1. How will LSU fare with its added versatility?
After having a limited number of pieces in his first two years, coach Johnny Jones enters this season with more options at nearly every position. Eventually, Jones wants to have nine guys in the rotation, which is certainly more than he has had at his disposal in the past. Forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin and guards Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby can handle multiple positions. Much depends on 7-foot-1 freshman center Elbert Robinson III providing quality minutes to let Jones go big or small when the situation dictates.
2. How tough will it be to replace Johnny O’Bryant III?
Plenty tough. O’Bryant averaged 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds to earn first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors before departing early for the NBA. While O’Bryant was a little thicker and more physically imposing inside, both Mickey and Martin have the ability to be the scorer and rebounder he was. Mickey averaged 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds, while Martin had 10.3 and 4.6 as freshmen. If one or both of them get anywhere close to O’Bryant’s numbers, the Tigers will be fine.
3. Point will be well-taken with up-tempo attack
With the addition of junior college All-American Josh Gray at the point — he will be more of a facilitator than the prolific scorer he was when he averaged 34.7 points a game for Odessa (Texas) College — the Tigers will look to run even more than they did in Jones’ first two seasons. They averaged more than 70 points a game both years (including 74.7 a year ago) and likely will eye more with the cat-quick Gray penetrating the lane, finding Hornsby on the wing or getting the ball down low to Mickey, Martin and Robinson.
4. The long ball will again be a staple for the young Tigers
In Jones’ two seasons, LSU has made 234 and 231 baskets from beyond the 3-point arc — taking a school-record 675 attempts a year ago. Even though they lost their top 3-point artists in Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey, the Tigers have Hornsby, Gray, Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson — and Martin, who has shown an ability to let it fly. If they’re accurate enough, opposing teams will have to pick their poison: Do they pack things inside or concentrate on preventing the Tigers from shooting the lights out?
5. Will LSU reach the Big Dance?
The Tigers should have a decent shot at making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 if they stay relatively healthy — especially in the frontcourt, where they’ll have a decided size advantage most nights. In July, Jones said he remembered when 19 or 20 wins and a non-losing record in SEC play automatically got you in. Not anymore. LSU did that the past two seasons and was shut out. If they win 22 or 23 this time — with at least 10 or 11 conference victories — they should be rewarded.