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January 5, 2013LSU's nearly two-month non-conference basketball schedule finally comes to a conclusion when Bethune-Cookman visits the PMAC on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers can take a 9-2 record into the start of Southeastern Conference play if they knock off the Wildcats. LSU's non-league schedule was not littered with big-name schools. In fact, the only BCS conference opponents were Seton Hall and Marquette.
But, the fact is that the current RPIs of the Tigers' non-conference opponents are surprisingly similar to those of the SEC teams.
LSU has played six teams who have a top-100 RPI - Boise State at 31, McNeese State at 45, Northwestern State at 52, Seton Hall at 57, Marquette at 60 and UC Santa Barbara at 85. The Tigers won four of those games - losing to Boise and Marquette on the road.
Just seven of LSU's SEC opponents have a top-100 RPI as of early January - Florida at 17, Missouri at 35, Texas A&M at 46, Ole Miss at 50, Tennessee at 53, Kentucky at 62 and Alabama at 73. Heading into Saturday's game, the Tigers have a RPI of 56.
LSU should have no problem handling Bethune-Cookman, which has a 5-9 record. The Wildcats have played just one BCS conference team - losing 89-40 to Pittsburgh.
As is the case of most mid-major teams, Bethune-Cookman will utilize a small lineup. The Wildcats top inside threat is 6-foot-7 Alex Smith, who is averaging nine points and seven rebounds a game.
Bethune-Cookman's most productive performer is Adrien Coleman, an undersized 6-5 post player. Coleman, who is shooting 55 percent from the field, is contributing 18 points and eight rebounds per game.
The Wildcats' other top players are point guard Kevin Dukes, who is accounting for 11 points and four assists per game, and wing Paul Scotland, who is averaging ten points a game.
According to coach Johnny Jones, LSU will not be at full strength against Bethune-Cookman. Post player Johnny O'Bryant, who suffered a foot injury at Marquette, will probably be held out of the game.
O'Bryant is averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game. With O'Bryant out of the lineup, Shavon Coleman will get the start. Coleman has been the Tigers' most consistent player - 14.1 points, 8.3 rebounds per game and 51 percent field goal shooting.
Anthony Hickey, who did not play against Houston Baptist last Friday due to discipline matters, will be back in uniform against the Wildcats. Hickey has had playing time limited on three separate occasions this season for off-the-court problems.
Even though Hickey has made only three starts, he is providing ten points, four rebounds, for assists and four steals per game. Hickey leads the SEC in steals.
At his pre-practice press conference Thursday, Jones acknowledged that he is treating Hickey differently than he would most players. Jones stressed individuals do not have to be handled in the same manner.
The Tigers will open the SEC schedule Wednesday at Auburn. Each team will play 18 conference games. There are no divisions in basketball. LSU will play five teams twice - Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Here are the RPIs of LSU's non-conference opponents and SEC teams.
LSU non-conference opponents
31. Boise State
45. McNeese State
52. Northwestern State
57. Seton Hall
85. UC Santa Barbara
146. Cal Irvine
298. Mississippi Valley State
334. Houston Baptist
46. Texas A&M
50. Ole Miss
231. South Carolina
280. Mississippi State