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LSU basketball coach Will Wade, shown giving instructions to his team in a 2020 game with Kentucky, will be looking for improved defense and rebounding in the Tigers' home oppener with Southeastern on Monday night.

If there is anything certain about our world right at the moment it is uncertainty. Especially when it comes to sports.

Schedules shift like desert sands. Games are planned, moved, canceled and replaced. The entire sports scene is one big Etch A Sketch, always trying to stay one twist ahead of a wily, deadly virus, the ultimate opponent. The ultimate game: to finish the season and somehow, someway crown a champion.

That didn’t happen in March, when sports everywhere started to lift their drawbridges. Huge swaths of the sports schedule were swept away by a great tide. There’s no guarantee that now as the holiday season begins with coronavirus alarm bells ringing all around the world, drowning out the Christmas bells, that championships can be decided. But there is certainly worth in attempting to try.

What will unfold in this college basketball season that tips off this week is anyone’s guess. There are the valuable lessons and hard facts of the sports and seasons that have gone on before, from the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and college football. The plan now is to follow the NBA bubble plan in a sense and turn Indianapolis into a Fortress March Madness where the entire NCAA tournament will be played.

As we’ve seen in other sports, games will no doubt be postponed and canceled and scrambled as players and teams deal with outbreaks. It is the awful variable of rolling cosmic dice, or the turn of a card … a fortuneteller’s card.

Will the luck be with this team or that? No one can say. But there are certainly some key elements you want to have on your side to weather the storms that may come: talent, experience, depth and coaching.

By those measurables, the LSU Tigers are the kind of team you want to have in a tight corner.

“Top to bottom, this is probably the best roster we've had since we've been here,” LSU coach Will Wade said. High praise indeed considering LSU’s 2018-19 SEC champions won 28 games and reached the NCAA Sweet 16.

There is a lot we don’t know about LSU, which went 21-10 last season, tied for second in the Southeastern Conference and was a lock for an NCAA bid. How will the Tigers fare without Skylar Mays’ leadership and clutch offense? How will LSU’s many newcomers like Cam Thomas and Bryan Penn-Johnson and Shareef O’Neal (son of Shaq) mesh with the veterans like Javonte Smart, Trendon Watford and Darius Days? And can any of them help the Tigers play better defense?

The Tigers under Wade have always played top-shelf offense. In his three seasons, LSU has ranked third, second and second in the SEC in scoring, and in 2019-20 was the only team to rank in the top three in the league in field-goal percentage (47.1%), points scored (80.5 ppg) and free-throw percentage (76.9%). But LSU was 11th in the conference allowing 73.3 points per game, a number that needs to improve if the Tigers are to challenge for the SEC title and a deep trip into the NCAA tournament.

Wade is expected to run the defense personally. Here’s betting that he and LSU will find a way to play a reasonably better defense. Of course, there is another even bigger issue stalking this team that’s out there lurking.

The NCAA’s investigation into possible recruiting violations under Wade has not gone away, just faded somewhat into the background. The whole thing has been tossed into the lap of the Independent Accountability Resolution Process panel. If there is any good news for this LSU team adrift in the sea of this season’s uncertainty, it is that the panel is not expected to render its review until after the 2020-21 campaign is over. That likely means a skilled LSU team has a chance to show its stuff before anything can happen to negatively impact the program from an enforcement standpoint.

Someday, the pandemic will end. Someday, the NCAA will wrap up its investigation of the LSU basketball program. Where LSU will wind up at the other end, whether the program can extend what is already its longest stretch of successful stability since the Dale Brown era remains to be seen.

But in a season of staggering unknowns, the Tigers will probably take their circumstances over where most other programs are starting from, try to go as far as they can, then figure out where they go from there.

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