#122 LSU Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

LSU Tigers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #122
Conference Rank: #11 SEC
LSU was supposed to be a very good team in 2015-2016. They had the best recruit in the country in Ben Simmons and a host of other players who were, or are, pretty good. There was good reason for the high expectations. Simmons did not disappoint, but the Tigers were just never able to put all of the pieces together. Their terribly inconsistent season ended with a 19-14 overall record and they were left out of the NCAA Tournament. Antonio Blakeney was one of the bright spots on the team. As a freshman last season he averaged 12.6 points per game and was the most prolific outside shooter on the team. With plenty of scoring to go around this year, expect Blakeney to have a big sophomore season. But he will need some help.
2015-16 Record: 19-14, 12-8
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Johnny Jones
Coach Record: 80-51 at LSU, 285-213 overall
Who’s Out:
Simmons went first overall in the NBA Draft following his freshman campaign in which he averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals. He could do it all and do it all extremely well. The results were not there, but it is hard to imagine LSU getting any better without Simmons. One could make the argument that LSU could become a better team when they were not feeling obligated to utilize Simmons, but it is not like Simmons was a selfish player. It does not help that Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman, Josh Gray and Darcy Malone are gone too. Hornsby was the team’s second leading scorer at 13.1 points per game and Quarterman added 11.2 points. Those two were both effective outside shooters. Hornsby connected on 41.5 percent of his long range shots and Quarterman ran the show, dishing out 3.6 assists per game. Gray earned a handful of starts during his senior season, but averaged just 5.4 points per game.
Who’s In:
This class, like just about every class ever, lacks a player like Simmons, but the hope for Coach Johnny Jones is that they can fill some of the holes left on the roster. The star of the class is Skylar Mays, a 6-4 point guard. He should be competing for the starting job from day one. And if Mays is on the floor, LSU could benefit from long-time friend, teammate and fellow incoming freshman Wayde Sims being on the floor as well. Sims is a versatile 6-6 wing who always works hard. With a little more refinement to his outside shooting, Sims eventually will be a very good player for LSU. Speaking of teammates, Branden Jenkins and Duop Reath both head to LSU from Lee College in Texas. Jenkins, a 6-4 guard, can get up and down the floor in a hurry and should immediately help the team’s defense as well. Reath is a very interesting prospect. The 6-10 center may not score a ton, but he can post up in the paint and step outside and knock down mid-range jumpers with consistency. The other newcomer is Kieran Hayward. The 6-5 Australian spent most of his prep career under the radar, but he could turn out to be a nice pickup for Coach Jones and LSU.
Who to Watch:
Craig Victor II is the only other returning player besides Blakeney to average over five points per game last season. Victor is the forward that the Tigers can work their offense through. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game during his sophomore season and those numbers both should go up significantly without Simmons taking so many shots and eating up a majority of the rebounds. Blakeney and Victor may not be superstars, but they are a nice inside-outside duo for LSU to build around this season.
Final Projection:
There was also quite a bit of talent left down the bench that should be ready to contribute more this season. Jalyn Patterson started 15 games as a sophomore and is ready to turn into one of the team’s most productive three-point shooters. Brandon Sampson is another young guard that showed potential last season. He is a versatile 6-5 guard who can do a lot for this team when given the opportunity. That opportunity should come now. Aaron Epps, Elbert Robinson and Brian Bridgewater all averaged fewer than ten minutes per game, but the frontcourt needs bodies and those three will be competing for major minutes. This is a young team with just one senior on the roster, so there is certainly rebuilding to be done. The talent may not be there to pull off big upsets, but with some consistency, LSU can have a .500 record and win some games against decent teams. And this time around, it will be worth going to one of those little postseason tournaments in an effort to build for what could be a much better 2017-2018 campaign.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Skylar Mays, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jalyn Patterson, Junior, Guard, 4.7 points per game
Antonio Blakeney, Sophomore, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Craig Victor II, Junior, Forward, 11.5 points per game
Duop Reath, Sophomore, Center, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.8 (46th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 77.1 (288, 13)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.0 (67, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.3 (272, 14)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.2 (262, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.7 (260, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 66.5 (296, 11)
Rebound Margin: -0.1 (195, 9)
Assists Per Game: 15.4 (53, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (100, 6)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#118 Skylar Mays