We are continuing this week's series on important questions each SEC team needs to answer. Today Andrew Parrish takes a look at LSU and Ole Miss.
LSU: Can the bench support the starters if the starters struggle?
LSU has been heavily reliant on their starting lineup so far this season, and rightly so. Freshman Cam Thomas is on an inside track to win freshman of the year by averaging 22.3
points per game, while returners Javonte Smart, Trendon Watford and Darius Days are all averaging between thirteen and seventeen points per game respectively. Outside of those four players, the Tigers have virtually no scoring threat, with the next highest scorer averaging five points per game. Most of the time, this approach to offensive workload division will work out because the starters are consistent enough to produce at that level or near that level from game to game. However, the college basketball landscape is a bit different this year. COVID-19 brings in a new set of challenges where teams might have to play without players because of contact tracing with the virus. Additionally, injuries unfortunately are still in play and must be calculated into a team’s expected performance. Thomas fell victim to the injury bug in the Ole Miss game, exiting the game after only four minutes to an ankle injury, but the Tigers were able to fully shut down the Rebels on the defensive end to lessen the impact of that injury. These factors all amount to levels of doubt about the sustainability of LSU’s team. They need to find another guy or two that they can trust to come in and perform at 75% or better of the starting players’ level in order to create a more sustainable offensive solution moving forward.
Ole Miss: Is the defense real?
After their early-season COVID shutdown, the Ole Miss Rebels started out their season in fine fashion, winning five of their first six with a close road loss to Dayton being the only blemish on their record heading into conference record. In those first six games, the Rebels had the best defense in the country according to KenPom averaging 52.7 PPG allowed. This was partially because of the level of competition that they were playing but they were also forcing a lot of turnovers (6th in the country in forcing turnovers) and defending well at the rim (10th in two-point defense). However, in their last five games the Rebels have allowed an average of 74.6 points per game, including allowing over 82 points to both the Crimson Tide and the Wichita State Shockers. In those five games, the Rebels have amassed a 1-4 record while allowing 51.6% from two-point range (9% worse than their average) and forcing a turnover on 19.3% of possessions (7% worse than their average). The Rebels will need to return to their early season form in order to turn their fortunes around and compete at the highest levels of the SEC.
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