NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The LSU basketball team will have something to prove this season under first-year coach Will Wade.
Make that a lot to prove.
In what wasn’t a total shock, the new-look Tigers were picked to finish at the bottom of the 14-team Southeastern Conference in voting by a select panel of SEC and national media members.
LSU finished 10-21 last season after dropping 17 of its final 18 game,s and Johnny Jones was replaced by Wade, who rebuilt a roster that has just five scholarship players left from a squad that went 2-16 in the league — tying Missouri at the bottom of the standings.
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“It’s kind of what we expected,” said Wade, who was accompanied Wednesday by senior forward Duop Reath and junior guard Brandon Sampson. “We came in last place last year and lost our leading scorer.
“So I think people, if they’re looking at us on paper and don’t follow us that closely, it’s probably a fair conclusion to make.”
The poll results were announced Wednesday morning at the start of SEC Tipoff18, the league’s annual media days. Men’s coaches and players met with media Wednesday with the women following Thursday.
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For the 13th time in the past 20 seasons, Kentucky was tabbed as the favorite to win the men’s regular-season title. Points were tabulated on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
Rounding out the top half of the league were Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The bottom half was made up of Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and LSU.
“Nobody’s played any games yet,” Wade said. “I think it’s a fair assessment for what people know. But certainly, it’s not where we hope to finish.”
Media also voted for a preseason All-SEC team and player of the year, which ended in a three-way tie among Georgia forward Yante Maten, Texas A&M forward Robert Williams and Missouri forward Michael Porter.
Wade said he prepared his Tigers for what was to come Wednesday, telling them earlier this week exactly, as it turned out, how the voting would go.
“Our guys were aware of it,” Wade said. “I told them we were going to be picked last and nobody in the room was going to be on the All-SEC team. I told them that we were going up to Nashville and I didn't know who all was going to want to talk to us.”
Yet, Wade said his team won’t be able to use it totally for motivation when it opens the season Nov. 10 against Alcorn State, almost two months before the Jan. 3 SEC opener at home against Kentucky.
“Really, there’s a fine line between using it as motivation and grounding it into guys’ heads,” he said. “If you do that, they think maybe they’re a last-place team and there’s some truth to all that.
“You don’t want to keep throwing it in their face and say, ‘You’re picked last, you’re picked last, you’re picked last.’ It can become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
At the same time, Sampson and Reath said the Tigers should use it for motivation.
“We expected it ... we know what happened last year and things like that,” Sampson said. “We should take it more as motivation. We can’t let it bring us down, but it can give us more of an edge knowing that we know that.
“We have something to prove every night knowing the spot we’re in. That’s the best thing we can do: Go out every night to show that.”
“That’s fine; they can put us 14th,” he said. “It was expected after last year, but I just feel like at the end of the day, it’s basketball, and we’re going to show them. We know that we have to go out and prove that.”
It didn’t take Will Wade long to reshape his roster — in more ways than one, it turns out — …
Preseason media poll
3. Texas A&M
10. Ole Miss
11. South Carolina
12. Mississippi State
G KeVaughn Allen, Florida
F Yante Maten, Georgia
G Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky
F Michael Porter, Missouri
F Robert Williams, Texas A&M
(ties were not broken)
G Collin Sexton, Alabama
F Kevin Knox, Kentucky
G Terence Davis, Ole Miss
G Deandre Burnett, Ole Miss
G Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St.
C Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
G/F Matthew Fisher-Davis, Vanderbilt
SEC player of the year
(tie) Yante Maten, Georgia; Michael Porter, Missouri; Robert Williams, Texas A&M