Mitchell and Cousins could be interesting. It is, however, hard to see Cousins losing this battle given his sheer dominance as of late.
Not to count the chickens before they hatch, but in a game like this where victory is all but sure, it will be interesting to see how Kentucky plays. Will they come out flat because this is a hard game to get up for? If they get up big will they be able to drive the nail in, or will they allow LSU to keep close (in the 10-15 point range)? Here are something other things to look for:
– John Wall’s explosiveness hasn’t been on display as much in recent games like it was was earlier in the season. Against a team like LSU, I think he has a chance to break that open again. Teams have adapted well in learning how to guard him, but look for Wall to be a penetration machine against the Tigers. He’s due for a breakout game–I suppose as much as the future #1 draft pick even needs a breakout game. (Yes, I realize I said penetration machine.)
– I really don’t think anyone can stop Cousins. He’s playing like a man on a mission, a mission that involves leaving everyone he faces asking themselves the question, “Why does he make me feel like I am so gentle?” The most dangerous thing is, he’s having fun. It’s hard to stop a man having fun making other players feel helpless against him.
– I also hope Daniel Orton gets some significant minutes. It’s the perfect game for him to hone his offensive ability against a pretty good big man on an immensely beatable team. Defensively, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict 5 blocks for the big freshman.
– If Dodson can shoot even close to 80% from 3 again, which, with that stroke, I think he can, then Kentucky has an answer to its perimeter-shooting prayers.
– Deandre Liggins could also have a breakout game. I’ve been most impressed with his hustle and attitude; he’s going hard after loose balls and rebounds, and seems to have settled into his bench role well. He has the potential, with his quickness, to be another guy that can get quick shots in the lane (though not on the level of Wall) and has even displayed nice touch with the 3-ball. If he can score 5 field goals this game, or at least get into double-figures (he hasn’t had a double figure game all season), I think that’s a huge step for him and a big boost for his confidence, which helps when you’re playing on a team with 2 other talented guards.
– Darius Mi….nevermind.
All in all, the Cats come away with an Arkansas-esque 90-60 victory. Go Cats!