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2014 NIT Preview: No. 4 San Francisco hosts No. 5 LSU

The Tigers of LSU (19-13, 9-9) travel to San Francisco (21-11, 13-6) for a SEC vs. WCC clash in the first round of the NIT.

Kruize Pinkins (15) and Avry Holmes (12) celebrate after a win over San Diego
Kruize Pinkins (15) and Avry Holmes (12) celebrate after a win over San Diego

What to watch for: San Francisco


The Dons shot 47.5% from the field this season, second best in the WCC and 27th in the nation. They don't play at a blistering pace but, thanks to their strong shooting and penchant for threes, they're able to rack up the points. 75 a game, actually, which is five above the national average.

Five players account for ten or more percent of the team's shots from behind the arc. Of those five, number two is senior forward Cole Dickerson. Fourth on the list is 6'9" sophomore forward Mark Tollefsen. This is a team that normally has four guys on the floor at all times capable of making threes.

They're not just a perimeter team, however. 6'7" forwards Cole Dickerson and Kruize Pinkins are strong guys who crash the glass as well as anybody in the nation.

San Francisco has electrified its home crowd all season long with monster dunks and long range threes.

What to watch for: LSU

Jordan Mickey and Johnny O'Bryant protect the rim. Mickey is on the verge of becoming an elite shot blocker, and he has three years left to do so. He and O'Bryant combine to form one of the nation's best interior defenses. The Tigers' 2pt% defense ranks 16th in the country by holding opponents to just 43% from two point land. San Francisco likely won't shoot their up to their average of 52.5% tonight.

The same two names dominate the offensive side of the ball for LSU, but in reverse order. Johnny O'Bryant accounts for over 20% of the Tigers points. But, unlike on defense where the Tigers are very effective, their offense is just pedestrian. Like the Dons, the Tigers average 75 points per game. Unlike the Dons, it takes a lot more to score those points.

LSU is the 28th fastest team according to KenPom's adjusted tempo metric. Over a 40 minute game the Tigers will have four more possessions than an average team (five more than San Francisco).

Player to watch: San Francisco

With the Tigers protecting the paint, the Dons will need to get work done outside to outscore LSU. Avry Holmes is the guy for the job. The sophomore shooting guard is shooting 45.5% from three this season and leads the team in attempts with 121. He's not just a shooter though. Holmes is a capable facilitator as well. When he's on the floor, nearly 20% of the Dons' shots come from his assists.

Player to watch: LSU

You'll see Jordan Mickey doing work at both ends of the court. Mickey has had a hand on over half of the Tigers' blocks this season. On the other end, he's LSU's second leading scorer with 13 points per game. No player who plays significant minutes for the Tigers shoots the ball better, and no player on the roster is better at crashing the boards.


NIT First Round, SMU Region:
No. 5 LSU Tigers at No. 4 San Francisco Dons
10:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU