LSU or St. Bonaventure? Picking Michigan's likely Round 2 opponent in 2021 March Madness bracket

LSU or St. Bonaventure? Picking Michigan's likely Round 2 opponent in 2021 March Madness bracket

We know, we know. You’re looking at the 2021 NCAA Tournament field and you’re wondering, what the heck am I going to do with these 9-8 matchups? Every year, those coin-flip games give people a lot of trouble when they’re filling out their bracket and entering March Madness competitions and office pools.

This year, the 9-8 games are no exception, and one of the more difficult ones to pick is the St. Bonaventure vs. LSU game. The two teams are polar opposites in their playing style, so whichever team is able to execute its game plan the best will likely emerge with the win. But how do you know which one that will be?

St. Bonaventure (16-4, 11-4 A-10) is coming off a great season that saw them play very well against Atlantic 10 competition. However, are the LSU Tigers (18-9, 11-6 SEC) peaking at the right time? And is the No. 8 seed too low for them? It’s certainly possible, and their offense can certainly keep pace with anyone in the field.

With that, here’s everything you need to know about the matchup between St. Bonaventure and LSU, including rankings, key players, season breakdowns and more:

EXPERT BRACKET PICKS:
DeCourcy (Gonzaga) | Bender (Illinois) | Fagan (Gonzaga) | Lutovsky (Baylor)

LSU vs. St. Bonaventure odds

St. Bonaventure vs. LSU will be the 20th overall game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will take place on Saturday afternoon as one of the first games of the day. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, LSU is the slight favorite in the contest. Below are the details of their game, including the betting odds, time, TV and venue.

  • Odds: LSU (-1.5)
  • Date: Saturday, March 20
  • Time: 1:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: TNT
  • Arena: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall

St. Bonaventure (16-4, 11-4 Atlantic 10)

Over the last decade, St. Bonaventure has steadily become one of the most consistent teams in the Atlantic 10. They have made the NCAA Tournament three times since 2012 and saw one of the best players in team history, Andrew Nicholson, become a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 2012.

During the 2020-21 season, St. Bonaventure was one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 conference. They cruised to a 16-4 record on the year and the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They won each of their three games in that tournament by at least nine points and capped off a 6-1 record in their final seven games. Their only loss was by three points to Dayton.

The Bonnies posted a 2-0 record against VCU, the only other A-10 team to make the tournament, and were 1-1 against St. Louis, one of the first four teams out of the tournament field this year. Thus, while they don’t have any marquee wins, per se, they performed well against the highest level of competition that they faced. That’s part of why both the NET ranking and KenPom ranking appear to be bullish on the balanced Bonnies.

  • NET ranking: 23
  • KenPom ranking: 25
  • Quad 1 record: 4-2
  • Quad 2 record: 3-1
  • Quad 3 record: 5-1
  • Quad 4 record: 4-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 38th
  • Defensive efficiency: 17th

Key players

Kyle Lofton (6-3, 195-pound junior guard)
14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.5 apg

Jaren Holmes (6-4, 215-pound junior guard)
13.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.0 apg

Jalen Adaway (6-5, 210-pound redshirt junior guard)
12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 apg

Dominick Welch (6-5, 200-pound junior guard)
11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 apg

Osun Osunniyi (6-10, 220-pound junior forward)
10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.4 apg

REGION BREAKDOWNS:
WEST | EAST | SOUTH | MIDWEST

LSU (18-9, 11-6 SEC)

LSU nearly was able to win the SEC Tournament, but Alabama pulled away from them to squeak out a one-point win. During their tournament run, they beat the No. 8-ranked Arkansas, a 3-seed in March Madness, and Sporting News’ Bill Bender projected LSU to be a No. 5 seed in the tournament. So, needless to say, they are underseeded.

LSU had wins over 16th-ranked Tennessee and the aforementioned Arkansas Razorbacks, but losses to 9-16 Kentucky and Saint Louis must’ve dropped them in the eyes of the committee. That and a rather unimpressive non-conference schedule. LSU does have a dynamic offense though, as they rank fifth in offensive efficiency, and they will look to blow by the experienced Bonnies and their solid defense. 

  • NET ranking: 28
  • KenPom ranking: 29
  • Quad 1 record: 5-8
  • Quad 2 record: 3-1
  • Quad 3 record: 6-0
  • Quad 4 record: 4-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 5th
  • Defensive efficiency: 125th

Key players

Cameron Thomas (6-4, 210-pound freshman guard)
22.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 apg

Trendon Watford (6-9, 240-pound sophomore forward)
16.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.0 apg

Ja’Vonte Smart (6-4, 205-pound junior guard)
15.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.0 apg

Darius Days (6-7, 245-pound junior forward)
11.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 0.7 apg

Aundre Hyatt (6-6, 225-pound sophomore guard)
3.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.3 apg

BRACKET TIPS: KenPom | Play the odds | Idiot’s guide

LSU vs. St. Bonaventure prediction

This matchup is going to be a clash of different styles. LSU is a fast-moving, high-octane offense that likes to shoot quickly and run up the score. They’re not great on defense and rank 49th in pace, demonstrating how quick they are to find options on offense.

Meanwhile, the Bonnies operate at a significantly slower pace. St. Bonaventure ranks 329th in pace this season out of 347 teams. They hold onto the ball and look for the perfect shot. The veteran-laden squad that primarily plays juniors is well-balanced and their defense is strong thanks largely to Osun Osunniyi, a shot-blocking machine who averaged 2.9 denials per game last season, tied for the eighth-most in the NCAA.

Because of the clashing styles, this game will be all about who can control the pace. If the Bonnies can slow down the Tigers offense and make them operate out of rhythm, they’ll have a chance to win this one. Conversely, if LSU is able to run their fast-paced offense, they could build up a lead that may prove insurmountable for a St. Bonaventure team that averages just 66.8 possessions per game.

It’s also worth noting that neither of these teams is particularly deep. St. Bonaventure tends to stick to a seven-man rotation while LSU relies on four players to do a majority of their scoring. That could create some serious volatility in this game, as if either team has one player out of rhythm, it could significantly hamper their scoring potential.

History of 8 vs. 9 matchups in NCAA Tournament

In truth, throughout the history of the NCAA Tournament, the 9 and 8 seed matchup has been relatively even. It’s the biggest coin-flip on any bracket, and it’s the only one of the typical first-round matchups where the underdog has an advantage over the higher-seeded team. The No. 9 seeds hold a slight edge of 72-68.

If you’re looking at recent history, the No. 8 seed has held a slight edge of late. They have posted a 24-20 record over the last 11 NCAA Tournaments, but it is worth noting that No. 9 seeds won all the 9-8 matchups last year.

For this game, LSU should be probably be favored. They were underseeded and their recent performance indicates that their offense is firing on all cylinders. St. Bonaventure may not be able to keep pace with LSU if their offense comes out hot — or even warm.

Below is a breakdown of the wins 9 seeds have enjoyed over 8 seeds the last 10 tournaments:

Year Result
2019 UCF 73, VCU 58
  Baylor 78, Syracuse 69
  Oklahoma 95, Ole Miss 72
  Washington 78, Utah State 61
2018 Alabama 86, Virginia Tech 83
  Kansas State 69, Creighton 59
  Florida State 67, Missouri 54
2017 Michigan State 78, Miami 58
2016 Butler 71, Texas Tech 61
  Providence 70, USC 69
  Uconn 74, Colorado 67
2014 Pittsburgh 77, Colorado 48
2013 Temple 76, NC State 72
  Wichita State 73, Pittsburgh 55
2012 St. Louis 61, Memphis 54
2011 Illinois 73, UNLV 62
2010 Wake Forest 81, Texas 80
  Northern Iowa 69, UNLV 66
2009 Siena 74, Ohio State 72
  Texas A&M 79, BYU 66