View Full Version : A scouting report on LSU from Baton Rouge

House G
03-27-2019, 10:15 AM
While I realize that we may not play LSU, I thought some of you might be interested in a scouting report from someone knowledgeable about the LSU team. A friend of mine was kind enough to provide an LSU perspective. His name is Hunt Palmer and he is more than just your ardent LSU fan. He is a member of the LSU Sports Radio Network and the host of Hoops with Hunt, a daily LSU basketball podcast: http://1045espn.com/category/hoops-with-hunt/


While the results on the floor would suggest this is one of the greatest seasons in LSU's history, it will likely be remembered for far different reasons than an SEC title and a run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers dealt with a horrible tragedy a day before the first practice when Wayde Simms, a junior forward, was senselessly shot and killed in Baton Rouge. The loss shook the team up understandably, but they rallied together and have played for Wayde all season.

And then days before the Tigers took the floor for what was essentially a coronation in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against a winless Vanderbilt team, Will Wade was suspended by the university amid Yahoo! reports tying Will Wade to Christian Dawkins, the center of an FBI bribery investigation.

Freshman guard Javonte Smart was also suspended for a game but was reinstated by the university prior to LSU's SEC Tournament opener.

It's been a turbulent season, although wildly successful for an LSU program that hasn't had any level of sustained success since the very early 90s.

All of that said, this is a very good LSU basketball team paying with a massive chip on its shoulder. The Tigers know they are public enemy #1. They're embracing it.

It's a team with some real strengths, some weaknesses, but above all else it's a team with an identity.

Everything starts with Tremont Waters, the All-SEC point guard, who might have won SEC Player of the Year if he didn't have to miss a pair of conference games (including the Tennessee showdown) with an illness.

Waters is short, 5'10", but he's lightening quick and is a phenomenal playmaker with the ball in his hands. He's brilliant on hesitation dribbles and step back mid range shots. LSU will start the majority of its sets with a high ball screen for him. It's up to him to make a play from there. He'll pull up off the dribble, and he's a pretty good shooter. He's a much better shooter off the catch, but he's got the ball in his hands so often that those opportunities don't arise all that often. He was named SEC Co-Defensive player of the year, but it's not because he's a lock down defender. It's because he's got an amazing ability to get his hands on the ball. He'll strip the man he's guarding. He'll free lance a little bit and pick the pocket of an unsuspecting big. He's got incredible instincts on the floor. Make no mistake, the team goes as Tremont goes.

Skylar Mays is the off guard. He ran the point as a freshman, but he's been at the 2 since Waters arrived on campus. Mays is long at about 6'4", and he's a sneaky athlete who loves to drive to the rim and finish. He's the leader of the team and the smartest player on LSU's roster. He's a 4.0 pre-med student (Save your LSU education jokes. I get it.). After a really nice shooting start to the year, Mays really went cold during SEC play. He shot just 24 percent from behind the arc. Those woes didn't carry over to the free throw line where he's LSU's best shooter at 86 percent.

Marlon Taylor starts at the three. He's about 6'6" and is literally the best leaper I've ever seen at LSU. Now, I'm only 31, so I haven't seen them all, but Taylor is a marvel to watch in flight. He didn't start playing basketball until he was in high school, so he's incredibly raw. He doesn't shoot it well, and he turns the ball over when he drives. So, basically he's stopped doing all that. He's out there to defend the opponent's best wing, go to the offensive glass and dunk.

Smart is the other guard in the rotation. He was a very highly sought after recruit that decided to stay home at LSU (again, save the jokes). Smart is 6'4" and really excels off the dribble. He'll loft floaters over bigs and score around the rim. I wouldn't classify Smart as explosive, but he's just a natural scorer who totally took the Tennessee game over with Waters unavailable. He scored 29 on the Vols, and it was almost all off the dribble. He shoots a set shot which isn't the prettiest thing you've ever seen. By now you're probably picking up on a shooting theme...

The Tigers will also play four bigs.

The starters are 6'10" freshman Naz Reid and 6'11" senior Kavell Bigby-Williams.

Reid was a 5-star recruit who has incredible hands and skill for a guy his size. What he doesn't have is the understanding of how to play as a 6'10" 250 lb man. He likes to shoot threes and try to win off the dribble. He is a very good shooter when he's set and open. He's a turnover machine when he tries to drive. Over the last two months he's made more of an effort to play around the basket, but he's still not quite there yet. He does rebound very well and will knock down free throws (79%).

Bigby-Williams is incredibly athletic and active for 6'11". He runs the floor very well and is LSU's rim protector on the defensive end. He finished second in the SEC in blocks at about 3 a game. He will get into foul trouble at times like most rim protectors do, but LSU's defense is much better when he's on the floor. Bigby-Williams's main contribution on offense is on the glass. He's not much of a back to the basket scorer, but he'll rebound and put it back all day long.

Emmitt Williams and Darius Days, both 6'6" or 6'7" freshmen, are the reserves. Williams is a long athlete who lives around the rim. He's a great rebounder, a capable shot blocker and has the best motor on the roster. Days is a more polished scorer who will knock down a three ball if left open.

I mentioned above that LSU has an identity. They stick to it. This team is in attack mode from the tip off. They don't settle for threes, and that's because they don't make them. It's a 32% three point shooting team without a true sharp shooter. LSU is at its best shooting about 7 threes a half and spending the rest of the time going to the rim. If they miss, they rebound about 40% of their missed shots which is 4th in the country. The Tigers have also done a much better job of taking care of the basketball since mid-February. Over the last 11 games they're averaging right at 10 turnovers per game. By comparison, over the first 23 games they had 10 or fewer turnovers just twice. That's how a team that doesn't shoot the ball well finishes the season 11th in the country in scoring, creating more possessions by cutting down turnovers and hitting the offensive glass..

Weirdly, when LSU has needed a big shot, they've made it all year. And they know that. They were down 14 at Mizzou with a minute and half left and hit a barrage of threes to win. They needed a huge three against Tennessee late and Smart splashed it. In Gainesville they trailed by 3 with 15 seconds left and Reid drilled a three. And then down three in the second round against Maryland, Skylar stepped up and buried a shot.

LSU has lived in tight games all season long, and they've been exceptional at making plays to win them. They're 12-4 in games decided by 5 points or less or overtime.

Should it come down to the final possession, Waters will have the ball in his hands if that's at all possible. It was against Maryland, and he made the play just as he did at Florida three weeks ago.

Finally, how much does not having the head coach hurt? Well, it certainly can't help. Excluding the blowout of a Vanderbilt team that had quit, Tony Benford's Tigers have outscored opponents 118-83 in the first half (+35). In the second half...opponents have outscored LSU 134-103 (-31). That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for halftime adjustments. The staff has done a good job the last three weeks, but you'd have to imagine things aren't as good as they were with Wade at the helm.