Friday, November 20, 2015

Game Preview: Louisiana Lafayette

Alabama will look to rebound from a humbling 32 point loss at Dayton when they host Louisiana Lafayette on Friday night at 7:00 PM. If you can't make it out to Coleman Coliseum, the game will be carried on SEC Network+, accessible through the Watch ESPN app. Lafayette was the preseason pick to win the Sun Belt Conference. They enter this game at 1-1, with the loss coming at Miami. They are an experienced, talented team with a potential draft pick in star big man, Shawn Long. This will be yet another challenge for a young Alabama team looking to regain some confidence following that tough game this past Tuesday.

Stats Comparison

Alabama                                  Louisiana Lafayette

62.5                 PPG                 92.5
.404                 FG%               .530
.243                 3PT%              .200
.545                 FT%                .643
36.0                 RPG                .430
16.0                 TOPG              12.5

Three Players to Watch for Louisiana Lafayette

1. Shawn Long - F - 6'11, 246 lbs - 17.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg.
2. Devonta Walker - F - 6'7, 220 lbs - 14.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg
3. Jay Wright - G - 6'1, 180 lbs - 10.0 ppg, 5.0 apg

This Lafayette team begins and ends with Long, a legitimate NBA prospect, whose length, interior scoring ability and rebounding prowess are going to make him a tough task for Jimmie, Donta, Mike, and anyone else who has to guard him. But Long is only one of five players averaging double figure scoring through two games so Alabama can not focus on him exclusively. Lafayette wants to play fast, which is how Alabama wants to play, but Lafayette may be the more skilled team, and is certainly the more experienced team with a roster dotted with juniors and seniors. There are some similarities between the two teams. Neither is great when it comes to perimeter shooting or particularly effective at the free throw line, and they have a lot of work to do on the defensive end as Alabama opponents are averaging 72.0 ppg through two games, while Lafayette's opponents are averaging 80.5.

I believe the key to this game will be how Alabama competes on the boards against a team that was one of the best rebounding teams in the nation last season, and is +15 in rebounding margin through their first two games this season. While both teams may not be stellar when it comes to shooting the ball, if Lafayette gains extra possessions off the glass the odds will shift favorably in their direction. Jimmie Taylor has to avoid silly fouls, and stay on the floor in this game or I'm not sure Alabama can win. But, with a series of tough games looming in Orlando next week, Alabama has to find a way to win this game tonight.

The SEC could also use some victories. In what was expected to be a step forward for the conference as a basketball league this season, the first week of the season has instead been brutal. Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas have already dropped games. Some of the losses have been RPI killers (Southern over Mississippi State, George Mason over Ole Miss on a neutral court, Chattanooga over Georgia, Akron over Arkansas) while others have just been face plants (Alabama at Dayton, Auburn gives up 91 points to Colorado in a home loss). The projections from the league have dipped from talk of six, maybe seven teams, making the tournament in the preseason to only four teams being the magic number now. The conference as a whole really needs to step up its level of play.                 

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