2014 was another solid year for the Tigers, which concluded with the team's fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Albeit a short appearance, losing in the opening round to South Florida. The Tiger 2014 season didn't get off to a great start in non-conference play 6-6, including two cancellations. Within the SEC Tigers won six of their final nine conference games to finish sixth in the conference, including three wins over ranked teams.
LSU was hit hard with departures over the offseason. The most notable was Danielle Ballard who led the Tigers in scoring after missing a portion of the season due to disciplinary issues which, reading between the lines, ultimately led to her dismissal. The Tigers lose a bit of scoring with the graduation of DaShawn Harden who was one of three players to average double-digit points, along with Ballard. Graduated forward Sheila Boykin was third on the team in rebounding with 6.1 per game.
With these departures, the focus will turn to Raigyne Moncrief who will be LSU's top returner in points, rebounds and assists. This isn't necessarily bad as Moncrief averaged 11.8 points which was second best on the team, while leading the Tigers in total rebounds and assists.
A potential breakout candidate is guard Jenna Deemer who was the Tigers second best 3-point shooter from a season ago and could see more playing time after averaging just under 13 minutes a game last season as a freshman.
Two new faces that figure into the mix are freshman Ayanna Mitchell and transfer Alexis Hyder. Mitchell, a forward, was the highest rated commit from the latest class, ranked in the top-50 by ESPN. Her scouting notes her energy and defensive skills as two standouts. Hyder, formerly of North Texas, is a scorer who finished her sophomore year averaging 14.2 PPG and 8.77 RPG with the Mean Green.
Come March there won't be any complaints with the Tigers feasting on a weak schedule. The Tigers schedule is littered with teams ranked in the preseason top-25. Most noticeable a late December trip to the #1 ranked UConn Huskies. In the SEC, LSU will play No.4 Tennessee, No.2 South Carolina, No.11 Mississippi State, No. 18 Kentucky and two games against No.13 Texas a&M.
The good news, is that the first month and a half of the season does not feature any very tough opponents, minus a potential matchup against #No.8 Louisville as part of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Arkansas Little Rock and Tulane are fairly well regarded in their respective conference, but neither appear to be serious threats.
The Tigers were voted 10th in the preseason SEC coaches' poll and seventh in the media poll. With the amount of turnover from last year, it is understandable to have apprehension about this year's team. However, LSU should have some good pieces to work. Perhaps the transition will not be as bad as anticipated. The most important pieces are Mitchell and Hyder. If they can excel in their first year in Baton Rouge, they would form a solid core with Moncrief, and improve the Tigers NCAA Tournament chances greatly.