LSU TIGERS (9-5)
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (8-6)
Reed Arena Ė College Station, TX
Tip-off: Wednesday, 8:30pm ET
Line: Texas A&M -9
Texas A&M hosts LSU in a matchup of two struggling SEC programs.
Coach Johnny Jonesí Tigers and Coach Billy Kennedyís Aggies are both looking to gain some traction in conference play and right the sinking ship of their respective seasons. Combined, the two programs have just one win (LSU) in their last seven games. Even winless in SEC play (0-3) Texas A&M is a nine-point favorite in Reed Arena where the Aggies are 6-2 (1-3 ATS) this season. LSUís lone road win is also their lone SEC win (1-2), coming last Wednesday in Columbia over Missouri (88-77, LSU +1.5). While the Tigers (9-5, 5-8 ATS) sport a better record than the 8-6 Aggies, Texas A&M sports a much stronger schedule to date. Four of the Aggies six losses are to ranked teams, and their latest loss (79-68, A&M +5) at South Carolina is to a team that was ranked before losing their best all-around player (G Sindarius Thornwell), who was back in the lineup against Texas A&M. All five of LSUís losses are against unranked foes. LSU will be without former F Craig Victor (10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG), who was dismissed from the program on Dec. 29 for repeated transgressions of team rules. The Tigers are 1-2 since booting Victor, a two-year starter, although they won their first three games of the season without Victor who had a preseason suspension that precluded his eventual dismissal from the team. Both teams have also struggled mightily against the spread, as LSU and Texas A&M are 2-5 (ATS) and 1-6 (ATS) respectively in their last seven. The Aggies opened conference play dropping their SEC home opener to Tennessee on Dec. 29 as a 9.5-point favorite (73-63). The Aggies are 4-3 (3-4) as favorites this season. Texas A&M lost at Kentucky (100-58, A&M +15) before their loss to South Carolina on Dec. 7. LSU followed up their Missouri win with a loss on Saturday against Mississippi State (95-78, LSU -2). The Tigers are 3-3 (3-3 ATS) as underdogs. Last season these two squads met three times with the Aggies topping the Tigers twice (both home teams were victorious). Texas A&M won the rubber match in the SEC tournament, clobbering LSU 71-38 (A&M -7.5) on Mar. 12. A consistent trend historically in this matchup has been the total, as the UNDER is 12-1 in the last thirteen matchups.
LSU has had a head-scratching start to conference play, winning on the road as an underdog (at Missouri) sandwiched by home losses as slight favorites against Vanderbilt and, most recently, Mississippi State. The Tigers are a wildly different bunch, schematically, than the team led by Ben Simmons last season. On any given night another LSU player can take the lead offensively as LSU boasts G Antonio Blakeney (17.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG), F Duop Reath (14.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and G Brandon Sampson (11.5 PPG, 49.2% FG). Blakeney will be looking to make up for a season-ending 1-for-13 FG (6 points) performance to end the Tigers season against Texas A&M in last seasonís SEC Tournament. In three games against the Aggies, Blakeney averaged just 7.7 PPG. Unfortunately without Victor, the Tigers have lost their best rebounder and most experienced frontcourt player, and the timing for this loss is especially harsh going against the strong frontcourt of Texas A&M. LSU has trouble defending, allowing three of their last four opponents to shoot better than 53.0% FG while ranking worse than 200th nationally in most major defensive statistics (PPG, RPG, FG%, 3PT%). LSU is usually looking up at the scoreboard at halftime behind their opponent, allowing 38.5 first half points per game (313th in NCAA) as well, and Texas A&M has proven to be a much better first half than second half team thus far. The game script lines up for this game to be a big opportunity for Blakeney and Sampson as the Aggies struggle guarding beyond the arc, and Reath could find himself in foul trouble against Tyler Davis and company. That said, the Aggie big men arenít immune to foul trouble, and Reath has a plethora of moves in the post that heís shown off. The final could come down to which team gets the other teamís big men on the bench..
The Aggies always look to dominate behind Tyler Davis (13.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 60% FG), but Coach Kennedy would be wise to attack LSU on defense to try and gain an edge, as the Tigers are very careless with the ball (14.6 TO/G, 271st in NCAA). Texas A&M usually isnít a team that forces turnovers (11.6 TO/G, 300th in NCAA), but at home against one of the SECís worst teams as a nine-point favorite is as good a time as ever to get your team to be aggressive. The aforementioned first half splits show Texas A&Mís propensity to start off strong coincides nicely with LSUís matador first-half defense, and without Victor, LSU doesnít matchup nearly as well with the likes of Davis, F Robert Williams (10.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.5 BPG) and F DJ Hogg (13.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 43% 3PT). Davis will be looking to repeat success against LSU in Reed Arena as he tied his freshman year season high with 18 points the last time the Aggies hosted the Tigers at home. G Admon Gilder (12.1 PPG, 4.3 APG) leads the backcourt and, if Texas A&M is to force more unforced errors from LSU than usual, Gilder (1.9 SPG) will probably be leading the way. Gilder put up double figure performances in each of his three games against LSU last season. Besides the lack of turnovers, the Aggies defense is very solid, forcing opponents to sub-40% shooting (39.6% FG) and owning a two-point field goal percentage defense of 41.6% (15th in NCAA).