Observations: LSU is digging itself an early hole with bad losses

In order to make the NCAA Tournament in March you need to have quality wins, but you also have to avoid bad losses. That’s something LSU has been unable to do in November.

The Tigers lost to a pair of solid teams last week in Brooklyn in Marquette and NC State, but there’s no guarantee given the landscape of the both Big East and the ACC that those two teams will wind up playing in the NCAA Tournament. Then on Monday night Johnny Jones’ team lost by 12 on the road to Charleston to fall to 3-3 on the season.

I was extremely tepid to buy major stock in the Tigers prior to the season because they lost two front court players — Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey — who among the Top-33 picks in last June’s NBA Draft. LSU has brought in two of the top freshmen in the country in Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney, but all these two players have reiterated over the first few weeks of the season is that returning players are far more significant than incoming ones.

The Tigers will add two starting caliber players over the next few weeks when Keith Hornsby (abdomen) returns from injury and Arizona transfer Craig Victor becomes eligible.

But can this team avoid more further blips?

LSU still hosts North Florida — which already beat Illinois — and Wake Forest while traveling to Houston before beginning SEC play in January.

Jalen Adams is a critical piece moving forward for UConn

Kevin Ollie was once a heady pass-first point guard who set the table for his teammates and that’s just what Jalen Adams is for the Huskies.

The freshman floor general was the catalyst in UConn’s near come from behind victory against Gonzaga at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week and the more Adams (6.0 points, 2.0 assists, 17.7 minutes) plays moving forward the better the Huskies will be long term.

UConn’s roster features a plethora of scorers — Sterling Gibbs, Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton, and Omar Calhoun — who can all put the ball in the basket, but aren’t necessarily adept as Adams at regularly making plays for their teammates.

That’s where Adams comes in.

The 6-foot-2 point guard can allow Gibbs to slide off the ball and spot up while also using his own dribble penetration to open up dump off opportunities for his teammates.

UConn didn’t earn a last Friday against the Bulldogs, but it found an answer at the most important position on the floor.

That answer is Adams.

Purdue is a true litmus test for Pitt

How good are the Panthers?

Nobody really knows yet. Pitt was awfully impressive and held a two-point lead over Gonzaga on Nov. 13 before the game was called for unsafe playing conditions, but since then Jamie Dixon’s squad has yet to do battle with a team that looks like a lock to reach the NCAA Tournament.

That will change Tuesday against Purdue.

The Boilermakers look like a legitimate challenger to both Maryland and Michigan State in the Big Ten and boast two 7-footers — Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons — that will severely test the Panthers’ interior defense.

Pitt will need strong minutes from its two fifth-year transfers — Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (Richmond) and Rafael Maia (Brown ) — up front to keep Purdue off the offensive glass.

It will also be interesting to see how well the Panthers score the ball after averaging 89.0 points through their first four games.

A lot of questions are going to be answered Tuesday at the Peterson Events Center.

This Just In

Purdue’s Rapheal Davis (knee) is doubtful for Tuesday’s game at Pitt, Matt Painter told CBS Sports.

This and That

One thing to keep an eye on for Michigan State moving forward? The development of Eron Harris. The West Virginia transfer was regularly referred to as the Spartans’ second-best player over the summer, but then got into some off-the-court issues that forced him to miss Michigan State’s trip to Italy. Since then he’s been outplayed by Bryn Forbes and was removed from the starting lineup. But Harris showed real promise in Sunday night’s win over Providence in the finals of the Wooden Legacy, scoring 12 points in 20 minutes off the bench. This could be another scary weapon for Tom Izzo to have up his sleeve heading into the Big Ten.

Miami ‘s Jim Larranaga has identified two key areas where his team must improve if it’s going to contend for an ACC title: defense and rebounding. “We have to get better in those spots,” Larranaga told CBS Sports. “This is more of a finesse team than the team we had a few years ago in 2013. That team could overwhelm people inside. This team is much different and probably a little better offensively.” The 5-1 Hurricanes are currently averaging 89.0 points as a team and will next travel to Nebraska Tuesday as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland has already made 10 three-point shots this season after hitting just 21 shots from deep during all of last year. The 6-9 sophomore is averaging 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the 2-3 Hoyas, who host Maryland Eastern-Shore Tuesday at the Verizon Center.

No team in college basketball has a tougher upcoming stretch than Arizona State. The 4-2 Sun Devils will travel to Creighton on Wednesday then come home to host Texas A&M before returning to the road for back-to-back games at Kentucky and UNLV. That’s the epitome of brutality.

Villanova is a significantly better outside shooting team than it’s shown thus far this season. The Wildcats are currently shooting just 30.2 percent from three-point range after making 38.9 percent of their long distance attempts a year ago. Jay Wright’s squad next travels to Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 PM ET on CBS Sports Network.

Marshall transfer Kareem Canty is off to a strong start at Auburn. The New York native is currently leading the Tigers in both scoring (18.8) and assists (6.5) while also averaging an impressive 4.3 rebounds. The best part of Canty’s game though? How well he’s taking care of the ball. The red shirt junior currently has 26 assists to just eight turnovers.

Looking for an under-the-radar freshman? Try BYU’s Nick Emery. The brother of former Cougars’ star Jackson Emery, Nick Emery is averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds for BYU and has scored 18 or more points in each of his last three games. The 5-1 Cougars next travel to Utah on Wednesday.

The best Big Ten back court that nobody’s talking about may be Northwestern’s tandem of Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps. The duo is averaging a combined 33.3 points and 9.9 assists through the Wildcats’ first six games. Chris Collins’ squad is 5-1 and next plays at Virginia Tech Tuesday as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Four of Baylor’s starters — Al Freeman, Taurean Prince, Johnathan Motley, and Rico Gathers — are averaging a minimum of 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds. Don’t forget about this team when you’re forecasting the Big 12, which has four Top-15 caliber teams in Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

Monmouth’s Justin Robinson is playing like the best mid-major guard in the country. The 5-8 point guard is averaging 24.8 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 47.4 percent, 47.5 percent from 3-point range, and 93.0 percent from the foul line. Robinson averaged 13.4 points last season. King Rice’s team is 4-2 overall and has already beaten UCLA, USC, and Notre Dame.

Ben Simmons (USATSI)
Ben Simmons hasn’t been able to keep LSU from starting the season 3-3. (USATSI)

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