Basketball season. For the past 6 years, it's been that lost period between a football fixation and the spring rites of baseball. The arrival of Johnny Jones last year might have begun to put an end to our winter lamentations. After a phenomenal recruiting class last year headlined by consensus top-10 player Jarell Martin, coach Jones has a compelling product on the hardwood in the house that Pete built. Even in a loss to UMass to start the year 90-92 this week, there's a lot of reasons to get excited. More past the jump.
We can now laugh away the offensively challenged era of Trent Johnson (whose current team, TCU, lost to a 'Longwood Lancers' this past week) and embrace the speed and fast paced offense of the Johnny Jones era. We saw some of this last year, but the Tigers woeful depth hampered LSU's ability to run at full speed.
That, it seems, will not be the case this season. The Tigers scored an even 45 in each half against what will probably be a tournament team in UMass, while not even deploying their vaunted press with fervor until late in the game. LSU wants to run, they want to score, they want to steal, they want to excite you.
Freshman phenom Martin went out within the first minute of play, but another freshman who you'll hear a lot about filled in the gaps. Jordan Mickey debuted with a double-double, giving LSU another target outside of Johnny O'Bryant III. Mickey was unstoppable on the offensive glass and will give LSU a third viable option inside.
Johnny O'Bryant III, though, will continue to lead the Tiger charge. With just one performance, some are putting him in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft. JOB's growth each season has been evident. With he and Martin inside, LSU might have one of the best frontcourts in the entire SEC (that's excluding Kentucky, who is a first-round draft all on their own).
The backcourt is again anchored by Anthony Hickey, but this year he's got help outside of Andre Stringer. Freshman Tim Quarterman got the start against UMass and while he worked through some freshman bumps, his size and length immediately make LSU bigger when he's on the court. Hickey is still going to the guy to run the offense, but Quarterman adds to LSU's now fantastic depth & gives the Tigers the length to man up when they need to.
This Tiger team should be a tournament team – the first tournament team since 2009. Not only that, I think LSU could actually be legitimately good. While no one will catch Kentucky, LSU can finish in the top four of the conference. Basketball in March? It's been a while, but it should make a return this season.