No. 20 LSU Tigers: Just how good is Tremont Waters going to be?

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 college hoops preview package.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25.

Today we dive into No. 20 LSU.

Will Wade is heading into his second season as the head coach of the LSU Tigers and the sixth season of his head coaching career, and this past season was simultaneously the worst of his career and incredibly promising if you are a fan of the Bayou Bengals.

Prior to moving to Baton Rouge, Wade had coached two seasons at VCU and two seasons at Chattanooga, never finishing lower than second in his league standings and, in 2015-16, doing the one thing that Shaka Smart never did as head coach of the Rams: Win a conference regular season title.

Last year, the Tigers finished the season just 18-15 overall, their 8-10 mark in a strong SEC enough to get them into the bubble conversation but not into the NCAA tournament, but when you consider what Wade was walking into, those numbers are better than you realize. In Johnny Jones’ final season at LSU he went 10-21 overall with a 2-16 mark in the SEC as one of the single-worst defensive teams in the country before losing his two best players.

Wade was walking into a rebuild, and it didn’t take him long to get it kickstarted.

And much of that was thanks to a freshman from New Haven, Conn., named Tremont Waters, a four-star prospect and one of the most exciting players in college hoops last season.

He’s back for his sophomore campaign, and Wade has bolstered his roster with a handful of talented recruits from the Class of 2018.

Will that be enough to get LSU back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four seasons?

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LSU is going to look very different than they did a season ago. That’s what happens you lose three of your top five scorers and four players that started double-digit games.

But where there will be consistency for the Tigers is at the point, as Waters returns after a freshman campaign that saw him average 15.9 points, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals while thrilling fans with an array of deep threes and no-look passes. He’s Trae Young-lite, if you will, and the fact that he is back for another season cannot be overstated.

The reason that LSU was even in the conversation when it came to the NCAA tournament was because of the fact that they could score. They finished the year 33rd in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, more than 100 spots above where they finished defensively, and Waters was easily their highest-usage player. He’s a ball-screen savvy point guard playing in a system that puts significant value on ball-screens. More than 35 percent of LSU’s halfcourt possessions last season were ball-screen actions, according to Synergy Sports. Just under 50 percent of Waters’ halfcourt possessions were ball-screen actions, and the Tigers averaged 1.022 PPP on those possessions.

For the season, LSU averaged 0.859 PPP on halfcourt possessions. That tells you all you need to know.

In a year where the crop of guards around college basketball is not all that exciting, Waters has a chance to finish the season as a first-team All-American. He’s that good.

The question I have is about his supporting cast.

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Skylar Mays (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)


We really don’t know all that much about LSU’s supporting cast, do we?

We know who all these guys are on paper. Ja’vonte Smart is a top 35 prospect and a talented, athletic combo-guard with some size to him. Emmitt Williams is as powerfully athletic as anyone in this recruiting class, and he plays with the motor of an F150. He won’t stop. Naz Reid has all the tools to fill the role vacated by the underrated Duop Reath, a stretchy big man with size to hang with all of the SEC’s big boys. Skylar Mays is a good program guy, as is Kavell Bigby-Williams. The same can be said about the likes of Daryl Edwards, and Marlon Taylor is the kind of athlete that will have a dunk or two go viral before his time in college is over.

But this group is also going to be entirely new. There will likely only be three or four players in the LSU rotation that played a game for the Tigers last season. They could end up starting three freshmen with a fourth coming off of the bench, which is not an easy thing to do when those freshmen are among the best players in the country. Every year it feels like we are talking about it is going to take a while for Duke and Kentucky to come together, and with all due respect to Reid, Williams, Smart and Darius Days, we’re not exactly talking about guys that are surefire lottery picks.

And that’s before we even mention that the 2018 recruiting class as a whole is not as good at the top as previous recruiting classes.

To be frank, it makes it very difficult to analyze.

This group is going to be totally different than last year’s group.

Stylistically and schematically, the dots connect. Wade has a point guard — or three — that excel in ball-screens, and he runs an offense that is ball-screen heavy. His two teams at VCU had talented guards and a bevy of athletic, hard-playing big men — remember Mo Alie-Cox? — and this LSU team has the same. Those VCU teams did their damnedest to continue on the ‘Havoc’ era, and this LSU team does have players that can fly around defensively.

I think Wade will find a way to make it work, and having a player as good as Waters stick around for a second season is certainly going to help, but this LSU team is not going to be a finished product by the start of SEC play.

That could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Naz Reid (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


For my money, the guy on this roster that can take LSU from being a borderline top 25 team to a team that has a real shot at finishing the year as a top three seed with Final Four potential is Naz Reid.

Reid has all the makings of a future pro. He’s 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds. He’s not Robert Williams, but he’s athletic enough. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki, but he shot 34.6 percent from three on the UAA circuit prior to his senior season. He’s not Tim Duncan, but he can do some things around the bucket.

He’s a five-star prospect that is 18th in 247 Sports Composite rankings, a good enough player that NBA teams are going to have to send their scouts to Baton Rouge to get a look at Reid throughout the season. More importantly, at least in this discussion, is that he’s a guy with the ability to have a major impact on the SEC …

… if he decides he wants to.

The knock on Reid throughout his high school career was that his motor never ran high enough. He DGAF-ed for too long in front of too many people, and that is never a good reputation to have. Is that how he is going to play at LSU? Tiger fans know all too well about superstar players that have no interest in being on campus (see: Simmons, Ben), and that is certainly a concern for Reid.

We know what we’re going to get from other guys on this roster. Mays is going to be a good role player, a valuable veteran on a roster with a lot of youth. Smart has a bright future and will have the luxury of being able to let Waters and Mays lead the way in the backcourt. Williams isn’t all that skilled, but you know he’s always going to play his tail off.


He can put up 20 and 10 any given night.

He’s just as likely not to show up for a game.

That’s pretty much the definition of an x-factor.

Will Wade (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

2018-19 OUTLOOK

I know this is going to sound weird, but it’s probably the truth: The SEC is as good as any conference in college basketball, including the ACC.

Kentucky might be the best team in the country. Tennessee won a share of the league’s regular season title a year ago and returns literally everyone from that roster. Auburn brings back the most of the team that shared that league title with Tennessee. Mississippi State looks like they will be a top 20 team this year. You are going to see some people rank Arkansas and some people rank Florida. Missouri has a shot of getting back to the NCAA tournament, as does Alabama. Even Vanderbilt looks like they could be a tournament team with the recruiting class that Bryce Drew brought in.

And that, as much as anything else, is what will probably be the culprit if LSU doesn’t end up getting into the NCAA tournament.

Their non-conference schedule is … fine, I guess. They play Memphis. They play Houston. They play Saint Mary’s. They play in the Advocare Invitational (Florida State, Villanova if they win). I’m not sure how many tournament teams or quality wins you’ll find there. They are going to have plenty of work to do in league play, and, on paper, they should have the pieces to be able to get it done.

We’ll see if those pieces come together the way Tiger fans hope they will.


No. 21 Mississippi State
No. 22 Clemson
No. 23 Michigan
No. 24 N.C. State
No. 25 Marquette

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA draft

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft, weeks after a leg injury forced him out of the season’s final six games.

The junior from Riverside, California, announced his plans on his Instagram account Wednesday.

“Thank you to UCLA and coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me,” Clark’s post read. “I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 draft.”

Clark didn’t indicate whether he would hire an agent ahead of the June 22 draft or retain his remaining eligibility. He has until May 31 to withdraw and be able to return to Westwood.

He suffered a lower right leg injury in the regular-season finale against Arizona on March 4. Clark averaged 13 points and six rebounds while starting 29 of 30 games. He led the Pac-12 in total steals with 78, tying for third all-time in single-season steals for the Bruins.

He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection, was named the league’s defensive player of the year and made its five-man All-Defensive Team.

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Penn State hires VCU’s Rhoades as men’s basketball coach

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Penn State hired VCU’s Mike Rhoades on Wednesday as its men’s basketball coach, bringing in the Pennsylvania native to take over a program coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than a decade.

The Penn State board of trustees approved a seven-year deal worth $25.9 million for Rhoades, who is from Mahanoy City in eastern Pennsylvania.

Just a few hours after Rhoades was named at Penn State, VCU hired Utah State coach Ryan Odom to replace Rhoades.

Rhoades replaces Micah Shrewsberry, who was hired away by Notre Dame last week.

Shrewsberry, an Indiana native, was at Penn State for two seasons. The Nittany Lions went 23-14 this season, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and won an NCAA game for the first time since 2001.

Rhoades, 50, was 129-61 in six seasons at VCU, including three NCAA Tournament bids. He also spent three seasons at Rice, going 23-12 in the final year with the Owls before returning to VCU.

He was an assistant at the Richmond, Virginia, school from 2009-14 under then-head coach Shaka Smart.

Odom was 44-25 at Utah State in two seasons, with an NCAA Tournament appearance this season.

He previously spent five seasons at Maryland-Baltimore County, going 97-60. In 2018, Odom’s UMBC team became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it beat Virginia.

Temple hires Penn State assistant Fisher to replace McKie

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PHILADELPHIA – Temple named Penn State assistant Adam Fisher just its fifth coach since 1973 on Wednesday.

Fisher’s goal will be to turn around a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

Fisher replaces Aaron McKie, who was transferred out of the coaching job earlier this month after four seasons and a 52-56 overall record with no tournament berths. McKie is now a special advisor to the athletic department.

Fisher takes over a team in flux with six players in the transfer portal. Temple has yet to find any steady success in the American Athletic Conference.

Fisher spent eight years as an assistant with Miami before he joined Micah Shrewsberry’s staff last season at Penn State. Shrewsberry has since moved on to Notre Dame.

“I am confident we have found the right person to lead Temple men’s basketball,” athletic director Arthur Johnson said. “We look forward to welcoming coach Fisher to the Temple community and returning to the NCAA Tournament under his leadership.”

Fisher also worked as a graduate manager at Villanova under Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright from 2007-09.

The Owls have traditionally given their coaches significant time on the bench, though McKie’s tenure was the shortest since Ernest Messikomer from 1939-42. The next five coaches all lasted at least 10 seasons, notably Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s tenure from 1982-2006.

Cal hires Mark Madsen as basketball coach

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BERKELEY, Calif. – California is hiring a former Stanford star to revive its struggling basketball program.

The Golden Bears announced Wednesday that Mark Madsen was signed to replace the fired Mark Fox following the worst season in school history.

“We conducted an exhaustive search, and one name kept rising to the top – and that’s Mark Madsen,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “Mark is a person of high character, high energy, high intensity, and he’s done it the right way. He’s intense. He’s passionate. He loves his student-athletes, and he loves competing. We want an ambassador for this program who is going to make us proud and develop our young men – both on and off the court. I am absolutely thrilled that Mark will lead our program into the future.”

Madsen played at Stanford under Mike Montgomery, who later coached at Cal, from 1996 to 2000 and helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in 1998.

After a nine-year playing career in the NBA that featured two titles as a backup on the Lakers in 2001-02, Madsen went into coaching.

He spent time in the NBA’s developmental league and a year at Stanford before spending five seasons on the Lakers staff.

Madsen then was hired in 2019 to take over Utah Valley. He posted a 70-51 record in four years with a 28-9 mark this season before losing on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals to UAB.

“Having grown up in the area, I have always admired Cal as an institution and as an athletic program, with so many of my teachers, coaches and friends impressive Cal graduates,” Madsen said. “We will win with young men who have elite academic and athletic talent and who will represent Cal with pride.”

Madsen is the third prominent coach to flip sides in recent years in the Bay Area rivalry between Cal and Stanford. The Cardinal hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor to take over the football program last season and Bears women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith played and coached as an assistant at Stanford.

Madsen is faced with a tough task, taking over a program that went 3-29 under Fox and set a school record for most losses and worst winning percentage in a season.

Cal went 38-87 during Fox’s tenure, ending his final season on a 16-game losing streak. Fox’s .304 winning percentage ranking second worst in school history to predecessor Wyking Jones’ 16-47 mark (.254) in the two seasons before Fox arrived.

The Bears haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2013 under Montgomery.

Adding to the issues for Fox was the complete lack of interest in the program. Cal’s home attendance averaged just 2,155 this season for the lowest mark among any team in the Power 5 or Big East. That’s down from an average of 9,307 per game in Cuonzo Martin’s last season in 2016-17 and from 5,627 the year before Fox arrived.

Cal had the worst winning percentage among any school in the six major conferences during Fox’s tenure. The Bears also were the lowest-scoring team (62.4 points per game) in all Division I under Fox and had the worst scoring margin of any major conference team under Fox.

Brea Beal’s defense lifts South Carolina to Final Four


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Brea Beal is not just South Carolina’s X factor in one of the country’s best defenses but also a four-year lesson in sacrifice and reinvention that may add a second straight NCAA title to her resume.

Beal is generally third when most think of the landmark recruiting class from 2019 led by heralded All-American Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke. But she could have the most critical role at the Final Four, most likely checking Iowa’s All-American Caitlin Clark in the national semifinals.

The Gamecocks (36-0) face the Hawkeyes (30-6) in the second game in Dallas on Friday night, with the winner playing LSU or Virginia Tech for the national title on Sunday.

Beal, who has started 136 of 137 games in her four seasons, and her senior teammates have racked up championships in their time. They have won three Southeastern Conference Tournament titles, have been to three straight Final Fours and are chasing their second NCAA crown.

Beal takes on the opponent’s best player and, more times than not, limits her effectiveness – a role that took Beal time to embrace.

“It definitely came with some hardship, but throughout time I just walked into it,” she said at the Greenville 1 Regional last weekend.

It wasn’t a path Beal envisioned after a celebrated prep career. She was a three-time Illinois Ms. Basketball from Rock Island High School, averaging 20 or more points a game her final three seasons. Beal joined Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings as the only players in the state to earn that award as a sophomore.

Beal expected to make the offensive impact that Boston and Cooke have had with the Gamecocks.

“It’s not necessarily something I was like, ‘I’m this defender, I’m the best defender,’” Beal said. “It came naturally, just as well as offensively, it’s just something you’ve got to be patient and just accept as time goes.”

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley sees Beal’s value as more than what she does on the court. Beal, overlooked sometimes behind Boston and Cooke, didn’t look to transfer in the portal era or complain about her scoring. She has kept her head down, Staley said, and made herself an indispensable part of the undefeated defending national champions.

“It took her time to just really relax and see where she can find spots to be effective,” Staley said. “Now that she’s a senior, she sees it.”

Clark, the Iowa star, would have to be one of Beal’s most difficult assignments. Clark had a triple-double – 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds – in the Hawkeyes’ 97-83 victory over Louisville to reach their first Final Four in 30 years.

Clark is not one-dimensional – “I pride myself in doing a lot of different things for this team,” she said – and Beal understands it will take a team effort to slow her down.

South Carolina has relied on its defense throughout Beal’s time and this year’s run is no different. The Gamecocks lead the country in blocks and rebound margin, are second in field-goal percentage defense and are third in points allowed.

Cooke believes it’s Beal’s defensive focus that has all the Gamecocks looking to raise their intensity on that side of their game. “She’s the one that taught us how to play defense,” Cooke said. “Especially me. Just watching her and the things she does definitely wore off on me.”

Cooke’s offense may be elevating Beal’s game as of late. Beal has scored in double digits in eight games this season, seven of those since the start of February. She had 10 points in a 59-43 win over UCLA in the Sweet 16 and 16 in an 86-75 victory over Maryland in the Elite Eight.

Once considered the most likely of the 2019 freshmen class to play an extra season, the dual threat has been rising in WNBA mock drafts. has projected her getting called seventh in next month’s draft, going to the Indiana Fever in the first round.

Beal isn’t worried about her pro prospects or savoring all she’s accomplished. She only wants to finish her college career with another championship moment – and that means dialing up the defense.

“We’re a defensively minded team,” she said. “When we come to this part of the season, we definitely need our defense from every single individual.”