UC Irvine (2-7) vs. Lousiana State (6-3) @ 5 p.m. in Baton Rouge, LA

The Anteaters remain on the road today for a game against Louisiana State of the Southeastern Conference. It’s a meeting between two former Stanford coaches, our own Russell Turner matched up with former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson. It’ll be another challenge for UCI—Jeff (aka actioncuse) from And The Valley Shook of SB Nation was kind enough to exchange Q&As with Zotcubed in anticipation of the Anteaters and Tigers meeting up for the first time ever on the basketball court. After you’re done reading here, head over to And The Valley Shook for my answers to Jeff’s questions about UCI.

1.  I have no inkling what “And the Valley Shook” is referencing, but it has me intrigued. What’s the quick rundown?

And The Valley Shook is a reference to a football game from 1988.  Auburn came into a filled Tiger Stadium (also known as Death Valley) for a game that ended 7-6 on a last minute touchdown.  LSU’s Tommy Hodson completed a 4th down pass with little over a minute remaining to take the lead.  At the time, LSU was running a seismometer on campus.  The next day they found that when the touchdown happened it was loud enough to shake the ground on campus.

2. This is the first time UCI and LSU basketball will meet, but our two baseball teams have met a couple times in recent NCAA Tournaments, including a nightmarish 2008 appearance at Alex Box. Is the atmosphere at Maravich Center anything like Alex Box? Is basketball as popular as football and baseball in Baton Rouge?

Sadly, no and no.  LSU basketball has been far from popular for quite some time.  The Tigers actually won the conference as recently as 2009, but since then have fallen to last place in consecutive years in the SEC West.  Attendance has suffered, and for my two years [on campus], I can’t recall the Maravich Center having a game with even 50% capacity.  Football and baseball have had sellouts for virtually every game, on the other hand.  Basketball has a long way to go to match the other two sports.

3. It’s clear you guys have a lot of talent, but maybe not as much experience. Since [leading scorer] Andre Stringer is out, who are some guys UC Irvine should watch out for?

Talent wise, UCI needs to watch out for point guard Anthony Hickey.  He’s been a stat sheet stuffer all season and is the leader of the team in only his freshman year.  He’s very quick, but sometimes moves a little bit too fast and makes bad mistakes. In order to win the game, though, UCI will have to key in on the forwards: Storm Warren, Justin Hamilton, and Johnny O’Bryant.  They are all coming off a solid game against Boise State, and I think coach Trent Johnson is stressing that with Stringer out, the forwards need to be active on offense.

4. Who is LSU’s best NBA prospect? Is there any validity to the rumors of Johnny O’Bryant being a one-and-done player?

LSU’s only draft prospect might be Johnny O’Bryant. “JOB” came into Baton Rouge with a lot of hype, and so far has played pretty well.  There are always people out there with expectations that are too high, but in my opinion he’s played very well so far.  He had his best game so far against Northwestern where he scored 21 point and had 8 rebounds, but the very next day against WKU he had only 2 points and 4 rebounds.  As you might expect from a freshman, he doesn’t have a consistent game yet.  As for being one-and-done, not unless he is crazy.  He’s still raw around the rim and relies far too much on jump shots.  As with any young player, he’s not bulky yet either.  With a big improvement next year, it’s possible he could declare, but not right now.

5. Can you talk about LSU’s offensive approach and defensive schemes? 

LSU plays man to man normally, with an occasional zone if they are having trouble rebounding or getting out on shooters.  They tend not to play fast, and instead will settle for a half-court offense.  I have a feeling that is because LSU would cause more problems for themselves by getting into transition games in the SEC.

6. What must UCI do to have a chance in this game? Any particular chink in LSU’s armor?

UCI would absolutely need to use some kind of full court press and/or a pressure defense.  LSU will only have three guards, but only two of them are capable ball handlers.  LSU has struggled for years now against any type of full court press, and it cost us a win against South Alabama.  Northwestern beat us also, and they used a 1-3-1 zone defense that stalled our offense in the second half of that game when LSU was leading at halftime.  I think the problem is that LSU doesn’t look to attack these types of defenses.  They don’t go vertical against them, and instead will pass the ball side to side without any intent to actually score.  They are too afraid of making a turnover to just settle down and run the offense against it. With UCI’s size, I could see it causing problems for LSU.


Editor’s Note: Not sure what Jeff means by UCI’s size, but I guess we will find out if our full court press can do any damage soon enough. Also, Flowers vs. Hickey sounds like a match-up to watch, as does Folker/Best vs. O’Bryant.