IRVING, Texas — Though West Virginia didn’t appear to receive a marquee matchup for next season’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge, fans shouldn’t disregard LSU, which could be an NCAA tournament contender.
The Mountaineers host LSU on Thursday, Dec. 4 as part of the four-night interleague faceoff. The Tigers finished 20-14 last season, losing to SMU in the second round of the NIT, and return five of their top eight players.
Despite losing All-SEC forward Johnny O’Bryant III to the NBA draft, along with his 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds, the Tigers return freshman All-American forward Jordan Mickey, who was the nation’s No. 9 shot blocker along with 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Another standout, the 6-9 Jarell Martin, is a stretch four who averaged 10.3 points and 4.5 boards as a freshman. He was a McDonald’s All-American two seasons ago and the nation’s No. 13-rated prospect by Rivals.
Coach Johnny Jones brought in the nation’s No. 23-ranked recruiting class, headlined by one of the nation’s top centers—7-foot, 300-pounder Elbert Robinson, who had offers from Kansas, Florida, Texas, Ohio State, Georgetown and Baylor. Another vaunted newcomer is four-star junior college point guard Josh Gray, who was courted by Memphis, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida State.
Plus the Tigers have an interesting Grammy connection, with Bruce Hornsby’s son Keith becoming eligible after transferring from UNC Asheville, where he was a 3-point threat who averaged 15 points a game.
So even though LSU—which hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 2009—certainly doesn’t warrant the buzz of facing programs like Kentucky or Florida, next season’s team should represent a quality opponent with plenty of RPI starch.