Right in the middle of a 10-day break and just five days ahead of LSU’s Southeastern Conference opener against Alabama on Jan. 8, Will Wade addressed the media and fans while participating in both the SEC men’s basketball coaches teleconference and his monthly tip-off luncheon at L’Auberge Casino.
He spent much of his time reflecting on the Tigers’ nonconference performance, which he called “average to what we expected,” during the teleconference.
“I wish we had one more win, but I think it went about as expected,” Wade said. “We won a couple neutral-court games, and I think we took care of business at home. That’s what you need to do, protect your home court.”
LSU won its first five games of the season before hitting a bit of a wall in a trip to Orlando, Fla., where it participated in the Advocare Invitational tournament.
There, the Tigers dropped back-to-back games, first in an overtime thriller in which then-No. 14 Florida State erased a late deficit to win, then in a bludgeoning at the hands of Oklahoma State.
LSU once again struggled to put away a ranked team when it traveled to then-No. 24 Houston and saw a 15-point second-half lead disappear in a heartbreaking 82-76 loss before bouncing back with wins against St. Mary’s, then-No. 24 Furman and ULM to close out nonconference play on a high note.
Wade said the Tigers look good on paper, citing the fact that LSU’s nonconference opponents have more combined wins than all but two nonconerence schedules in the country.
And while they don’t appear in either the Associated Press or the USAToday Top 25 polls, they are beginning to creep their way up the NET Rankings, created to replace the RPI and expected to play a big role in the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s decisions for at-large bids come March.
As of Jan. 2, the Tigers sit at No. 27 in the country in the NET rankings with just three fellow three-loss teams in front of them (No. 14 Nebraska, No. 15 Wisconsin and No. 16 UNC).
They have also worked their way up Ken Pomeroy’s analytic rankings, where they currently hold the No. 38 spot in the country.
“I do think with the nonconference schedule we set ourselves up,” Wade said. “We’re in discussion for the NCAA Tournament. No matter how you think we look on the court, we look very good on paper.”
Now it’s time for the Tigers to put what they learned during the nonconference part of the season into practice in 2019.
Wade said he intentionally scheduled the 10-day break LSU is currently enjoying, saying it gives him and his coaching staff the chance to reflect and process what the Tigers accomplished during the first 13 games and decide what to focus on moving onto games that now have much more meaning.
“Part of the reason we have this long break that we have is to recalibrate ourselves, refocus ourselves and let our guys know what we want from them,” Wade said.
It might be a while before LSU senior Daryl Edwards sees a basketball court again. Wade said during his tip-off luncheon that Edwards may need surgery on an undisclosed leg injury that has had him in and out of games throughout the early part of the season.
Edwards has appeared in nine games, averaging 4.4 points, 1.1 assist and 1.6 rebounds per game while clocking 17.1 minutes per appearance.
Having participated in nine games, it is unlikely Edwards would qualify for a Medical Hardship Exemption (redshirt), so the surgery very well could be career ending.