In a year in which the word normalcy has become just about extinct, the LSU basketball team will try to regain some Thanksgiving night.
While it’s been 264 days since the Tigers last played a game, when they danced off the Pete Maravich Assembly Center floor after crushing Georgia 94-64 to wrap up the 2019-20 regular season, the long wait is hopefully coming to an end.
LSU is scheduled to open the season at 6 p.m. Thursday against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in the Billiken Classic, a multi-team event to be played in Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena.
Fans will not be allowed in the arena, nor for LSU’s other game in the event against host Saint Louis at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Soon after the abrupt end to his third season as LSU’s basketball coach in March, Will Wade came to the realization that his team’s defense wa…
Live streaming for the Tigers’ two games will only be available on ESPN+, which requires a paid subscription. Both games will air on the LSU Sports Radio Network.
SIUE, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, was 8-23 a year ago. The Cougars fell to Saint Louis U. 89-52 on Wednesday night to open the four-day event.
With three key veterans back and the nation’s sixth-ranked recruiting class in the fold, LSU will begin its quest for a third consecutive 20-win season — assuming the COVID-delayed season can be played safely.
LSU posted its 20th win on Feb. 29 with a 64-50 victory over Texas A&M. The season was canceled 12 days later by the coronavirus pandemic on the eve of the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference tournament opener, leaving them with a final record of 21-10.
They hope to finally play again Thursday night against SIUE, which represents their third different season-opening opponent on a third different starting date.
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The Tigers were scheduled to face UL-Monroe on Nov. 10 before the NCAA pushed the start of the season back to Nov. 25 because of the coronavirus.
Then, LSU was to meet San Francisco on Wednesday in the Golden Window Classic in Lincoln, Nebraska, before Saint Louis pulled out last Friday and invited Wade’s team to participate in its own multi-team event.
“Yes, we’re excited to get going … excited to have some games,” Wade said. “Our guys have done a great job with our preparation. We’ve been going at it since Oct. 14 in practice; it’s nice to kind of see a light at the end of the tunnel and have some games.”
While Wade didn’t reveal his starting lineup late last week, it’s not difficult to figure that it will likely include the three players who put their names in the NBA draft and later withdrew.
Forward Trendon Watford and point guard Javonte Smart, who were preseason first-team All-SEC picks by the league’s coaches, and forward Darius Days should be in the lineup.
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All three tested the NBA waters before deciding to return to join a stellar recruiting class. The new signees include five-star shooting guard Cam Thomas, four-star forward Mwani Wilkerson, four-star guard Eric Gaines and three-star guard Jalen Cook, a former Walker High standout.
Thomas will likely be in the starting lineup with Watford, Smart and Days, while redshirt sophomore guard Aundre Hyatt, one of only two other returning scholarship players, could get the nod for the fifth spot.
Charles Manning, the fifth scholarship player returning for this season, has been slowed while rehabbing from foot surgery in June and will be slowly worked back into the rotation.
Transfers Bryan Penn-Johnson, a 7-foot center, and Shareef O’Neal, a 6-10 forward, should get playing time in St. Louis as Wade expects to possibly use 10 players the first few games.
“We have 10 guys that we can put in the game, and I feel very, very good about them,” Wade said last week.