Last season, the LSU men’s basketball team finished with a remarkable 28-7 record after going 18-15 the previous season. The Tigers went 16-2 in conference play, winning their first Southeastern Conference championship in 10 years.
LSU advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament but fell to the Michigan State Spartans. The Tigers lost some key pieces after their run, including guard Tremont Waters, forward Naz Reid and center Kavell Bigby-Williams.
Guards Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays and forwards Marlon Taylor and Emmitt Williams also tested their draft stocks before deciding to return for this season.
The Tigers welcome seven faces to their roster: three freshmen -- guard James Bishop, and forwards Trendon Watford and Aundre Hyatt, who was a redshirt last season -- and four transfers -- guards Parker Edwards, Charles Manning Jr., Caleb Starks, and center Deshawn Thomas.
Veteran players such as Mays and Taylor, the lone seniors on the team along with guard Marshall Graves, will help catch the newcomers up to speed and elevate their play on the court.
“I feel like that’s definitely gonna help me in the long run, going against these guys every day,” Watford said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of great guys behind me that are supporting me. They just keep pushing me every day and I just do it and play the game that I love.”
Waters was the focal point of LSU’s offense last season, leading the team in both scoring and assists. The Tigers now look to Smart to run the offense without Waters.
“I’m pretty comfortable doing that,” said Smart, who played the best game of his freshman season while playing point guard against No. 5 Tennessee. “We’re just worried about winning this year and getting back to where we were last year.”
LSU’s backcourt will not be the only thing different about the offense this season. With the departure of Reid and Bigby-Williams, the Tigers will play with a smaller lineup. The team focuses on rebounding in practice. Coach Wade wants all of his players to be involved on the glass to eliminate second-chance opportunities for opponents.
“The number one thing I’d like for both those guys to do is rebound better,” Wade said when asked about Smart and Mays. “We need both those guys to average five-plus rebounds a game for us if we’re gonna be successful. That’s a huge area I’ve been on them about.”
The new-look Tigers rank No. 22 in the AP Preseason poll and host Bowling Green on Friday to open up the season.