As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-10 (11-7 in SEC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 106.8 (75th)/94.7 (37th)
Seed: No. 9 in East
Impact Player: Jarell Martin, sophomore, forward: 16.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 106.3 offensive rating.
The Case For: This is a strong defensive team. LSU ranks in the top 50 on kenpom.com in both three-point percentage (42nd) and two-point (37th) percentage defense. The Tigers also have a dynamic duo in sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, who combine for over 32 points and 19 rebounds per game. In addition, Mickey averages 3.6 blocks per game, and he can even give guards fits on defense. LSU is 8-3 on the road this year, so being away from home doesn't bother the Tigers too much. They boast 12 RPI top 100 wins, but it was one of their losses—a two-point defeat against Kentucky in February—that may have been the most eye-opening indication of their ability. If LSU can hang with the Wildcats, it can compete with anyone in the field.
The Case Against: The Tigers are one of the youngest teams in the country, ranking 313th in experience on kenpom.com, and this is the program's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. LSU had some disappointing losses this season, including five to teams outside the RPI top 100, and it benefited from a favorable SEC schedule—it played both Kentucky and Arkansas, the league's only two ranked teams, just once apiece—and a very weak non-conference slate. A team with a great backcourt that attacks the rim and can get Martin and Mickey in foul trouble would minimize the Tigers' defensive defensive advantage. The big question for LSU is which team is going to show up—the one that took Kentucky to the wire and edged West Virginia in Morgantown? Or the one that lost to Mississippi State and Auburn in back-to-back games at midseason?
SI prediction: Lose to N.C. State in Round of 64