Tip-off between the fifth-seeded Tigers and top-ranked Mustangs is set for 8 p.m. Central Time inside Moody Coliseum. ESPN will have the television broadcast.
TSD has plenty of reading material to prepare you for the Monday night tilt, including links below to LSU players and coach Johnny Jones discussing the SMU matchup as well as projected starting lineups and chalk talk.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
LSU (20-13, 9-9)
G Anthony Hickey (5-11, 182, Jr.) – 8.6 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.9 spg
G/F Shavon Coleman (6-5, 195, Sr.) – 9.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 spg
F Jarell Martin (6-9, 241, Fr.) – 10.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 48.0% FGs
F Jordan Mickey (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 12.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.1 bpg
F Johnny O'Bryant (6-9, 256, Jr.) – 15.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 49.5% FGs
SMU (24-9, 12-6)
G Nic Moore (5-9, 170, So.) – 13.5 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg
G Nick Russell (6-4, 200, Sr.) – 9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
G/F Sterling Brown (6-6, 200, Fr.) – 4.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 47.3% FGs
F Shawn Williams (6-7, 230, Sr.) – 4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 49.3% FGs
F Markus Kennedy (6-9, 245, So.) – 12.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg 1.3 bpg
INSIDE THE MATCHUPS
First thing's first: SMU is no San Francisco. Yes, like the Dons coming into last week's game, the Mustangs do shoot it quite well from the field – to the tune of 48.7%, 16th best in the nation. But, outside of that similarity, the comparisons between LSU's first- and second-round NIT combatants come to an end quickly. Simply put, SMU is a lot better.
Larry Brown's crew is also a lot deeper than the Dons or Tigers, particularly along the front line, where Brown routinely deploys a talented five-man rotation. Sophomore Markus Kennedy, who will see a lot of Johnny O'Bryant, is the Mustangs' bell cow in the paint, averaging team highs in rebounds (6.9) and blocks (1.3) while currently second on the team in points per game (12.0). SMU also brings two big men off the bench for regular minutes, 6-8 freshman Ben Moore (6.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and 6-10 junior Cannen Cunningham (5.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg), both of whom shoot better than 60% from the floor.
Cunningham actually paced the Mustangs in their first-round win over UC Irvine (68-54), putting in a team-high 17 points while blocking two shots and stealing two more balls in only 20 minutes of play. With LSU's formidable frontcourt, it's reasonable to expect Cunningham will play rim-protector and also see plenty of O'Bryant while on the court.
SMU's leading scorer and distributor is diminutive sophomore guard Nic Moore, who at 5-9 and 170 pounds is a good size for both Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer in defensive matchups. Moore has stalled a bit in the scoring department in the past few weeks, finishing in single digits in three of the Mustangs' last five ballgames, but he's continued sharing the rock, dishing out an average of 6.6 assists over those five contests. As always it will be imperative LSU keep its opponent's leading ball-handler, Moore in this case, out of the lane. If Moore can penetrate, O'Bryant and the LSU bigs will be in foul trouble sooner than later with his passing abilities and the deluge of frontcourt options at Brown's disposal.
Finally, when talking about matchups and LSU, it's key to decipher what kind of impact wildcard Jarell Martin can have. The freshman, averaging 12.0 ppg over the Tigers' last four games, really asserted himself offensively in the first half of the SFU game last week. Tonight the 6-10 hybrid player is likely to see some of Sterling Brown (6-6, 200) and Moore (6-8, 185) when on the offensive end. Martin will have size and height advantages on both. When he slips into the post, Martin is more likely to be matched up with Shawn Williams, three inches shorter than Martin but bulkier. It's easy to see the freshman having opportunistic matchups in both scenarios, but he'll have to see the ball go down early, like he did on the early dunk against the Dons.