It’s a good thing LSU head coach Will Wade didn’t put too much stock in that number that’s been beside “LSU” these last couple weeks because the Tigers dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time this season after dropping back-to-back games against then-No. 14 Florida State and Oklahoma State over the weekend at the Advocare Invitational tournament in Orlando, Fla.
It wasn’t an ideal weekend for LSU – who received 41 votes in the AP poll voting – but that’s what November basketball is played for. Head coach Will Wade and the rest of the Tigers now have tangible evidence and plenty of film to work with that should help them improve moving forward.
Looking back at LSU’s performance in the tournament gives us as good a look into what’s working and what’s not for the Tigers as we’ve gotten all season, so today we’re going to look at what went right and what went wrong for LSU and what fans should be looking for moving forward.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Skylar Mays’ hot streak continued
The junior guard has been the Tigers’ most consistent starter through seven games this season, shooting better than 50 percent from the field in five games so far this season and earning double-digit scoring tallies in all but one.
In the three games LSU played in Orlando, Skylar Mays shot 19 for27 and score a combined 51 points to be the Tigers’ leading scorer for the tournament.
In addition to that he also pulled down a combined 18 rebounds (nine against FSU) and dished out 10 assists with just four turnovers. He also nabbed five steals.
As a result of his performance in the tournament, Mays has emerged as LSU’s leading scorer, averaging 14.5 points per game with a 55.4 percent shooting clip from the field.
Prior to the season, Wade talked a lot about the improvements Mays made during the offseason, but few if any thought he’d be having this kind of impact early in the season.
LSU can compete against bigger teams
Florida State represents the longest team the Tigers will face in their non-conference schedule this season.
In addition to 7-foot-4 behemoth Christ Koumadje, the Seminoles have a slew of long and athletic guards and forwards who can play two ways, none better than Terance Mann.
While LSU faltered before it reached the finish line, blowing a 9-point lead in the final three minutes of the game, the Tigers showed they can compete with a group of guys that large.
The Tigers played some of their best defense in the season early in this game, but struggled to rebound, especially late (which we’ll touch on in a bit).
But LSU had a legitimate chance to win that game. In fact, it probably should have. Wade and Co. probably take little comfort in that fact, but with a team like Tennessee coming down the pike, showing an ability to compete against such a team means a lot for a young LSU squad.
Naz Reid’s dunk
I mean seriously, look at this thing of beauty.
— Tyler Nunez (@ByTylerNunez) November 23, 2018
That’s what people have been waiting to see from the highly-touted freshman all season.
He prefers to go with a jelly move at the rim, which makes sense since he broke a finger dunking a ball in high school. But little satisfies a crowd more than a good-ol’ fashion throwdown.
It was largely a tough weekend for Reid, but this was a great one for what will likely be a short highlight real at LSU.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding. Oh, the rebounding
This was most prominent in the loss against Florida State – especially late in the game –, but it really was a problem all weekend.
The Tigers’ got out-rebounded 112-100 over the course of the weekend, with their only win on the boards coming against a much smaller Oklahoma State team (36-34) they should have been dominant on the boards against with Reid, Williams and Kavell Bigby-Williams on the floor.
Florida State completely dominated the boards for second-chance opportunities, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds and out-rebounding the Tigers 7-1 in the overtime period.
This was a problem Wade wanted to fix with his additions to the roster this season. There’s much more size on this year’s LSU squad than last year’s, but that extra depth hasn’t translated to rebounds in games just yet.
The Tigers just don’t have the juice from the 3-point line people thought they would this season.
As a team, LSU has a .325 shooting clip from outside, putting them at No. 226 in the nation in 3-poing shooting percentage despite taking an average of 22.4 outside shots per game.
Something’s going to have to give here. Either the Tigers are going to have to find other ways to get the ball in the bucket or they must wait for better opportunities before pulling the trigger.
But LSU is coming up fruitless on far too many possessions due to missed 3-point shots to be comfortable.
Poor performances from star players
Reid and star point guard Tremont Waters just didn’t have the best weekend.
Dealing with an ankle injury entering the tournament, Reid still never quite looked like himself. Aside from that dunk, he’s not going up with the ball as strong as he was in his first three games, and he failed to tally 10 rebounds in three games in Orlando.
Whether it’s do to his ankle is unknown, but he’ll certainly be looking to bounce back in a big way after shooting 9 for 25 for 24 points on the weekend. Not the outing he wanted for his first taste of Power 5 conference action.
Waters continued his streak of struggling against long, physical guards. He turned the ball over six times in each of LSU’s losses over the weekend and tallied just eight combined assists in those games.
He also shot the ball poorly, hitting just 37.5 percent of the shots he took in the HP Fieldhouse.
The Tigers have six days to regroup before returning to the PMAC for its fifth home game of the season against in-state opponent Grambling.
LSU still has some interesting tests before beginning its Southeastern Conference schedule on Jan. 8 against Alabama.
It will take on Houston, St. Mary’s and Furman (who defeated defending national champion and Advocare Invitational champion Villanova) during a 9-day span in December, so the Tigers still have plenty of time to make corrections and plenty of games to show off improvements before things get too real.
This SEC is as deep as it’s been in recent memory with Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi State occupying spots in the Top 25, so every chance they receive to get better is vital.
It’s not about getting knocked down. It’s about how a team responds to getting knocked down. That’s what we’re going to learn about LSU in the month of December.