Jeff Stachelek of SB Nation LSU blog And The Valley Shook was kind enough to trade questions and answers with us for Auburn's Wednesday-night game against the purple-and-gold Tigers (our answers to Jeff's questions can be found here). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT at Auburn Arena. The game will be televised on CSS and broadcast on the Auburn IMG Network / XM 199.
First of all, what are your thoughts so far on new head coach Johnny Jones? I know he landed a big recruit and y'all are coming into SEC play at 9-2. That is definitely a nice start for his first season.
I made no secret that I thought Jones was a "lazy" hire. It was never necessarily a bad hire, but I thought LSU should have at least tried to get a more successful coach. If the answer(s) were no, Jones would still be available anyway. Since that time, he's done a pretty good job, especially recruiting. The 2013 class has three top 100 players, headlined by Jarrell Martin, who's a 5 star recruit. The team has played better than I expected they would at the beginning of the year, though they still have a lot to work on. I think looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if having an energized, alumni head coach is what leads to success in the SEC, or if it is better to hire from elsewhere if that coach is superior.
The name I always hear about is Anthony Hickey. Who else should we know about?
Shavon Coleman is having a fantastic start to the 2012/2013 season and is perhaps the most important player so far. Johnny O'Bryant is more talented at the forward position, but Coleman has been healthier and more effective so far. Coleman has regularly put up double-doubles, and it doesn't look like many SEC teams will be able to completely contain him since he can score from all over the court.
What are the keys to an LSU win, offensively? Defensively?
LSU has been much better offensively this year, and perhaps at the expense of the defense. I guess that it is somewhat expected because Jones emphasizes an uptempo, attacking offense and uses pressure defense. A lot will depend on Anthony Hickey on the perimeter, since he's usually responsible for a bunch of steals and easy lay ups. Former Memphis Tiger Charles Carmouche will also have to score some points to take the pressure off the forwards. LSU relies on the 3 point shot quite a bit, so a hot shooting night is what the Bayou Bengals most need.
How do you feel about conference play, given that the entire conference has been a bit streaky so far?
I think streaky is a nice way of hiding the fact that the SEC has been flat out terrible. The numbers don't lie, the conference is 9th in the RPI currently, and it deserves to be that low. It's going to cost the conference on Selection Sunday, whether that means 3 bids or less or perhaps having only a single team given a "homecourt advantage" in the opening weekend's games.
Which Tigers emerge victorious on Wednesday night?
I like the team that Johnny Jones has, but I don't quite think they are good enough to win this game. Despite the fact that Auburn's record is much worse, they've played much better recently and have done so against better teams than LSU has played. LSU struggles with containing powerful offensive players, and I don't think they have anyone capable of stopping Sullivan. I think Auburn should have a comfortable 2 score win in a game that could get ugly.