In the era of modern sports, the biggest games are typically played late in the evening for all the world to see.
However, the sizzling of scrambled eggs and the crackling of bacon will usher in Saturday morning’s marquee men’s basketball contest between the No. 13 LSU Tigers and the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Feb. 23.
The 11 a.m. tip-off will represent LSU’s biggest home game in a decade, and it could be key in deciding in which team will wear the Southeastern Conference’s regular championship crown when the dust settles.
Win or lose Saturday, Tiger fans will certainly appreciate the astronomical rise LSU coach Will Wade has charted for a basketball program once mired in mediocrity.
After all, it has only been two years since Wade first stepped foot on the LSU campus and promised to add to the program’s SEC championship, NCAA tournament appearances and NCAA Final Four categories. Now, here we are preparing for the first top-15 men’s basketball game played in Baton Rouge since 1984 when No. 9 LSU hosted No. 2 Kentucky.
LSU’s play hasn’t always looked pretty this season, but the Tigers have certainly gotten the job done when it’s mattered most this year. LSU has currently won 12 of its last 15 games which include statement wins on the road against, at the time, No. 18 Ole Miss and No. 5 Kentucky.
The Tigers’ current No. 13 rank is the program’s highest since 2009 when LSU was ranked No. 12 and won the SEC regular season championship, and the Tigers will be favored in four of their last five games.
The lone underdog contest is obviously against the Volunteers.
Tennessee will no doubt enter the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with a chip on its shoulder after being dominated by Kentucky last week, but there’s a chance that the bigger chip may lie on LSU’s shoulder — especially after a heartbreaking home loss against Florida Wednesday.
A few weeks ago, many said LSU was the best team in the SEC not named Tennesse or Kentucky, and now it appears that LSU could be better than or at least just as good as both Tennessee and Kentucky.
Still, the media believes that the Tigers are not yet deserving of a place in the top-10 despite receiving praises from coaches like Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, who has “no idea why LSU isn’t a top-10 team.”
So, the Tigers will have to continue to prove their worth to the college basketball world, and the upcoming game against the Volunteers will be the best way to accomplish that task.
Though it’s a home game, defeating Tennessee will be no easy task, and the Volunteers have a roster loaded with experienced upperclassmen compared to an LSU roster filled with underclassmen.
The Tigers will continue to make the youthful mistakes fans have suffered from all season, but I expect LSU to play with a new level of focus considering the high stakes of the game. While basketball pundits across the country aren’t expecting the Tigers to defeat the Volunteers, this LSU team has certainly displayed its willingness to prove people wrong.
Come Saturday, I have a feeling that LSU fans won’t be the only ones woken up by alarm clocks bright and early. If LSU wins, it should also be time for the rest of the college basketball world to wake up and stop sleeping on the Tigers.