Is there anything better for college basketball than early season tournament action? I say no. Over a stretch of 3 weeks, college basketball teams all over compete in neutral site, tournament style basketball. Eight teams enter, one leaves undefeated, but all leave learning something about their team.
The Old Spice Classic brought together one of the more impressive fields, including 5 NCAA tournament hopefuls. LSU's second round opponent, Memphis, beat top five Oklahoma State in the Championship game. LSU was able to beat a very solid Butler team to earn third place honors. Even Saint Joseph's, LSU's first round opponent swept through the rest of the field to earn fifth place in what ended up being 12 very exciting games in Orlando.
LSU 82, Saint Joseph's 65
This was LSU's only complete game of the tournament. They were able to beat SJU on all facets of the game. They shot 53% from the field, including 10-22 from three point land. They outrebounded the Hawks 38-29 and had a positive AST:TO ratio of 17:16. Andre Stringer led the scoring with 18 points and Mickey had another double double with 14 points and 10 boards.
LSU struggled to contain SJU center Ronald Roberts, an All-Tournament Team Selection, allowing 21 points for the big man. It was also the first game Jordan Mickey was not able to record a blocked shot. Still, LSU convincingly won the game, due in large part to a successful stint by the second stringers who brought energy to what started as a lethargic team effort.
Player Grades: Johnny O'Bryant (B) Jarell Martin (A) Jordan Mickey (A) Anthony Hickey (B+) Andre Stringer (A) John Odo (C+) Shavon Coleman (A) Darcy Malone (C-) Malik Morgan (C) Tim Quarterman (B-)
#21 Memphis 76, LSU 69
LSU went into halftime up 38-34 despite struggling with turnovers. The Tigers shot well (57% field goals), and rebounded well (38 with +13 diff) but lost the game with an AST:TO ratio of 8:24. Johnny O'Bryant himself had 10 turnovers in the game. In only 4 minutes of action, Tim Quarterman had 3 turnovers. So while LSU shot over 10% better than Memphis, they took 11 less shots and made only 4 of 9 free throw attempts. Still, LSU had chances to beat a top 25 team not playing their best.
Anthony Hickey had 20 points and only 2 turnovers in the game. Johnny O'Bryant had 14 and Jordan Mickey had 10. Andre Stringer had a season low 2 points and the 69 total points marked the first time LSU failed to score at least 80 in a contest this season.
Player Grades: Johnny O'Bryant (C-) Jarell Martin (B) Jordan Mickey (B-) Anthony Hickey (A) Andre Stringer (B) John Odo (B) Shavon Coleman (A-) Malik Morgan (B+) Tim Quarterman (B-)
LSU 70, Butler 68 OT
LSU played in their first overtime game while facing the Butler Bulldogs in the third place game. Butler controlled the pace, slowing the game down, however LSU was still able to force an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers from the Bulldogs. In the first two games combined the Bulldogs only committed 13 turnovers and the Tigers were able to force Butler into 12. In fact, LSU was able to take care of the ball better than normal only committing 10 turnovers of their own. However rebounds almost lost the game for the Tigers.
LSU entered the game averaging a +13 rebound margin and left being outrebounded 48-36. They allowed 18 offensive boards and it almost did them in. With 10 seconds remaining neither Anthony Hickey or Andre Stringer had scored. But if you've followed LSU basketball the past 3 years, you knew the final play (down 3) would go to one of the two. On a play meant for Stringer, he found a wide open Hickey at the top of the key who knocked down a game tying trey with 4 seconds remaining. Butler missed their running three pointer at the buzzer.
Andre Stringer scored 2 very important points in OT and the Tigers ended victoriously. Coach Jones managed the game very well down the stretch and drew up some very good looking plays to get LSU open shots in the closing minutes. Jarell Martin received the pass, curling around 2 screens to get easy looks twice late in the game, but you can't forget about the effort LSU got off it's bench.
Shavon Coleman and Malik Morgan brought it off the bench. Both finished with 12 points and Morgan added 7 rebounds and 3 steals. O'Bryant scored 17 while Mickey and Martin both scored 12 to give LSU a rounded scoring game from everyone over 6' tall. Though Stringer only had 2 points, he contributed with a 5:0 AST:TO and never forced anything. This victory could go a long way in building the character of this team as well as getting LSU into the tournament come March.
Player Grades: Johnny O'Bryant (A-) Jarell Martin (A-) Jordan Mickey (A-) Andre Stringer (B-) Anthony Hickey (C+) Shavon Coleman (A) Malik Morgan (A) Tim Quarterman (C+)
In the end, LSU would have loved to play Memphis better, but LSU learned a lot about themselves this weekend. You saw what will likely be the SEC rotation against Butler with only 8 playing the majority of the minutes. Hickey, Stringer, Martin, Mickey, and JOB will be the starters. Coleman, Morgan, and Quarterman will come off the bench with significant playing time. Odo, Malone and Hammink will play spot minutes in given situations, but won't see the kind of time the other 8 will.
The Tigers moved up from 51st in KenPom Computer rating to 41st. They received two top 100 wins. LSU's RPI is currently at 49th, but I expect those two wins to carry more RPI weight later this season after both teams get into their conference play.