LSU Basketball faces off with Michigan State in the Sweet 16 Round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The Tigers look to upset the Spartans and advance to the Elite Eight round.
For the first time since 2006, LSU basketball is in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers won that game against Texas, and now they look to repeat history.
They take on a talented Michigan State team who will be one of the best they have faced all season.
LSU is a big underdog in this matchup, and that could produce the perfect storm for it to upset the Spartans. The last time the Tigers were on a stage like this were the Kentucky game and the Tennessee game.
Both times LSU defied the odds and upset both squads.
Granted the NCAA Tournament stage is on a whole other level, and they had head coach Will Wade leading the way, but if any team can do it, LSU is that team.
LSU has the talent and the tangibles, if it can keep a level head, then this game could get interesting quickly.
What Michigan State Brings to the Table
Michigan State won’t be an easy task for the Tigers. Three Spartans average in double-digits while six average at least eight points a game.
Cassius Winston leads the team averaging 18.9 points. Joshua Langford averages 15, and Nick Ward averages 13.7.
The Spartans average 78.5 points a game and make 48.6 percent of their shots from the floor. Michigan State averages 8.1 three-pointers a game and completes 38.1 percent from the arc.
Michigan State’s defense is just as good as its offense. The Spartans average 5.1 steals a game, 40.9 boards a game, and 5.4 blocks. There aren’t very many weak areas for this Spartan team.
LSU must have a huge game. The Tigers need to be well-disciplined and cannot commit careless fouls. Michigan State is a 75.7 percent free throw shooting team so that the more LSU can keep them from the line the better.
Four of the primary starters for Michigan State are upperclassmen. They have a lot of experience and know how to play on this big of a stage.
However, where Michigan State’s experience helps the Spartans in games, I feel like LSU’s youthfulness helps the Tigers more.
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How LSU Defies the Odds
Time and time again the Tigers freshmen help them win games.
Naz Reid and Javonte Smart were crucial players in the win against Tennesee and Kentucky.
The starting five for the Tigers include one senior, two juniors, one sophomore, and one freshman.
Now that is a wide variety of experience, but the guy in charge is sophomore Tremont Waters.
Skylar Mays, Kavell Bigby Williams, and Marlon Taylor add in the experience while Naz Reid is the freshman standout.
However, the main guys coming off the bench will be three freshmen. Smart, Darius Days and Emmitt Williams will likely see some significant playing time against the Spartans, and the Tigers need them to come up big as well.
According to LSU’s stats, Mays averages 13.6 points a game and 2.1 assists. Taylor averages 6.7 points. Waters averages 15 points a game and 5.9 assists.
As for the big guys down low, Reid averages 7.8 points and 6.7 boards while Bigby-Williams rounds out the starting five averaging 7.8 points and 6.7 rebounds.
If LSU can score more points in the paint and win the rebound battle, it’ll be a good sign for the Tigers. Reid and Bigby-Williams need to step up and have big board games against the Spartans.
LSU needs to keep being aggressive with its offensive boards and make sure to minimize the Spartans offensive rebounds. If the Tigers win the rebound battle, they win this game.
Then the Tigers need to utilize its depth and the fact that they’re fresher than Michigan State.
The Spartans played six games in 15 days, including the Big Ten tournament and first two tournament round games. As for the Tigers, they only played three games, including the one in the SEC Tournament.
LSU can go to its bench early to keep its starters fresh for the second half. Not to mention, the three guys coming off the bench average eight points combined, but Smart averages 11.4 himself.
If he can get hot as he did against Tennessee, it will only help LSU more.
Finally, the Tigers need to force a lot of turnovers. Waters and Mays have to be sneaking and force Michigan State’s guards to make mistakes. The Spartans had 22 turnovers against Minnesota which resulted in 26 Gopher points.
LSU needs to press Michigan State and force them to stay unbalanced. Don’t let the Spartans set up and keep making them uncomfortable.
Quick Game Prediction
The Sweet 16 is the cream of the crop and where the big boys play.
If the Tigers want to live up to their Final Four potential then they need to show up big against the Spartan. It needs to be a fight to save the seven kingdoms, a fight to slay the Spartans.
LSU needs to play its game and have fun again. This Tiger team is a fun one to watch, and since the scandal, it hasn’t seemed the same.
I know by not having Wade there it’s hard for the team, but it’s time to grow up a little and bring back that gritty team. The team that embraced adversity and finished games.
This group has played enough ball games together to rally each other up and quit playing sloppy like they have been the last two games.
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LSU can win this game, but it’s going to be a tough task. Tennessee already fell in the Sweet 16 round; the Tigers don’t want to be next.
I’ve got LSU in my final four and winning it all. This game will be close, and the Tigers slay the Spartans 85-83.