The 2022-23 LSU Women’s Basketball season might be better than the last.
That is a pretty bold idea for a team replacing four starters including its leaders in points, assists, steals, rebounds, and blocks.
However, the team returns perhaps its most important piece – head coach Kim Mulkey.
Along with Mulkey, senior Alexis Morris returns. In a way, Morris was the heart of last season’s turnaround. Adding her ability to score and distributor with fellow point guard Khayla Pointer made LSU more potent and the Tigers were 23-3 with Morris starting and 3-3 without.
Keeping Morris is a big deal. The Tigers are mostly starting over, but not completely. She will play a big role in providing some stability and leadership for the roster.
Along with Morris, LSU returns four players, but only senior Ryann Payne and junior Hannah Gusters played significantly in the last season. It would not be surprising if both start this season as both started several times in the past season.
The newcomers are where LSU’s real excitement is. LSU adds the highest rated transfer, highest rated junior college player, and arguably best freshman (but we will get to that later).
Let’s start with the transfer. Junior wing Angel Reese is coming from Maryland where she was an all-American and averaged a double-double.
Okay, that’s impressive but that doesn’t even begin to say how good she really is. Reese will be a WNBA lottery pick in two seasons. That is something LSU hasn’t had since Sylvia Fowles.
It would not be too shocking if she goes number one, especially if she can extend her range which is something LSU is working on.
She is a kind of talent that could help propel LSU back into national title conversation way ahead of schedule.
Her addition to LSU gives the Tigers a formidable and proven duo, which is good because everything else is less proven.
Another major transfer is graduate Ladazhia Williams. She is capable if playing in the four or five slot for the Tigers. Williams is an efficient scorer and good rebounder. However, it is hard to see her, Gusters, and Reese all in the starting lineup.
That is not even to begin to talk about forwards sophomore Armani Bartlett and freshman Sa’Myah Smith both of whom are former top 50 recruits and could see minutes throughout the season.
Rounding out the guards with Payne and Morris are five newcomers and one returner, the most prominent of those is freshman guard Flaujae Johnson.
Johnson might be more famous as a rapper. She was on shows like The Rap Game and America’s Got Talent. She is already signed to Jay Z’s label. She has done songs with artists like Boosie already.
Her basketball skills might be better. She is surprisingly new to the scene of the sport. She didn’t do as much in AAU early as some of the other top recruits which kept her relatively underrated. She had a meteoric rise into the top 25 in her senior season.
She ended up starting at the McDonald’s All-American Game and won MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic. It is not unreasonable to think she would be a top five recruit if the rankings were redone after the games. Her ability to shoot threes is something LSU has been missing for years, and she could easily start this season. But do not be too surprised if there is an adjustment to the college game this season. Mulkey has historically not been big on starting freshman.
The other star newcomer is JUCO transfer Last Tear Poa who along with having by far the best name on the team is the top-rated junior college player.
Poa was a beast at Northwest Florida and on a team replacing so much, she seems primed to play a big role.
Joining them are sophomore guard Timia Ware, freshman Alissa Williams, and transfers Jasmine Carson and Kateri Poole. All four could see significant on the court to start the season and into SEC play.
Finally on the roster are two walk-ons, Emily Ward and Izzy Besselman. Both are Louisiana natives and probably will get a few minutes throughout the year.
LSU’s schedule is clearly built for an inexperienced team. That talent us unquestionable, but they will need time to gel.
The Tigers play their first five games at home, just one true road game, one power five opponent, and not a single team that played in last season’s tournament.
Furthermore, the road game is in New Orleans (Tulane) and the power five team (Oregon State) is played in the last game of the non-conference.
LSU could experience significant growing pains early and still could go undefeated before SEC play. Jn fact, they probably should all things considered.
By SEC play, the Tigers should have meshed everything together and be in a good position to finish top three in the league again. They get almost all of the SEC’s top teams this season at home (Ole Miss, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas A&M) and most of the road games are against the bottom of the league with the notable exception of a trip to South Carolina.
LSU going 11-5 or 12-4 in the SEC is a reasonable expectation. Only Tennessee and South Carolina are also clear top 25 teams and most of the rest of the league is in rebuilding modes.
It all builds up to a team that could easily match or exceed last year’s record