Let's get this out of the way right now. Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin should be one of the best duos in the country, full stop. Anything less will be a disappointment, especially in a perpetually bumbling SEC.
But there's more to the frontcourt than just those two. There's an influx of heralded newcomers and backups galore. LSU won't be lacking for height on this team. The question will be how the puzzle pieces fit together and whether guys like Darcy Malone or Aaron Epps can hold down the fort for 10 minutes a game.
It's not a stretch to say that LSU will have an elite SEC frontcourt. They'll need to be at least, with an uncertain backcourt behind them. So let's see how the clearly superior half of the Tiger roster shakes out.
Jarell Martin - Now we get to the good stuff with the former five-star recruit. He was spotty at times last year, but averaged 13 points and six rebounds in the final 10 games, when he started creating off the dribble and banging around inside. He'll mainly be a wing forward again, but he should look more like the stud LSU expected to get out of high school. At about 6-8, he's versatile enough to slide over to the power forward slot if LSU goes to a small lineup. The biggest improvement he needs to make is beyond the arc, where he shot a measly 33 percent last season. If he pushes that up closer to 40 percent, he'll be a tough guard for any defender.
Brian Bridgewater - At last, we get to see what the Episcopal/Scotlandville product can do. Some clearinghouse issues wiped out his entire freshman season after he was a fairly sought-after four star recruit. Honestly, it's a bit of a surprise that he's still on the roster, as there was wide speculation he might switch over to football and play tight end. That tells you he's got a burly body for a small forward, but he is just 6-foot-5, which is why he'll be a wing forward most likely. His power forward experience and aforementioned bruising body should help LSU on the glass. The biggest question will be his shooting. The athleticism is there, but can he knock down 15-footers and beyond with consistency? That much is unknown. Fans might remember his older brother, Brad, who played for the Tigers in the early 2000s but was often slowed by knee issues.
Jordan Mickey - There really isn't much of a ceiling for him here because there's no telling how good he could wind up being. It's crazy that his freshman season didn't get create more hoopla, even as limited as LSU's basketball fan base is. He was just the second player in LSU history to block 100 shots in a season. The other? Shaquille O'Neal, who did it three times. Mickey is already seventh on the all-time LSU blocks list. Oh yeah, and he also shot 53 percent, played the most minutes and grabbed eight boards a game. Again, this was all as a freshman. So what's the next step here? Well, he needs to be more assertive. The offense shouldn't be all about him like it could be with JOB III, but Mickey needs to be the focal point. That starts by taking more 12-15 foot jumpers, which he was surprisingly effective at last year. With his quickness, shooting success there will set up a dribble-drive game against leaning defenders or allow passing lanes to open up if defenders hang back. Mickey was already an All-SEC caliber player last year. If he's improved even moderately, then the league should be on notice.
Aaron Epps - He missed last week's exhibition with a stomach sickness, so we're still waiting for our first look at the four-star product out of central Louisiana. He's probably more of a "stretch 4," meaning he'll fly around the perimeter rather than exclusively bang around inside. A high jumper on the track team at Tioga High School, he's got the leaping chops to be Tyrus Thomas-lite. But even with credentials like averaging 22 and 11 with seven blocks in high school, he's more of a seventh or eighth man this year than a major contributor.
Elbert Robinson III - Robinson is potentially the crown jewel of LSU's 2014 recruiting class (only Josh Gray has an argument there), and he's expected to come in and play significant minutes immediately. He's all of 7-foot-1 and bulky enough to be a true center, something the Tigers haven't had in a good while. The biggest question will be his conditioning. With such athleticism around him and Johnny Jones' coaching style, LSU will likely push the ball early and often. The Dallas-area product has done his best to ensure that he'll be ready. He ballooned to 325 pounds in high school, trimmed that to 300 this summer and is now reportedly closer to 275. If he can run the floor, he'll get a chance to show off his soft hands and surprisingly deft touch around the rim. That would be a big upgrade, even over O'Bryant, who had a penchant for turning the ball over.
Darcy Malone - The 7-foot Aussie might be one of the most intriguing players on the roster. It's not exactly accurate to say he showed flashes last year, but his height and shooting range at least show an outline for potential growth in his game. As an international recruit, it's no surprise he struggled adapting to the American college game. That won't be an excuse this year but even if he's better, his playing time may not increase much with Robinson, Mickey, Epps and Martin ahead of him. Look for him to back up Robinson, but that might not mean much when and if LSU goes small. He'll be a student section favorite, at the very least.
John Odo - He's purely for depth at this point. If he hadn't been a previous transfer or rising senior, Odo probably would have been shipped out with Shane Hammink and Malik Morgan. He proved last year that his game is just too raw and slow-motion for big-time college hoops. Odo may get 5-10 minutes this season as a designated fouler, but expect this minutes to be a result of foul trouble or garbage time action. Any contribution LSU gets from him would be a bonus.
Overall, LSU should be fairly dominant in the paint, especially against teams that don't have a couple of guys at 6-foot-10 or better.
But action around the rim tends to be effort-oriented, and while it was just an exhibition, Morehouse out rebounded LSU by TWENTY. That's a concern, especially with 34 of them being offensive boards. That should never happen to this team. We'll see if it was just exhibition effort or a harbinger of things to come.
I'm a little more optimistic about this bunch than the guards. What are your impressions of the LSU frontcourt? Can Mickey take the next step to college stardom? Is Martin ready to shoulder the scoring load?