Death Valley Voice talks LSU basketball on WWL Radio

Jan 16, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. LSU defeated Arkansas 76-74. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons (25) against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. LSU defeated Arkansas 76-74. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The editor of Death Valley Voice joins T-Bob Hebert on WWL Radio to talk LSU basketball and the NCAA Tournament.

With the LSU basketball team heading into the final stretch of the regular season, there is no shortage of topics to discuss, ranging from the upcoming showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide to the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament outlook.

ICYMI: Ranking the SEC’s NCAA Tournament contenders by championship potential

In a recent interview with T-Bob Hebert on Double Coverage on WWL Radio in New Orleans, I discussed both of these topics and more.

Listen to the full podcast at the WWL Radio website. Interview begins at the 11:00 mark:

T-Bob Hebert: Massive game tomorrow for the both the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Who are you giving the early advantage to entering the game?

Josh Criswell: I’m giving the early edge to LSU, even though Alabama has been on fire as of late, winning their past four games and two against teams currently projected to NCAA Tournament. When you look at the stats, Alabama does not move the ball well. They rank last in the SEC in assists and turn the ball over like crazy with 14 turnovers per game. And I like the way LSU has been playing as of late, forcing turnovers and locking down on defense. I think that is going to cause a lot of issues for an Alabama team that struggles to score.

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As much as Alabama struggles to score the ball, LSU has no problem doing so. It’s one of my favorite thing about this team. As much as everyone complains about a lack of offense on the football team, it feels like I’m watching the Oregon Ducks on the basketball court. However, the defense at times has been frustrating for LSU basketball fans. How do you feel about the Tigers’ ability to shut down Alabama, particularly behind the 3-point line?

Three-point shooting is one of the things that keeps Alabama in games it seems. They don’t do a lot of things tremendously, but they play solid team defense and shoot the three-ball really well. Senior guard Retin Obasohan dropped 20 points on the Tigers last time they met, so the key for LSU is going to be to contain him. If they can slow him down and hold him to 15 points or less, I really like LSU’s chances.

Is this a team that plays better at home? In college basketball especially, it has kind of gotten ridiculous in terms of how much better teams play at home versus on the road. What have you seen out of the Tigers at the PMAC this year?

I love what I have seen from them. It seems like that building has finally gotten back some of that energy that it had been missing for so long. It started to build the past few years, but this season especially. Maybe it is a bit of a bandwagon tendency, with people wanting to come out and see arguably the best player in the country in Ben Simmons, but a lot of it is just people buying in to this team. And frankly, it’s because they are fun to watch. They may not play sound defense on every possession, but they are almost guaranteed to light up the scoreboard.

I really feel like I am watching Oregon or Texas A&M, with this high-profile offense and defense that isn’t anything to write home about. But that’s okay. Give me a defensive-minded team in one sport and an offensive-minded team in the other, and you kind of get everything you are looking for.

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Yeah, it kind of gives the LSU football fans a breath of fresh air that have been complaining for so long about a boring offense.


So Ben Simmons, Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby or Antonio Blakeney: which of those names has the biggest impact on whether or not LSU wins or loses?

Ben Simmons. Just because he might be the best player in the country, and you see a direct correlation to his aggressiveness on offense and the Tigers’ success. Five of LSU’s nine losses have come when Simmons has attempted less than 10 shots, so him being aggressive is huge for them.

But as far as that supporting cast, I think Antonio Blakeney’s resurgence will have a big impact. He’s bounced back from a midseason lull with double-figures in six of his past seven games. He is averaging over 20 points per game in his last three, and it seems like he is finally starting to play like the player that was the No. 2 shooting guard in the country coming out of high school. It’s huge for LSU.

Is Blakeney a player you can expect to get one more year out of before declaring for the NBA Draft?

I think so. Unless he becomes one of those players, like Tyrus Thomas, that absolutely goes off in the NCAA Tournament and becomes a household name. But I like his chances to come back, and if he does, I would not be surprised to see him in the running for SEC Player of the Year. He is that kind of talent.

Before we go, it seems like you cannot have a college basketball discussion without talking about the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has LSU as a No. 7 seed, while some of his contemporaries think that is insane. Where do you fall regarding the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament value?

I like Joe Lunardi’s position in that he believes LSU is not a team that is on the tournament bubble of the first-four in and first-four out. People look way too much into RPI and overall record, as opposed to what they have done lately. When you look at LSU’s bad losses, they all came before the new year. So the NCAA Tournament committee is going to be looking at over two months of really good LSU basketball when they make their decision, assuming LSU keeps things up heading into the final stretch.

That said, I think seven is a little too high, just because LSU was so bad in its non-conference schedule. They have to have been the biggest disappointment in college basketball early in the season. But I like the way they are turning things around, and I like that Lunardi factors in the “eye-test”.

Four of LSU’s six non-conference losses came without Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor. As we’ve seen in SEC play, they are a completely different team with those two. They’re the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers on the team, and they both provide an edge on defense that this team was missing early in the season. Especially with Hornsby on the outside.