Let me start by getting something off my chest. If the LSU Tigers beat No. 11 Marquette on Monday, they will make the NCAA tournament.
Now that my prediction is out of the way, I believe some explanation is necessary.
Basketball and LSU do not often go hand-in-hand. Marcus Thornton and Tazmin Mitchell are LSU's most recent memories of basketball. However, Trent Johnson may have started a basketball revival at LSU. Fans were able to get excited for the first time in years last season with the addition of Ralston Turner, who regularly scored 20 points per game until he was injured.
This year, Johnson added guards Anthony Hickey and John Issac as well as 4-star center Johnny O'Bryant. These additions have had an immediate impact and Johnson has already secured another four-star recruit in regard to next year.
At 7-3 the Tigers are nothing to shake a stick at, but they have not entered the upper echelon of college basketball, yet.
Their schedule is not reflective of impressive teams. Although there are several great teams upcoming, Marquette is the first real test. The Tigers have beaten an impressive Boise State team, but that is about it. Marquette, on the other hand, has already played a rigorous non-conference schedule and is clearly a better team with a much richer basketball history.
I cannot logically admit LSU is a better team. I can confidently say the Tigers can win. The game against Marquette is a home game, which is the only real advantage. But that advantage is huge. The Tigers win in Baton Rouge, it is just what they do. Whether it is football, basketball, baseball or track, LSU finds ways to win.
The other thing to consider is that LSU's team is inexperienced and has nothing to lose. If they lose this game, the media will blame the loss on superior competition. If they win, maybe they should be in the conversation for the SEC West championship. Trent Johnson has a history of success with the University of Nevada-Reno and it might be his time to taste success in Baton Rouge.
If the Tigers win, they will carry a lot of valuable momentum into their Jan. 2 game against an impressive Virginia team, and subsequently into conference play.
They will play seven ranked teams in conference play. They certainly have their work cut out for them. But momentum is important, and if the Tigers win on Monday they will show they have the talent to make some noise in the college basketball world.