1: Is Nikki Fargas on the hot seat?
Fargas decided she would like to be called by her married name this season instead of her maiden name of Caldwell. There’s legitimate question whether people will still be calling her LSU’s coach after this season. Fargas has led LSU to four straight NCAA tournaments, including two regional semifinal appearances, but last year’s 17-14 overall record was a low point. Fargas will have time to improve things — namely, recruit better — but she needs to find a way this season to prove her program isn’t stagnating.
2: Who can fill Danielle Ballard’s shoes?
Without Ballard, LSU’s troubled two-time All-SEC guard, the Lady Tigers are in need of not only a go-to scorer but a leading rebounder as well. Junior All-SEC guard Raigyne Moncrief is more than capable of succeeding in that role: She was LSU’s second-leading scorer and rebounder behind Ballard last season (11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds per game). Moncrief can be an explosive player at times but will have to become a more consistently dangerous threat at both ends of the court.
3: Is Rina Hill ready to run the point?
The Lady Tigers offense was run by a committee of point guards last season. LSU still possesses a deep backcourt — the Lady Tigers have six guards on the roster, including senior guard/forward Anne Pedersen — but Fargas said she’s going to entrust the offense to Hill for the most part. The 5-foot-7 junior from Japan (LSU also has players from England, Australia and Denmark) has to drastically improve her minus-11 assist-to-turnover ratio but is tough as nails and not afraid to mix it up in the paint.
4: Who can LSU count on in the low post?
This figures to continue to be a guard-oriented team, but that doesn’t mean the Lady Tigers don’t want or need improved production from their forwards. LSU again won’t tower over anyone — senior Ann Jones and seldom-used sophomore Alliyah Fareo top the height chart at 6-3 — but LSU will have to find someone it can count on to replace savvy departed senior Sheila Boykin (5.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg). Our nominee is junior transfer Alexis Hyder, who plays bigger than her 5-11 height indicates and can also shoot the 3.
5: Will LSU get back to the Big Dance?
LSU was picked 10th in the SEC by league coaches. Considering the conference got seven teams in last year’s NCAA tournament, the odds are against the Lady Tigers. The strength of schedule is good with games against five teams in the preseason AP Top 25, including No. 1 UConn, No. 2 South Carolina and No. 4 Tennessee. If LSU can claw its way into the SEC’s upper division and win a couple of games in the SEC tournament, it could snag an at-large bid.
No., Name, Pos, Ht., Wt., Hometown
0, Chloe Jackson#, G, 5-9, So., Upper Marlboro, Md.
1, Jenna Deemer, G, 5-7, So., New Orleans
2, Shanice Norton, G, 5-8, Fr., London
3, Akilah Bethel, F, 6-0, Sr., Baltimore
4, Anne Pedersen, G/F, 6-1, Sr., Copenhagen, Denmark
5, Ayana Mitchell, F, 6-2, Fr., Conyers, Ga.
10, Jasmine Rhodes, G, 5-10, Jr., Mobile, Ala.
11, Raigyne Moncrief, G, 5-10, Jr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
13, Rina Hill, G, 5-7, Jr., Nagoya-Shi, Japan
20, Alexis Hyder, F, 5-11, Jr., Austin, Texas
31, Ann Jones, F, 6-3, Sr., Jackson, Tenn.
35, Alliyah Fareo, C/F, 6-3, So., Sydney
44, Tatum Neubert#, F, 6-2, So., Elizabeth, Colo.
#-Transfer, will sit out 2015-16 season
Coach: Nikki Fargas (83-50 entering fifth season at LSU, 155-76 entering eighth season overall)
2014-15 record: 17-14, 10-6 SEC (tied fourth)
Postseason: Lost 73-64 at South Florida in first round of NCAA tournament
13, at Wake Forest (ESPN3), 4 p.m.
15, UL-Monroe (SEC+), 3 p.m.
18, at UALR (CST), 7:15 p.m.
21, Long Beach State (SEC+), 2 p.m.
23, at Tulane (CST), 7 p.m.
Gulf coast showcase, Estero, Fla.
27, vs. Purdue (CST), 6:30 p.m.
28, vs. Louisville or Marist (CST), TBA
29, vs. TBD (CST), TBA
1, Texas Southern (SEC+), 11 a.m.
13, UC Santa Barbara (SEC), 3 p.m.
19, at Rutgers (BTN), 1 p.m.
21, Connecticut# (SNY), 6 p.m.
28, Samford (SEC+) , 7 p.m.
3, at Alabama* (SEC), 2:00 p.m.
7, Ole Miss* (SEC), 7:30 p.m.
10, Texas A&M* (SEC), 3 p.m.
14, at Vanderbilt* (SEC+), 7 p.m.
17, at Florida* (SEC+), 6 p.m.
21, Arkansas* (SEC+), 7 p.m.
24, at Georgia* (SEC+), 1 p.m.
28, at Missouri* (SEC+), 7 p.m.
1, Auburn* (SEC), 6 p.m.
4, Mississippi State* (SEC), 8 p.m.
7, at Kentucky* (SEC), 11 a.m.
14, Georgia* (SEC+), 2 p.m.
18, at Texas A&M* (SEC), 8 p.m.
21, Tennessee* (ESPNU), 1 p.m.
25, Florida* (SEC), 7:30 p.m.
28, at S. Carolina* (ESPN2/ESPNU), TBA
2-6, at Jacksonville, Fla. (SEC)
*-Southeastern Conference game
#-at Hartford, Connecticut