Busting Brackets

LSU vs Saint Louis: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

AUSTIN, TEXAS - JANUARY 25: Head coach Will Wade of the LSU Tigers talks to his team during the game with the Texas Longhorns at The Frank Erwin Center on January 25, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TEXAS - JANUARY 25: Head coach Will Wade of the LSU Tigers talks to his team during the game with the Texas Longhorns at The Frank Erwin Center on January 25, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images) /

After both programs picked up wins earlier in the week over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, the Tigers and Billikens will face each other in the main event of the makeshift “Billiken Classic” MTE.

TV schedule: Saturday, November 28, 3:00 pm ET. ESPN+

Arena: Chaifetz Arena in Saint Louis, Missouri

The two squads have been set to meet for weeks, but the game’s venue had changed at the last minute when both teams left the “Golden Window Classis” in Lincoln, Nebraska, and opted to host their own event in St. Louis. For the Billikens, it was a win-win as they get to play their coveted matchup with the SEC title hopeful while also doing so on their home court.

It’s less clear what the Tigers get out of the new arrangement, but it’s not crazy to suggest that simply guaranteeing a pair of games in an environment you are more comfortable with is not enough to justify a schedule change this year.

The afternoon tilt may well be the most competitive game of the day in the college basketball universe. Saint Louis is one of the premier mid-majors in the country this year and is a favorite to win their conference, and LSU is once again in the hunt to win the SEC and make a deep run at the NCAA tournament. According to KenPom, the Billikens are the 45th best team in the country, and the Tigers are the 42nd.

Both teams will face their first real test of the season, and given the fleeting opportunity for non-conference games, the game will have lasting and tangible effects on both program’s post-seasons hopes and resumes.

Let’s look at some keys to success for both teams to get a sense of how these teams will need to perform in order to come out with the W.

Keys to the game

Louisiana State continues to be one of the best offensive teams in the country. Bringing back the group who was responsible for the 4th best offense last year in addition to adding the best pure scoring recruit in the 2020 class in Cam Thomas, the Tigers will look to continue to roll on that side of the ball.

With scorers at all five positions and plenty of bench depth to keep the onslaught coming, LSU is very capable of outscoring any opponent they face and winning games on the back of that.

And they will have to.

LSU’s creativity and effort on offensive do not quite transfer over to the ball’s defensive side. They ranked 12th in the SEC last year on D and 179th in the country. Will Wade’s group allow far too many open looks beyond the arc, let teams score easily in transition, and don’t force many turnovers.

In their season opener against SIU-Edwardsville, they allowed 13 threes. Despite winning comfortably, they allowed the Cougars to make it a 2-point game late in the second half despite opening the game with a 24-2 run. The Tigers may find it difficult to win games against stronger teams if their defense is as pores as they have been.

On the other hand, the Billikens are sort of the other side of the coin to LSU. Travis Ford’s group has been known to be tough on the defensive end…and a little lost on the offense. On the strength of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French’s defensive effort, the Bills have become known for their physical play, tight defense, and suburb rebounding. However, this Billikens group appears to be a little different.

The Billikens offense has started to come around, trending upwards towards the end of last season and opening well, scoring 89 on SIUE despite only having its starters play a max of 22 minutes last Wednesday. Javonte Perkins has emerged as one of the top shot makers in the A-10 (and maybe the country), and after spending last season injured, sharpshooting wing Gibson Jimerson returned with a perfect 3/3 from deep.

The Billikens will have a large job on both ends of the court to contain the Tigers. They will need to both continue their defensive dominance while also performing on offense. While, in a sense, this feels like a great matchup for the Billikens, as their strengths stymie their opponents with their opponent’s weakness playing to their benefit, it will be a big job to get it done.

The biggest battle, though, may come on the glass. Both teams pride themselves on their rebounding, with both teams being top 25 in the country in offensive rebounding last season. The game may ultimately come down to who controls the glass…and thus second-chance points, best.

This game matters more for SLU than it does LSU, plain and simple. SLU has minimal opportunities to prove itself against Power 5 opponents, whereas LSU will have a full SEC schedule in order to make up their resume. The differences in the quality of life (in that regard) between being a Power 5 and a Mid-Major are on full display in this game.

With news that Billikens star forward Hasahn French may not be available for the game (game-time decision, concussion) will significantly change the matchup’s complexation. LSU Forward Darius Days is expected to be his counterpart and will have a far easier night should he not have to deal with French’s athleticism and mobility compared to SLU’s other forwards.

Very few programs in the country can boost the pieces up and down the LSU lineup. They may be the most talented team in the county man-for-man. If they can operate as one they will be a tough beat. But, if the Billikens are able to execute on defense (especially in 1-on-1 scenarios) and shoot the ball they will have a chance to get their marquee win of the season.

Next. 10 biggest takeaways from opening night. dark

No matter the losses, there will be a battle at Chaifetz Arena Saturday afternoon.