LSU reached the Sweet 16 last season despite off-court turmoil that included coach Will Wade being suspended for the postseason, but even with three starters leaving the 24th-ranked Tigers enter Friday's opener at home against Bowling Green with high hopes. The guard duo of senior Skylar Mays and sophomore Javonte Smart combined to average 24.5 points and 3.2 steals last season, and their return provides Wade a comfort level in the backcourt.
"Anytime you've got two guards that have been with you a while and you have that high level of trust, it makes things fun," Wade told LSUsports.com this week. Mays landed on the preseason All-SEC first team and is on the Naismith national player of the year watch list, while Smart was picked all-conference second team. The Tigers will count on highly regarded 6-9 freshman Trendon Watford, who set the Alabama state prep record for career rebounds while finishing in the top 10 in career scoring, to boost the frontcourt. The Falcons, who return four starters from last season's 22-win team and were voted by the coaches as the Mid-American Conference East Division preseason favorite, opened their season Tuesday with a 91-52 victory over Division II Tiffin.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, SEC Network Plus
ABOUT BOWLING GREEN (1-0): The Falcons return two big perimeter threats and preseason All-MAC selections in junior guard Justin Turner (18.2 points, 37.2 percent from 3-point range last season) and senior guard Dylan Frye (12.8 points, 36.1 percent from long range). Turner finished with 20 points and Frye added 13 points in the season opener as four Falcons scored in double figures. Junior forward Daeqwon Plowden, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds a season ago, posted a double-double Tuesday with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
ABOUT LSU (2018-19: 28-7): Smart made a big impact as a freshman, reaching double figures in scoring 19 times while shooting 83.9 percent from the free-throw line, while Mays begins his senior season with 1,100 career points, 282 assists and 158 steals. Watford scored 10 points with 10 rebounds and three assists in Saturday's 83-70 exhibition victory over Louisiana Tech, a game the Tigers trailed in the second half. Sophomore forward Darius Days reached double figures in scoring five times last season while shooting 42.1 percent from 3-point range against SEC competition.
1. The Tigers averaged 80.4 points last season (second in the SEC) but ranked 13th in the conference in averaged points allowed (73.1).
2. Mays, who makes his 100th career appearance Friday, is a career 84.1 percent free-throw shooter.
3. Bowling Green, which has not reached the NCAA tournament since 1968, lost to Buffalo in last season's MAC title game.
Key Players to Watch
Pete Maravich Assembly Center
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.
no tickets found.
Louisiana State Tigers
- FootQues Sat | questionable
Taylor sat out the last game while recovering from foot surgery, and it is uncertain if he will play Saturday versus Nicholls State.