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Tipsheet: Talented LSU will offer stern test of Mizzou's resilience

Tipsheet: Talented LSU will offer stern test of Mizzou's resilience

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Thomas, Smart help LSU rally, beat Georgia 94-92 in overtime

LSU coach Will Wade speaks with his players during a timeout in the team's NCAA college basketball game against Georgia on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

After their spectacular collapse at Mississippi State, the Missouri Tigers must pull off a complete reset before hosting LSU Saturday.

Resourceful coach Will Wade will bring a big-budget team to Boone County. Wade is on record going to extremes to bring talent to LSU and the high-end recruits on this squad reflect that.

Cameron Thomas, who is scoring 24.8 points per game, cannot be contained with a single defender. When he wants a shot, he goes and gets a shot.

Trendon Watford, JaVonte Smart and Darius Days are elite talents as well. NBA scouts watch a lot ot tape on this team.

LSU (7-2) can score all day. It has far more offensive firepower than Mizzou.

But the Bayou Tigers’ commitment to defense occasionally drifts, so it will be interesting to see if Mizzou can get back on track offensively against them.

The Tigers looked like a new team during their first half at Mississippi State, getting lots of side-to-side player and ball movement in their half-court sets. They found center Jeremiah Tilmon for some more power slams and they did a little damage in transition.

Then, in the second half, they suffered a total offensive relapse when Mississippi State came after them.

Their confidence evaporated. Can they get it back by Saturday?

LSU opened its season by allowing SIU Edwardsville score 81 against them. Then the Tigers lost an 85-81 shootout at SLU. They yielded 80 points to Nicholls at home and they had to rally Wednesday to get past Georgia 94-92 in overtime Wednesday night.

“Our activity defensively was better and our 19 steals and their 22 turnovers really bailed us out,” Wade told reporters after the game. “We did get (tougher) late, but we’ve got to be a little more consistent and we have to have that urgency from the start.”

That near loss offered the team another wake-up call.

“We need games like this,” Smart said. “SEC games are hard. We have to find ways to figure things out and keep fighting.”

Obviously the same goes for Mizzou.

Here is what folks are writing about college basketball:

Kyle Boone, CBSSports.com: “LSU entered the season as a dark-horse SEC contender because it returned Trendon Watford, Darius Days and JaVonte Smart. But as of last week, when it opened SEC play, it did so as a dark-horse SEC contender in large part because of the arrival of five-star freshman Cameron Thomas. Thomas has been a revelation for the Tigers as one of the most impactful freshmen in all of college basketball. He's averaging an SEC-leading 24.6 points per game on the year and already emerged as the Tigers' top shot-taker and shot-maker despite the wealth of talent surrounding him. In the process, he's launched himself squarely onto the one-and-done radar because of his ability to create and make shots from anywhere on the court.” 

John Gasaway, ESPN.com: “If you're looking for a ‘national coach of the year so far,’ you could do worse than Darian DeVries. The former Creighton assistant has his team rocketing up the KenPom rankings to the point where the Bulldogs are verging on bubble territory. Outstanding shooting from both sides of the arc has carried Drake this far, and we now know that the season-opening win at Kansas State was no fluke. Back-to-back Sunday and Monday home games against Loyola Chicago will pit what appear to be easily the two strongest teams in the Missouri Valley Conference against each other. A two-bid Valley is a possibility until further notice.”

Mike Lopresti, NCAA.com: “It was only four years ago that the Bulldogs had just gone 14-48 over two seasons. They’ve broken 80 points nine times. It’s an important number. They’re 25-0 under DeVries when scoring 80. They’ve won 23 consecutive home non-conference games. They’re averaging 44 points a game, just in the paint, or 20.6 more than their opponents . . . Drake did not get a single vote in the AP poll until the sixth week. By then, 63 other teams had been named in a ballot. This week, the Bulldogs are 34th. By next poll, if they sweep Loyola Chicago over the weekend, they’ll be 15-0. They haven’t been ranked in 13 years. It might be time.”

Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com: “Here's what's so fascinating: Minnesota is thriving in no small part because of 7-foot junior Liam Robbins, who came by way of Drake. And Drake has the best record in college basketball this season? Robbins put up 19.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in his past three games vs. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Minnesota went 2-1 in those games. Against OSU, Robbins had a career-high 27 points and 14 boards. If he's going to do this alongside potential All-American Marcus Carr, Minnesota can make the Sweet 16.”

Kevin Sweeney, SI.com: “Texas is back … at least on the basketball court. While Longhorn fans may have spent Saturday’s game refreshing Twitter looking for updates about their brief football coaching search, Shaka Smart’s team put together a dominant victory over Kansas. The Longhorns never trailed against the No. 3 Jayhawks and used a 14–2 run in the second half to pull away en route to a 25-point victory at Allen Fieldhouse. The Texas offense clicked on all cylinders, shooting 12 for 26 from beyond the arc and putting five players in double figures. On the other end of the floor, the Longhorns shut down Kansas’s offense, which has put up points in bunches at times this season, holding the Jayhawks to a season-low 0.8 points per possession per KenPom. The victory gives Smart’s club the type of signature road win it needs to compete for a No. 1 seed come March. With wins over Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and now Kansas, Texas has proved it’s a legitimate top-10 team and Big 12 title contender. With an experienced floor general running the show in Matt Coleman and a pair of future NBA players in forwards Greg Brown and Kai Jones, Texas has the combination of talent and experience needed to make a big run in the NCAA tournament.”

Jay Bilas, ESPN.com: “This will be the most difficult challenge -- ever -- for the NCAA selection committee . . . Because of the pandemic, we will not have similar schedules to compare teams. Results will need to be closely examined, because consistency while going through COVID-19 protocols will be very difficult. We will see crazy results that are difficult to reconcile. We may need to throw out the high and low scores as if we are 1970s diving judges. Smaller conferences are less likely to have conference tournaments and more likely to award the league's automatic bid to its regular-season champion. That will mean fewer multibid leagues -- and more at-large spots for big shots from Power 5 conferences. The better conferences will have an advantage because their top teams play more high-value games, and nonconference schedules were so disrupted as to be of dubious value.”

MEGAPHONE

“Us putting in basically a whole new defense and then having no preseason games, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we actually started playing games until we got out there and could let the guys work their way through some of this stuff. I did think we had a group that was pretty connected throughout the summer and fall. They had great chemistry.”

Drake coach Darian DeVries, to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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