LSU Scouting Report: Interview with Peter Rauterkus


Clay McClinton/The Reveille

LSU is a defense-first team and mirrors the Cyclones in many ways ahead of Friday’s first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Chyna McClinton of The Reveille)

Matt Belinson

Most matchups in the NCAA Tournament feature teams that have never played each other, adding an extra layer of excitement in the anything-can-happen postseason event.

The same can be said for Friday’s matchup first round between No. 11 Iowa State (20-12) and No. 6 LSU (22-11) in Milwaukee, Wis.

The two programs have never faced each other and come into Friday with different storylines and expectations to follow.

What should you know about LSU before the Cyclones face the Tigers?

I had a conversation with Peter Rauterkus, deputy sports editor for The Reveille — LSU’s student newspaper — to talk about the Tigers’ best players, defensive identity and their season up to this point.


I think it’s obvious where we have to start. What is the impact, if any, of Will Wade being fired from LSU on the program heading into Friday? -Belinson

“Well, an interesting note is that Will Wade led this program to essentially three NCAA Tournament berths, not including the 2020 tournament that was canceled. But in 2019, Wade was suspended before the NCAA Tournament and didn’t return until late April so he didn’t coach in 2019 either. So really, the absence of Wade isn’t a huge shock to this program.”

“I mean, LSU has been under investigation for years now so the idea of playing under the shadow of adversity isn’t new to this place and to some of these players. Darius Days is the only player who was on the 2019 tournament team.

“I don’t even think the firing of Wade impacts this tournament and season as much as it likely will in the offseason and next year. Who all transfers? Who stays? A part of me expects the starting guys will leave because they’re all Will Wade recruits, and especially with sanctions coming down why would you stay?”

“It’s really hard to say how they’ll respond on Friday. Kevin Nickelberry (LSU’s interim head coach) was the recruiting coordinator before and knows these guys well. The guys respect him and I have a feeling they’re going to come out and play for him.”

On paper, Tari Eason and Darius Days appear to be LSU’s best players. What makes them as good as they are and how would you describe their respective games to someone who hasn’t watched them play? -Belinson 

“I’d say along with Oscar Tshiebwe, [Eason is] one of the best transfer portal pickups this season. He’s completely exploded and most of the time he comes off the bench.” 

“He’s started in only four games this season but he’s so dominant when he plays. He gives them a spark, he’s athletic, picks up steals and is active on defense. “He’s 6-foot-8, long and he’s really a matchup nightmare at times for teams.”

“He is shooting efficient (52 percent from the field for the season) because he knows where his best spots are and takes advantage of his physicality a lot.”

“When it comes to Darius, he’s your proto-typical stretch-four. His size and measurables aren’t going to blow anyone away. But he’s strong and he can make some people an easy mismatch.”

“He’s probably the best shooter on the team. I’d say he takes and makes the most shots on this team. He leads the team in rebounding (7.7 per game). He’s a gritty, scrappy player. He’s not a guy that’s going to blow you away or anything. He likes contact and making his home in the paint.”

LSU has one of the best defenses in the country and it’s a clear strength. I’ve covered a team this season that shares a similar approach. How would you describe the Tigers’ defensive identity? -Belinson

“LSU loves to press and trap. They like to trapping front and half court and always try to cut into passing lanes and get steals and get into fast break situations. They like speeding teams up and force late shot attempts and bad decisions.”

“When they get on the fast break, they’re so athletic and big it’s tough to beat that. Will Wade came to LSU from VCU where he worked with the Rams in implementing a ‘havoc’ defense where ball pressure up and down the floor is preached. Even though he’s gone, that identity has been with this team all season.”

“Defense really is the best offense for this team.”

When LSU runs into trouble in-game, what goes wrong? -Belinson

“LSU doesn’t have dynamic scorers. Tari [Eason] can go to the bucket every now and then, but they don’t have isolations scorers and guys who can win one-on-one that often. Adam Miller from Illinois came to the program in the offseason, but he tore his ACL. That made the identity of the team different.”

“They struggle in the half court and with turnovers. They’re not running a lot of sets out there.”

These teams don’t have a ton of crossover in common opponents. The Tigers and Cyclones both beat Missouri this season, but I saw LSU lost to TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. How did Horned Frogs take the win? -Belinson

“TCU obliterated LSU on the glass. That’s what comes to mind first. They have struggled with big teams this year and if a team can win in the paint it’s going to be tough.”

“I believe that was the first game LSU gave up more than 70 points in the season. TCU’s guards picked LSU apart and scored on easy looks. LSU kept letting them score in multiple looks with second-chance points and extend multiple possessions. In my opinion, that’s the formula to beat this team.”

What’s your prediction for LSU in the tournament? -Belinson

“LSU is an interesting team. LSU is one of those teams, honestly they could make it all the way to the Elite Eight if they get to their ceiling.”

“It’s all about who shows up and how the defense plays. Defense travels a whole lot more, especially in neutral sites. You never expect a whole lot on offense with them. Now you add in the coaching situation and it kind of is a guess. They beat Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama this season. We know they can be good.”

“I think LSU beats Iowa State, and then matches up well with Wisconsin who is a good team but doesn’t have the bodies to match LSU. I think they get to the Sweet Sixteen and lose to Auburn.”