The dance is over, and “One Shining Moment” has wrapped, which means college basketball writers are already looking ahead to 2018-19.
When they look at Baton Rouge, they like what they see.
LSU is popping up in a host of “way too early” 2018-19 polls, as the Tigers look to add a top-five recruiting class to a core that returns 66 percent of its minutes from an 18-win team in Will Wade’s first season.
Wade said in March his expectations were high for next season. Apparently, the media agree.
The highest ranking so far appears to be at Sporting News, where LSU comes in at No. 13 for Ryan Fagan.
In his second year as head coach, Will Wade is bringing in the type of recruiting class that changes a program’s status in its conference. LSU has Scout.com’s No. 4 class nationally, including 5-star forwards Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams and 4-star recruits Darius Days and Je’Vonte Smart. If Tremont Waters, who averaged 15.9 points and 6.0 assists as a freshman, comes back? This team could really be special.
CBS ranked LSU at No. 20. Gary Parrish writes of the Tigers: “Will Wade’s effective recruiting has totally rebuilt LSU’s roster and made it one of the SEC’s most talented. Tremont Waters is terrific and should be an SEC Player of the Year candidate. And the arrival of a top-five class highlighted by Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams gives the Tigers a real chance to go from the bottom half of the SEC to somewhere near the top in a span of just one year.
ESPN also has LSU at No. 20, writing: “Will Wade might have the surprise of the 2018-19 season. Yes, the Tigers finished 8-10 in the SEC and lost to Stephen F. Austin and other nontournament teams. But Tremont Waters (15.9 PPG, 6.0 APG) is a scary talent on a young team that should improve this offseason. Plus, Waters will have a five-star frontcourt with incoming freshmen Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams, the top stars of a recruiting class ranked fifth on ESPN.com.
Sports Illustrated also ranks the Tigers at No. 20.
One of the biggest jumps from this season to next could come courtesy of LSU. After the Tigers tied for ninth place in the SEC and went to the NIT, Will Wade is set to bring in the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class. It’s a four-man class, all top-60 recruits, headlined by five-star forwards Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams. With a sophomore Tremont Waters, who was third in SEC play in assist rate and was named to the league’s All-Freshman team, leading the offense and multiple other rotation players due back, things are looking up in Baton Rouge.
The Athletic wraps up a foursome of No. 20 spots for LSU. “Maybe I’m overestimating a ridiculous recruiting class here,” writes Sam Vecenie, “but Reid is just an incredibly unique talent when he plays hard, Williams is a monster athlete who always plays hard, and Smart is a tough, physical combo guard who plays on both ends. Mix that group with Waters, who averaged 16 points and six assists as a freshman, and that should be enough for Will Wade to make an NCAA Tournament appearance at LSU. Wade has taken some risks here in taking on players like Bigby-Williams and Williams, but if it all breaks right, this is an obscenely gifted team who can finish well ahead of this projection. The floor is lower, too, though.”
LSU comes in at No. 19 with Yahoo!’s Jeff Eisenberg.
For a guy who didn’t inherit much from the previous LSU staff, Will Wade has worked quickly to replenish LSU’s roster. A pair of five-star prospects and two other top 75 recruits come aboard this summer, giving the Tigers an excellent chance to ascend in what should be a strong SEC next season. The returning star is Waters, a 5-11 dynamo of a point guard who averaged 15.9 points and 6.0 assists. Look for LSU to play lots of three-guard sets with Waters, Smart and either high-scoring Mays or defensive ace Edwards. Reid, Williams and the Oregon transfer Bigby-Williams each figure to make an immediate impact in the frontcourt. LSU flashed NCAA tournament potential at times this past season, but settled for an NIT bid because of its inconsistency. Next year’s team will have far higher expectations.
Kevin Sweeney at College Basketball Central is higher on the Tigers, placing them at No. 16 in his projections.
The talent Will Wade is bringing in with his first full recruiting class at LSU is nothing short of remarkable. 3 top-30 recruits headline the nation’s #4 recruiting class. Add that to SEC Player of the Year candidate Tremont Waters and some other key cogs returning in the backcourt, and you get a really talented, versatile roster that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. Naz Reid’s ability to distribute and stretch the floor as a big man will be extremely valuable, and Emmitt Williams gives this team a big-time athleticism boost that can guard multiple positions. If everything comes together as hoped, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Tigers are SEC title contenders.
The only bad news for LSU? The SEC is set to be loaded. Auburn, Tennessee, and Kentucky all appear in several top-10s, and Mississippi State finds itself in several top-15s.