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LSU Preview/GameThread

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8-4 Aggie Hoops hosts the 7-5 LSU Tigers in a massive game at Reed Arena (8:00pm; SEC Network)

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It's the biggest game of the season. Until the next one.

We're pretty much at that point for Fightin' Texas Aggie Hoops, where every single game has huge conference-wide implications. The Auburn Tigers did us a favor by nipping the Georgia Bulldogs on the road, Arkansas beat Ole Miss in a battle for 2nd place, LSU righted the ship with an 18-point road victory at Tennessee, and the Aggies took care of business against Florida.

What does it all mean? Well, barring a conference tourney mega-run, it means that the SEC realistically has six teams capable of making the tournament. Two of those spots (Kentucky, Arkansas) are certainly gone, while two more (Ole Miss, Georgia) are held by teams who defeated A&M. The 5th spot? That currently belongs to the LSU Tigers. Our Aggies have a 1-0 head-to-head nod over LSU, but their record against RPI Top 50 squads (4-2) is too much to overcome. Especially when you consider our paltry 1-5 against the RPI Top 50, by comparison. The only way to be seriously considered over LSU is a head-to-head sweep.

And we have that opportunity tonight.

This game is about retaining control of our destiny. Win, and we still have some say in the proceedings. Lose, and we all start praying to our preferred deity for one of the following:

  • A monumental collapse from somebody in the 2-5 range
  • The committee doubling the amount of 2014 SEC teams in the tournament (from three to six)

Let's break it down

1) LSU still has the best starting frontcourt in the SEC

It was part of my preview for round one against LSU... and nothing changed. Any hope that their early season numbers were inflated by non-conference opponents has been completely abandoned, as both Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey have been absolutely as good as advertised.

SEC rankings on 1/17

Scoring: Martin (2nd); Mickey (7th)

Rebounds: Mickey (2nd); Martin (3rd)

Blocks: Mickey (1st; 2nd nationally)

SEC rankings on 2/17

Scoring:Mickey (3rd); Martin (5th)

Rebounds: Mickey (2nd); Martin (3rd)

Blocks: Mickey (1st; 2nd nationally)

The Tigers are absolutely dominant down low.

2) Dominance is Overrated

Despite their insane numbers, the Tigers have made an interesting habit of ignoring the post guys in crunch time. Sure, you can make the argument that "launch bombs and crash the glass with two of the top three rebounding forwards in the SEC" isn't the worst idea... but it has left Tiger fans feeling awfully hollow when it hasn't worked.

I don't think A&M has the depth to handle 40 minutes of sustained post pressure. If LSU can stay true to their strengths, this could be an awfully tough game to pull out. We need the Tigers to get in their own way yet again.

3) Where Art Thou, Bench?

For the second straight game, the A&M bench was outscored by double digits... and in the last two games, our second unit has contributed a grand total of seven points to the cause. When added to Green's offensive struggles, it puts the Aggies in a familiar position that hasn't exactly worked wonders over the past few years.

That position, of course, is the absolute requirement for all big-name starters to play well. Our Aggies managed the early piece of the conference gauntlet despite the periodic struggles of key starting players, but the bench production just hasn't been there lately. We need them to come back, and soon.

******

So, what's going to happen tonight? It depends entirely on the second unit. If they can provide solid minutes AND legitimate offensive support, I truly think we can win this game and sweep the Tigers the hell out of Texas. But if we're counting on the starting five to put in 30-plus minutes and stay out of foul trouble while shouldering 95% of the offensive load? I just don't see it... LSU has too much talent. In that scenario I think the Tigers get their season split, and we start looking at the road game at Arkansas as our last chance to make an impression.

It's going to take a complete team effort.

BTHO LSU