January Looms Large As Make or Break Month For LSU Basketball
The 21st ranked LSU Tigers men's basketball team took down the 16th ranked Kentucky Wildcats 65-60 to begin a pivotal month of their season.
That win is huge for LSU fans because January is set to be a gauntlet of strong opponents. Starting out that stretch with a victory over a top 25 opponent may be a sign of good things to come.
The Kentucky win prevented the Tigers from starting SEC play 0-2 after they lost their conference opener on the road to Auburn, a 12-1 squad currently ranked 9th in the country. Before that loss, LSU was one of the last five remaining undefeated teams in college basketball.
As I mentioned, the rebound win over Kentucky is big because their schedule doesn't get any easier. I would argue that the next seven games in January will tell you how real this team is.
Three of their next five games are against ranked opponents, starting with a home game on Saturday against number 18 Tennessee. The 10-3 Volunteers, like the Tigers, opened SEC play with a loss against a ranked team from Alabama when they lost 73-68 to the 15th ranked Crimson Tide on Dec. 29.
They then travel for their third road game of the season against the Florida Gators who are 9-4. Florida started SEC play with a 83-70 loss at home against Alabama on Wednesday after their conference opener against Ole Miss was postponed.
Arkansas was the 12th ranked team in the country after they got out to an early 9-0 start, but they have crumbled in recent weeks, losing four of their last five games and starting SEC play 0-2. They're 10-4 this season, but they need to start picking up conference wins to keep pace in what should be a very competitive SEC this season. LSU hosts them at the PMAC on Jan. 15.
After the Arkansas game, the Tigers go on a two-game road trip to play number 15 Alabama. Last year, the Crimson Tide went 3-0 against LSU with the biggest win coming in the SEC Tournament Championship Game. Alabama is 11-3 this year with big wins over Gonzaga, Houston, and Tennessee. LSU's other road game is another matchup against the Volunteers to close out that regular season series.
The Tigers finish off the month with one more conference game at home on Jan. 26 against Texas A&M, who is off to a hot start in the 2021-22 season with a 12-2 record. They then participate in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with a battle on the road against TCU. The Horned Frogs are currently 10-1.
Head coach Will Wade has his Tigers with a strong 13-1 start to the season, but the SEC seems to be strong in college basketball this year. The combined record of their next seven opponents in January is 71-20, so this stretch will certainly be a test for LSU basketball.
However, their win on Tuesday against Kentucky got them off to a good start in what should be a make or break month-long stretch for the Tigers.