Feb 23, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Lamonte Turner (1) and LSU Tigers guard Skylar Mays (4) fight for a rebound in the first half at the Maravich Assembly Center

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Stop the Madness! LSU stuns another top-5 team

The Tigers beat Tennessee, now lead SEC standings

Seth Dunlap
February 23, 2019 - 2:11 pm
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An Kavell Bigby-Williams tip in.  A defensive stop.  A terrible Tennessee foul 80 feet from the basket.  Two Javonte Smart free throws.

Ballgame.

The LSU Tigers pulled another overtime Houdini act, this time against the previous SEC leaders.  The fact that they did it without their leading scorer and heartbeat-of-the-team, Tremont Waters, who was sidelined due to an illness, makes this win all the more unexpected -- and sweet.  

Very few people gave LSU a chance in this game without Waters.  Even fewer gave the Tigers a shot to win the SEC regular season title.  The first happened, making the latter a possibility.  No, a probability.

LSU's 82-80 win over Tennessee in front of a raucous sellout crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center vaults the Tigers into a three-way tie atop the SEC standings.  The catch?  The Tigers defeated the other two teams they're deadlocked with, Tennessee and Kentucky, giving them the season tiebreaker over those two teams.  LSU won't play either school again in the regular season.

Yes, the Tigers still have tough road tests against Florida and Alabama.  However they're likely to enter both games as favorites, and only have two other home contests against conference bottom feeders in Texas A&M and Vanderbilt before SEC tournament play.  LSU are now the favorites to wear the conference's regular season crown, something nobody has said in a decade.

This one wasn't easy, nor was it always pretty.  Naz Reid was completely vexed by the athletic frontcourt of the Volunteers, finishing with just one point on an overtime free-throw while going 0-9 from the floor.  Production of the bench was, again, limited as the trio of Emmitt Williams, Darius Days, and Marshall Graves contributed for a combined 17 points and nine rebounds.  The team shot just 35% (25-65) for the game.

None of that matters.  LSU has proven once again that they are capable of playing, and beating, just about any team in the country.  The Volunteers might not be (a healthy) Duke, Gonzaga, or Virginia -- widely regarded as the three best teams in the country -- but they're as good as anybody else in the country.  They held the #1 spot in the polls for over month for a reason, as they're capable of making a run to the Final Four.

So, now, is LSU.  The Tigers have beaten two top-five ranked teams in the past two weeks. They dispatched the conference-leading Volunteers without their best player.  They won on the road at Rupp Arena against the behemoth Kentucky Wildcats, winning on a Bigby-Williams tip-in as time expired.  Some people would have previously considered it madness to group LSU among the teams capable of a deep NCAA tournament run.  Only madness now is what awaits the Tigers in March.

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