Now that the season is over, how will you remember the 2018/19 LSU Basketball season, and where do you think things go from here?
Great season and genuinely fun, good team. Sadly, it will end with some NBA declarations and the firing of the one basketball coach Alleva actually got right. The entire Wade situation was entirely biffed but I’m guessing Wade ends up paying the price and the administration remains in place, whereas the inverse of that is what should happen.
I’ll try to remember the players as much as possible, because I think they deserve that. And it was a lot of fun watching this team grow through some early rough outings and start to put it together. You had some legit all-timer moments, like the build to the Tennessee game and the Kentucky win that basically made the entire hoops establishment #madonline. And yeah, the Sweet 16 run was great, but that regular season is much more meaningful to me. Anybody can get on a hot run in the tournament.
As for what happens next, it seems pretty unlikely that Will Wade comes back, but it still feels hard to predict anything. It doesn’t make much sense to hold him to the suspension only to lift it, and while I don’t think he’s getting hired away right now until this trial stuff is finished, one has to think that even if he does come back, he’ll be looking to jump at the next big job that opens. Either way, it all seems like a big waste of time and energy that won’t even solve anything if it does, in fact, come down to an NCAA investigation.
Prior to the season, LSU was picked to finish sixth in the SEC behind Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State and Florida. In the end, the Tigers finished ahead of all of them and won the league’s regular season championship. LSU beat every other school in the league, went 9-0 in road conference games, and made the Sweet 16 for the first time in 13 years. Couple that with all the close calls, the Kavell tip-in to beat Kentucky, the 14-point come back against Missouri, Tremont beating the buzzer to force OT in Florida, the Tennessee game when the PMAC finally lived up to the name “The Deaf Dome,” the Maryland game in round two of the tournament, and you have the most fun season of LSU basketball in years.
And yet, this season might just be a comet of happiness. All the good will built up this year could very well be undone by the school’s powers that be. Will Wade is almost definitely gone. Waters and Naz Reid are probably both off to the NBA. My hope is that there is a remaining core of Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams, Javonte Smart, Darius Days and Marlon Taylor that can at least keep the program competitive and relative in the immediate future. Whatever lies ahead for LSU basketball I’m thankful for this 2018-19 group. They won’t be national champions, but they made basketball fun in Baton Rouge again. And, to me at least, that’s a bigger accomplishment.
What a tremendous season which really could have been a springboard into reestablishing LSU as a preeminent SEC basketball power. This is exactly how you want a season to go: LSU lost early heartbreakers to quality, veteran sides out of conference which instead of discouraging the team, Wade used as examples on how to get better. They learned from those games against Houston and Florida St, a forged themselves into a great team come SEC play.
Even better, no one believed how good this team was until far too late. LSU raced out to an early lead in the standings, one they would never relinquish. I think Tennessee and Kentucky fans assumed LSU would eventually fall off the pace, but we never did, and then LSU beat both of them. Okay, LSU faltered in the SEC tournament, but then went on a Sweet 16 run before finally revealing it was not quite on the par with one of the best teams in the nation.
On top of that, the team was fun as hell, had tons of personality, and though it had the standard share of early exits for a top ten team, they felt like a team, not a collection of guys killing a year in Baton rouge. Naz Reid isn’t as good as Ben Simmons, but he was a better LSU Tiger. He felt like part of a team, not a guy forced to wait a year to go the NBA.
Under normal circumstances, this would all be an excellent prelude to what is about to come. But that will likely never come to be. I don’t see a way for LSU and Will Wade to be able to walk back their positions and ever see Wade return to the sideline, regardless of what happens at the trial or NCAA investigation. This should have been the opening chapter, instead it was a great short story. That will have to be enough, though I think I speak for all of us when I say it felt like there should have been more. Maybe there will be, but I highly doubt it. The Wade era will likely end as the great unfinished symphony of LSU sports.
I’ll remember this season most for how, after the spark in ‘17-18, LSU basketball seemed to finally reenter the consciousness of the general LSU fan base, myself included. Not since Brady’s Final Four team, really, has it felt like everyone was really invested in a hoops team from week to week. And not just the wins, but this team had a ton of great personality. Nights when Waters was on fire, the dunks were flying, and Emmitt Williams was just being Emmitt Williams on the bench, it reminded all of us that this is what LSU basketball could be in a timeline where it didn’t all go horribly wrong. Where we didn’t need to make jokes about how the best team in the gym was gymnastics, or my own snide comments about counting down to baseball season as soon as December hit.