Before the Super Bowl hype machine really gets cranked up Sunday, there will be more than enough national TV hype surrounding Saturday’s basketball game between No. 1 Oklahoma and LSU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
While it’ll be billed as a showcase of two of the nation’s top stars in Buddy Hield and Ben Simmons, Tigers coach Johnny Jones said it’ll be much more than the Buddy and Ben Show in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
For one thing, Simmons, a 6-10 forward, and Hield, a 6-4 guard, won’t be guarding each other. Then, there are the other players who will be on the court.
There will be a huge supporting cast for two teams that are among the national leaders in scoring. Oklahoma averages 85.8 points per game, while LSU gets 81.3 an outing.
“It’s been great, the type of players these guys are,” Jones said of Hield and Simmons, who were both voted to the AP preseason All-American team. “Both of these teams understand it will be the University of Oklahoma and LSU who are going to hit the floor Saturday afternoon.
“It’s not going to be a Ben or Buddy one-on-one,” he added. “Hopefully, when we get (on the court), both of these guys are seasoned and have been in enough games and understand the big picture that they will play the same and at a high level in terms of competing. It’s going to be a hard-fought team effort, not an individual.”
Good for the SEC
Jones said he’s not concerned about the Big 12/SEC Challenge interrupting his team’s league schedule after it was played in early December last season.
The series was moved to the week between the NFC and AFC championship games and Super Bowl to receive maximum exposure. It also allowed all 10 games to be played in one day on ESPN’s family of networks.
“I think it’s exciting,” Jones said earlier this week. “All the attention that’s been given to teams in trying to get in the NCAA tournament, any time you can boost your schedule like this it helps. I’m excited our league took the type of stance to maybe do that to create that atmosphere.
“People have an opportunity to watch our teams play over the weekend against another top conference in the Big 12. We’re hopeful our teams fare real well in winning games, or certainly get some attention they might not have had.”
The announcing crew of play-by-play man Brent Musburger and analyst Dick Vitale, who’ll handle the call of Saturday’s game for ESPN, has plenty of broadcasting skins on the wall — and birthdays as well.
Musburger joked during a game earlier this month that he and Vitale have a combined 152 years on this planet. They were born just two weeks apart in 1939 and will celebrate their 77th birthdays this summer.
Holly Rowe will serve as the sideline reporter Saturday.
LSU guard Keith Hornsby would like nothing better than to celebrate his 24th birthday Saturday by beating the nation’s No. 1 team.
As the team’s oldest player, Hornsby said he expects to get some grief from his buddies although he said he thought former teammate John Odo was 26 last season. Odo actually played as a 24-year-old senior.
“John makes me look like a young guy,” Hornsby said with a laugh. “But my teammates don’t think much about it; they just know I’m a senior and they expect me to be old.
“I’m anticipating flak. I’m ready for it, but it’s fine. I’m not like an old-style 24, I probably act like a 20- or 21-year-old at times.”
LSU has failed to block a shot for three consecutive games with the last one coming in the final 90 seconds of a Jan. 16 win over Arkansas. … Jones will wear sneakers on the bench Saturday, just as he and his coaching staff did for Tuesday night’s game against Georgia. Coaches across the nation donned sneakers with their suits this week as part of the “Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week.” ... The game has been sold out for two weeks with the only seats left being those held for LSU students on a first-come, first-served basis. … Tabbed as the “Gold Game,” fans are being encouraged to wear that color to the arena.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.