LSU basketball coach Will Wade is going to be returning to the place he called home longest in his coaching career.
No. 23 LSU (1-0) travels to VCU (2-0) on Wednesday. Wade was the head coach at VCU for two years before accepting the LSU job in March 2017. He had been an assistant there for four years as well.
There’s still a few players on VCU’s roster who Wade recruited, and during his time in Richmond, Virginia, he helped lead the Rams to a 162-57 record and five NCAA tournament appearances, including a Final Four run back in 2011.
VCU, who landed just outside of the top 25 in the AP Poll, finished second in defensive rating last season and have not allowed more than 60 points in either of their two wins. However, they are also ranked outside of the top 250 on offense.
Sophomore Javonte Smart and senior Skylar Mays are the kind of guards that can find and create new ways to be effective against such a tough defense. Wade says the offense needs to have better ball movement and make better cuts if they want to find any success against VCU.
“At the end of the day, it’s two really good teams playing each other in a high-level environment, and I think it’ll help both of us,” Wade said. “It’ll help us as we move forward and get ready for road and play the SEC tournament, and I’m sure it’ll help VCU as they get going in their schedule.
"It's a good game for both us. It should be an exciting, entertaining game.”
But there are still things LSU has to clean up from its opening win against Bowling Green on Friday. The Tigers were dominant on both ends of the court, racking up eight blocks and three steals. However, careless turnovers prevented LSU from creating a more-than-comfortable lead against Bowling Green.
Wade made his team's 16 turnovers a point of emphasis to work on in order to get better and have success against tougher opponents. He called the turnovers a major problem and described the situation as bad. One thing he plans to switch up is LSU's rotations to prevent fatigue, which he thought contributed to some turnovers.
LSU held Bowling Green to just 32% shooting from the field, which is a very promising sign after being ranked outside of the top 150 in defensive rating last season. Another focal point was rebounding with the departure of big men Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams. Although they were out-rebounded offensively, the Tigers were able to grab 12 more defensive rebounds than the Falcons.
LSU had five players grab at least seven rebounds, including sophomore forward Emmitt Williams. Williams came off of the bench and became a spark plug for the Tigers, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the second half.
“Rebounding is huge,” Williams said. “I really don’t care about the points. They are going to come, but my big emphasis is rebounding.”
The Tigers and the Rams tip off at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, and a quality win on the road may help kick start another tournament run for LSU.