Three keys: LSU vs. Oregon (NIT)


BATON ROUGE -- By the time the teams take the court tonight, LSU will have had all of 48 hours to study and digest a gameplan for Oregon.

It isn't too much of a departure from the Tigers' Wednesday-Saturday schedule in the SEC, but the short notice coupled with long travel seems certain to play a role in this NIT opener, despite coach Trent Johnson's insistence it wouldn't.

LSU and Oregon have never played, and both teams lost to both of their common opponents (Vanderbilt and Virginia), which makes this matchup a bit more difficult to break down.

Nevertheless, here are three keys if the Tigers are to reach the NIT's second round.

Guard play: This game presents an interesting matchup in that the Ducks and Tigers rely on completely opposite methods to get their points. LSU will obviously turn to its trio of Justin Hamilton, Storm Warren and Johnny O'Bryant to pound the paint. A few nice contributions from the guards wouldn't hurt.

The Ducks rely on the talented duo of senior guards, Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim. Oregon doesn't average double-digit points from a single low-post player, but rather turns to Joseph, Sim and a handful of small forwards for production. It seems to work since the Ducks have been known to shoot the lights out of a building.

Joseph is shooting 47 percent on the season, and an impressive 42 percent from behind the 3-point arc. As good as that might be, Sim one-ups him with some pretty steady marksmanship -- he's shooting 49 percent from the floor and a whopping 46 percent from long range.

The LSU post is going to bear the burden of keeping pace offensively, but guards Andre Stringer, Ralston Turner and Anthony Hickey need to have a great night defensively to keep the Ducks from going off.

Single out Singler: If it's not Joseph and Sim, it's junior small forward E.J. Singler, brother of former Duke star Kyle Singler

Singler presents a pretty bad matchup problem for the Tigers. At 6-foot-6, he's probably too quick for any LSU big man to guard. But he can shoot the ball well, and he's too big for most of the Tigers' guards to handle. It seems like Singler should be Turner's responsibility -- that's a crucial matchup.

It's also worth pointing out that Singler shoots 90 percent from the free throw line -- second in the nation. So fouling him isn't an effective strategy. It will have to be straight-up defense.

Overcome the road bug: It's a poorly kept secret that the Tigers haven't been great on the road this season.

LSU is 7-10 in all road games (including neutral site games) and 4-8 in true road games (played at the opposition's home court). In SEC play the Tigers went a horrific 1-7 on the road, and the one victory was against South Carolina -- the league's worst team.

Oregon won't be any easier of an environment. Although the Ducks have now moved to Matthew Knight Arena, rather than the infamous homecourt advantage of McArthur Court, it promises to be a hostile environment in Eugene. Student admission will be free to the game and it promises to be rowdy.

The Tigers have to find a way past their road game blues or it could get ugly.