What LSU basketball must do to reach NCAA Tournament next season

SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our  LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to  @SECCountryLSU@bigahickey or by email to Alex at  alex.hickey@coxinc.com.

Question of the Day: Tuesday, March 20

Will Wade’s first season as LSU basketball coach is over, but he and the Tigers are far from done. The ambition to take a big second step next season has already been laid down. Just look at what he said on his postgame radio interview Monday night.

That serves as a natural bridge to our question of the day.

What must LSU basketball do in order to reach the NCAA Tournament next year?

As the Tigers’ 95-71 loss at Utah in the second round of the NIT demonstrated in living color, the most essential key for Wade’s crew is to get better on the road. LSU was miserable away from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center this season, finishing 3-8 in true road games and 1-3 at neutral sites, including the SEC tourney. A team can reach the NCAA tourney if it’s mediocre away from home, but it does not bode well for winning once you get there.

Statistically speaking, the Tigers had some glaring issues on defense that were going to be impossible to address this season. Three categories stick out. LSU ranked 296th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage as opponents grabbed 31.6 percent of their misses. LSU was 280th in 2-point defense, allowing opponents to score on 52 percent of their shots inside the arc. The Tigers were 265th in the country in effective field-goal percentage, with opponents checking in at 52.7 percent.

Wade has seen worse. In his first season at Chattanooga, the Mocs were 294th in 2-point defense and 250th in effective field-goal percentage. They improved to 109th and 123rd, respectively, the following season.

Wade surely loved that group at Chattanooga, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what he’s bringing in next season. LSU has the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, and that doesn’t take into account the addition of 6-foot-11 shot blocker Kavell Bigby-Williams, who sat out this season after transferring from Oregon.

There’s no magic formula for winning on the road, but it stands to reason that if LSU improves on the defensive glass and makes it tougher to score inside, those wins will come. And next season, maybe we will be writing about the Tigers heading to the Sweet 16.

To see prior answers to our Question of the Day,  we have you covered.

The post What LSU basketball must do to reach NCAA Tournament next season appeared first on SEC Country.

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