Everyone knows what's wrong with LSU basketball: Can Matt McMahon fix it?
BATON ROUGE - The problem with LSU basketball is obvious. And it isn't the Tigers' defense.
LSU lost its sixth consecutive contest on Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against No. 9 Tennessee, 77-56. The Tigers were never competitive in a game where they outshot the Volunteers 48% to 45%.
LSU's obvious problem is still its offense, despite its drastic improvement in scoring efficiency on Saturday. The Tigers (12-7, 1-6 SEC) turned over the ball 19 times against Tennessee (16-3, 6-1), leading to 33 points on the other end, and went just 4-for-16 from 3-point range.
"I think you have a team that is devastated right now. Not from today, but just from the last couple of weeks and the totality of where we're at right now," LSU coach Matt McMahon said.
But can LSU turn its offense around enough to salvage this season?
Heading into Saturday, LSU had the No. 138 offense in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Only Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina are ranked behind the Tigers among SEC teams. According to ESPN's College Basketball Index, their offense is ranked 134th.
And since the start of conference play, the Tigers' attack has only gotten worse. LSU has scored more than 60 points just twice since the start of the new year. And the only reason it broke 60 against No. 4 Alabama was because the game was already out of hand by halftime. The halftime score: 59-22.
"I just think we're being tested," McMahon said. "I know everyone's disappointed. Players, coaches, fans, everyone wants to win."
Nineteen games into this season, it's hard to imagine how LSU's offense will find a way to generate cleaner looks for its shooters, share the ball better or be able to attack the rim with authority.
The Tigers don't have a true rim threat on their roster, someone who scares defenses when hurtling down the lane on pick-and-rolls. They lack a dynamic ball handler, like Tennessee's Zakai Zeigler, who can consistently beat defenders off the dribble.
Their ball movement is stagnant, likely because they only have one player who played on last year's team and who is currently healthy (Justice Williams). The rest of the roster, McMahon and his staff are new.
"I knew this was not going to be an easy task when we signed up for it," McMahon said. "We've got to continue to work and fight to try and build not only our team but the foundation of the program."
Due to all of those problems, LSU's margin for error is significantly diminished. It forces LSU to become more reliant on 3-point shots – which aren't going in – and contested 2-point attempts. And there have been enough games to determine that the Tigers are not a good 3-point shooting team, as they were shooting just 30.8% from beyond the arc in conference play before Saturday's poor performance from three.
Keep in mind: None of this includes LSU's turnover problems.
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The good news for LSU is that the toughest stretch of its schedule is now behind it. LSU faces Arkansas – the only SEC team it's beaten – on Tuesday before facing Texas Tech in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and then Missouri. A rematch with Alabama follows but the Tigers don't play another team currently in the top 25 of the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll before the SEC Tournament.
"There's a lot of basketball left to be played this year," McMahon said.
LSU likely won't finish conference play at 1-18. The gauntlet of opponents it's recently faced has probably skewed the reality of this team's quality.
But can LSU do enough over the next six weeks to get itself back in the NCAA Tournament picture or play well enough to be a dangerous team in the SEC Tournament? Both possibilities seem too far-fetched.
Tiger fans: It's time to move on to next season. Baseball begins on Feb. 17.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.