2018 LSU Tigers Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
LSU is ranked 23rd in the preseason AP poll. That is the most speculative ranking there is in the entire Top 25. There is tremendous upside here for sure. But they have had massive turnover, are dealing with tragedy, weren't particularly good last year, are incredibly young, and could miss the tournament without causing even a ripple of shock. I get why people like this team and what they could be, but if I was in charge - which I am clearly and definitely not - I would have them on a watch list of some sort and not in the rankings.
LSU Tigers Additions/Losses
Few teams have seen as many changes as this one. Ten players have departed the program in one way or the other. We'll deal with the most recent and most tragic first. In late September, just after the first practice of the year, junior forward Wayde Sims was shot and killed. Sims had played 18 minutes a game last year, and though not a star was a regular player and a key part of the team. His death will weigh on this team all year. Four players graduated, including the second- and fourth-leading scorer and another rotation member. Junior Brandon Sampson made a somewhat ill-advised decision to declare for the draft, wasn't selected, landed briefly with the Rockets, and is now looking for work. Two players were suspended for the team and then dismissed. And they had a player transfer and another leave the team for personal reasons. The team had a regular nine-man rotation last year, and just three are back.
Needless to say, there are plenty of additions. Big man Kavell Bigby-Williams transferred from Oregon and sat out last year. He has only one year of remaining eligibility and will come off the bench. And Marlon Taylor, Danya Kingsby and Courtese Cooper have all been added from Juco. Taylor, an excellent athlete, likely has the most upside from the group and the best chance to contribute this year.
The recruiting class will have a much bigger impact than the transfers. Coach Will Wade recruited well, with a five-man class that includes two consensus five-star forwards. Naz Reid is a big with a scoring touch who has serious NBA potential, but his motor has often been questioned. And Emmitt Williams is a big, athletic rebounding whirlwind who never stands still. Both have high ceilings, and are both very likely to start. Javonte Smart is a combo guard who is versatile but isn't yet a great shooter. He too will likely start a fair bit but will be off the ball thanks to the presence of stud sophomore guard Tremont Waters. That should ease his transition to college. Forward Darius Days will come off the bench but will be able to earn himself some time. And forward Aundre Hyatt, the lowest-rated recruit in the class, is likely more of a project - which is fine given the number of forwards on the roster.
LSU Tigers Outlook
Waters was really good as a freshman, leading the team in points, assists and steals, and he should be even better running the point this year. He draws comparisons to Trae Young, and that isn't entirely unfounded. He has All-American potential and will drive this team. Along with him and the three freshman, the fifth likely starter is junior Skylar Mays, a combo guard/wing type who isn't a star but who does several things well. He's more reliable than flashy and will be a good presence on a young team. Another veteran, senior guard Daryl Edwards, started about half the games last year and will likely be the first off the bench this year. He's another who will be relied upon for a calming influence.
In a rotation that could be nine or 10 players deep, only three have been with the program before. Three likely starters are true freshmen. The talent is there, but as we have seen at high-profile places like Kentucky or Duke in recent years, bringing together talented youngsters doesn't always lead to a team that is the sum of its parts. Chemistry is tough, discipline is tough, and defense can suffer. Wade will earn every dollar he makes as a head coach this season.
LSU Tigers Schedule
The Tigers play several teams this year in nonconference play that likely aren't as good as their reputations at this point - Memphis, Houston and Saint Mary's. And in the Advocare Invitational they will likely play Florida State. If they win that, which would open some eyes, they would most likely play Villanova. So, they have a chance or two to make a statement, a couple more chances to get respectable wins, and plenty of easy games. It's not the most thrilling schedule ever, but it is probably good for a team that will be breaking in a lot of new players before a tough conference schedule.
The SEC runs deep this year, so conference play will be challenging. The Tigers got a little lucky - Kentucky and Tennessee are the two best teams in the conference, and they have to play each one only once. The toughest stretch of games they face, though, comes in February when, in less than a week, they host Mississippi State and Auburn then travel to Kentucky. All three teams are ranked ahead of the Tigers, so things could go off the rails that week.
LSU Tigers Futures Odds
The Tigers are at a large group of teams at +10000 to win the national title at Bovada . That places them behind 27 other teams, so oddsmakers are somewhat less optimistic than poll voters.
LSU Tigers Predictions
Waters is special and likely sitting on a big year, but I am not convinced he has enough around him to really contend. They are relying on too much youth and dealing with too much change. I suspect that they will struggle to be cohesive and disciplined. And in a conference as tough as the SEC could be this year, that will be a problem. They could be a tournament team, but that is no lock. This ranking is too high.
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