LSU Basketball Preview

LSU Basketball 2016-17 Season Preview

It is fair to say that Johnny Jones reached his peak as the Head Coach at his alma mater.

LSU Basketball has had their opportunities over the past few seasons and now things look to be turning for the worse.  Johnny Jones lost his rainmaker recruiter, David Patrick, to TCU.  Johnny Jones needs to show LSU alumni, students and administration that he is actually a good coach.  Thus far, his performance at LSU has indicated otherwise.

LSU Scholarship Depth Distribution

Last season, LSU had the #1 Draft Pick Ben Simmons and a rather strong supporting cast and they just did not get it done.  LSU quit on their season in the Semifinals of the SEC Tournament.  Ben Simmons also quit on his schoolwork after Fall Semester Finals had ended.  Johnny Jones is on the hot seat and rightfully so, but how can he get it done at LSU without talent that are projected to be in the NBA next season when he could not get it done with Simmons?  LSU was bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 64 with Martin and Mickey the year prior.

Johnny Jones KenPom Metrics before Ben Simmons

Johnny Jones With Ben Simmons

LSU’s success hinges on defense.  Johnny Jones’ fast pace is a constant and offensive consistency has been experienced during his time in Baton Rouge.  However, the LSU defense took a major step backwards last season and it was particularly evident during the non-conference segment of the season.  LSU likes to aggressively press 30-40% of the time and it is only when they press do they actually get results because in the half court, this defense lollygags.

Much of the defensive success of the 2014-15 Team was tied to aggressive defense, strong rebounding and a dominant shot blocker (Jordan Mickey).  The 2015-16 Team had some aggressive defenders and rebounders, but the shot blocking presence in the low post was just not there.  Ben Simmons was the leading shotblocker and he had .8 blocks per game.

LSU Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster

The losses of experience, aggression and talent from last season’s team completely gutted this program.  Antonio Blakeney and Craig Victor are the two that are going to have to keep it together for this LSU team.  Can they play offense at such a fast pace and comfort level with traditional posts and even some lumbering posts?  Who is going to block shots and provide that intimidating presence down low?  Without one, LSU struggled on defense.  In fact, they were 341st in the country in the percentage of shots blocked in the restricted arc.

Who is going to distribute the ball this season?  Ben Simmons was the Point Forward, Tim Quarterman was the traditional Point Guard.

Antonio Blakeney’s contributions from long range return and three point shooters should get their opportunities.

When it comes to returning three point shooters, LSU is a slightly below average three point shooting team.  They have a balance between the zones and they were at their best scoring in the restricted arc, but compared to the rest of the nation they were not a three point shooting-happy team.  Dribble driving, cutting and posting up this team is extremely efficient (9th best in the country last season).  LSU’s shot selection was terrible, 34.6% of their shots were not in the money zones (292nd best in the country last season).

26.7% of their shots came off in transition, which is not exactly surprising (28th in the nation).  Their shots in transition had an effective Field Goal rate of 59.7% (50th in the country) and their shots in the half court had an effective Field Goal rate of 47.9% (213th in the country).  That is a massive difference.

LSU let opponents get out in transition 22.3% of the time (277th in the country).  LSU was terrible both in transition and half court defense.

Featured Members of the LSU Roster

Craig Victor

Victor is the top returning post presence and he is a traditional Power Forward.  He can work off both posts with ease and he is very good at scoring in the restricted arc.  The problem is that he just does not get into this area enough.  He is also a liability at the Free Throw Line and he does not get enough opportunities offensively because he is typically saddled with foul trouble.

He averaged 3.9 fouls per game!  That is absolutely ridiculous.  What are Johnny Jones and his staff teaching Craig Victor to do on defense?  

Victor fouled out in eight games last season.  In nearly one in three games, Victor fouled out.  In 16 out of 25 games, he had four or more fouls.  That’s a 64% foul trouble rate last season, which is appalling.

Antonio Blakeney

Antonio Blakeney is going to get the lion’s share of three point shooting attempts.  Blakeney’s NBA Draft value was hurt last season by his pedestrian three point shooting rate and below average defense.

Blakeney has to live up to the hype this season.  However, it is entirely possible that he does not.  Blakeney’s strength is scoring in the restricted arc off the dribble or off a cut/lob.  Blakeney’s points were also in transition.

Is this Blakeney’s team?

Jalyn Patterson

Patterson should be the starting Point Guard and he will have Skylar Mays pressuring him to perform all season.  Last season was a big step backwards for Patterson, he was less efficient and he did not have as many opportunities due to Ben Simmons’ presence.  Patterson needs to take on the role of the distributor in this offense and shoot as well as he did in 2014-15.

Patterson is not much of a driver to the basket nor is he going to try many mid-range shots.  He took his shots from three point range last season 74% of the time and he should do it again.

Expected Starting Lineup

PG:  Jalyn Patterson

SG:  Antonio Blakeney

3G:  Brandon Sampson

PF:   Aaron Epps

PF:  Craig Victor

What to Expect from LSU This Season

LSU Basketball will struggle without the hyped talent and the end of last season should be a precursor of things to come.  Those that exited the LSU program ultimately dictate the weaknesses of the following season’s team in a way that is incredibly profound.  It is not a matter of production, it’s a matter of general performance.  Johnny Jones cannot get his team to put a consistent performance on both ends of the floor.  This team will struggle to play together without a distributor and the defense should remain erratic, at best.

LSU will participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis and they draw Wichita State first, which should be a tough game for this LSU team without a clear Point Guard.  LSU would face Louisville or Old Dominion in the next round and then the final round will be against Baylor, VCU, St. John’s or Michigan State.  If LSU wins a game they will likely face Baylor, VCU or Michigan State in the final game.  Not easy for LSU at all.

LSU will face North Florida before this tournament in The Bahamas.  North Florida loves the pace that LSU plays and if LSU is not playing adequate defense, North Florida can upset these Tigers.  LSU will host Houston, which is a game Houston should win.

LSU also visits Winston-Salem and this is a rematch of last season’s game.  LSU is looking for revenge and Wake Forest should be improved while LSU was gutted.  The interesting question is whether LSU is able to forge a new identity by this point in the season, can they move on with this roster?

LSU has about as generous of a start to the season as the SEC could grant them.  The difficulty ratchets up starting in College Station and continues through the month of January.  The next brutal stretch starts with a trip to Rupp Arena and ends in Stegeman Coliseum.  By the Alabama game it should be obvious whether this team has given up on the season.

LSU will likely be playing on Wednesday in Nashville and it is entirely possible that Robert Kirby could be the interim Head Coach for this game.