We’re officially in the crossover season for collegiate sports! Football season is nearing the tail end of the regular season and basketball is about to start their regular season.
With that in mind, let’s dive right into a full preview of the 2017-18 season for the LSU Tigers men’s basketball team!
If this were a website dedicated solely to creating lists, then the 2016-17 season would be one of the ten things LSU would want you to forget about LSU hoops. In the final season under Johnny Jones, the Tigers went 10-21 overall and an abysmal 2-16 in conference.
Returning Starters of Note:
After last season’s debacle, there were quite a few departures from the team for one reason or another and that has led to the Tigers having to rely on the leadership of Brandon Sampson and Duop Reath as the veterans of this team.
Reath was a pleasant surprise last season with a solid regular season with 12 points per game and 6.2 boards. Meanwhile, Brandon Sampson ended his sophomore campaign with a respectable 11.6 points a game, which was a big improvement over his seven points as a freshman. With these two experienced players, it will help out a lot on the court when it comes to the overall team chemistry.
However, there is one more player from last year’s roster that has to be noted and that’s sophomore Skylar Mays. Head coach Will Wade has praised him for quite a while and it’s understandable. As a freshman, Mays had 8.3 points per game and finished 10th in the league in assist average with 3.6.
“I think I said yesterday that we are not the same team when Skylar is not on the court.” Wade said of the Findlay Prep product, “He brings an IQ to us. He is a cerebral player. He just brings a lot of value to what we are doing.”
What to Watch For:
New Era Under Will Wade: For the longest time, under Johnny Jones, it felt like there was a lot of wasted potential, especially during the final two seasons. You had a bonafide stud in Ben Simmons and couldn’t crack the NCAA Tournament.
When it comes to Will Wade, it’s all about creating a culture of winning and it starts with practice. From what’s been reported, the practices have been arduous but it’s all about preparing this team for some of the environments they will have to deal during the season. It’s one of the biggest reasons why he put Memphis on the schedule to get this team experience playing in an NBA arena like the FedEx Forum.
Sonic Youth: The amount of freshmen and sophomores on LSU’s roster are one of the biggest reasons why the preseason prognosticators wound up picking the Tigers to finish last in the SEC. It’s justifiable with six underclassmen on the roster, but there’s still quite a bit of talent there and that starts with Tremont Waters.
“For Tremont, he is a freshman point guard so he is going to get seasick sometimes because it is going to be rocky.” Wade said of the New Haven, Connecticut native, “He is going to make some mistakes and we understand that. He is going to have some phenomenal games. In a three game stretch he is probably going to have one good game, one okay game, and one poor game. He’s a freshman point guard. He is going to be better off, and we are going to be better off having played him. He quite frankly is our best option.”
The current plans are to have Waters and Mays paired up at the one and two to be complementary to each other on the court and help Waters ease into the world of SEC basketball. Expect to see both players to get a lot of playing time.
Transfers Certain to Make Impact: While there’s a few underclassmen looking to make waves this season, you’ll undoubtedly be seeing the two transfers in Jeremy Combs and Randy Onwuasor on the court making an impact, especially Combs who has been called the garbage man by Wade.
“He is good.” Wade said of the grad transfer out of North Texas, “He is definitely a value added to what we are doing. We went from two months ago thinking he was hardly going to be able to play at all to now thinking he is going to play significantly and help us.” The only negative on Combs’ preseason report card is he is coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss the last 12 games of the 2016-17 season. However, Wade expects that he will be as close to full go as he can get.
The bar set by Johnny Jones is pretty low, but Will Wade isn’t concerned about the past. He’s focused on building the future of LSU basketball and his vision is to be as good as the Tigers were back in the Dale Brown days.
It’s going to require a lot of patience from fans as the first year may have some blemishes. Just look at what happened against Tulane in the exhibition game. Anyone who follows college basketball needs to realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’ll take some time to get this program back to its glory days. I’ll put the Tigers at 12th place in the SEC when the season is all said and done if the team chemistry can improve.