Projecting LSU Basketball’s 2021 Opening Night Starting Five – CalBearsMaven - Techy Hunters


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Projecting LSU Basketball’s 2021 Opening Night Starting Five – CalBearsMaven

In just under two weeks, LSU basketball will tip-off for year five under Will Wade and will walk out an exciting mix of talent and depth that’s been missing from the program in recent years. 

This is an exciting group with veterans and newcomers sprinkled throughout a roster that’s relatively new. There are many lineup rotations to Wade’s disposal, even with the most recent injury to sophomore transfer Adam Miller. Here’s who we think will be in the opening night starting lineup on Nov. 9 against ULM.

Guard: Xavier Pinson

A recent coaches preseason All-SEC second team honoree, Pinson is more of your prototypical scoring guard with the capability of playmaking as a secondary option. At Missouri he averaged over 11 points per game over his last two seasons but was prone to turn the ball over nearly as much as he assisted and make plays for others. 

That’s been a real focus for him this offseason in Baton Rouge with Wade and the coaching staff seeing some real progress made over the last few months. One of the areas that has really impressed Wade is Pinson’s ability to attack the rim and get defenses in rotation.

“He’s better than I thought. He’s been a huge surprise,” Wade said. “I knew he was a good basketball player, but just being able to play point guard and pass and see the floor, he’s as good as I’ve seen it. Get down the seams, creating rotation and drives. He’s going to be really good for us.”

Forward: Mwani Wilkinson

Had he been healthy, Miller would’ve been an easy backcourt mate for Pinson but at 6-foot-6, Wilkinson has the capability of guarding one through three, which is a pretty rare trait to cover so many positions so well. He was asked to be that energy, do all the little things guy as a freshman but should take on more of the offensive responsibility in 2021.

He’s extremely athletic and strong for his size, making him a potential defensive nightmare for other team’s best guards. According to Wade, nobody has made a bigger jump this offseason than Wilkinson in terms of his aggression and efficiency on the offensive end. 

“There’s nobody that’s had a better offseason in our program than Mwani,” Wade said. “He’s going to look like a new player especially on the offensive end – when people see him, they’re going to be shocked, he’s had a tremendous offseason.”

There’s a case to be made to keep Wilkinson on the bench and have him lead the second unit but early in the season it’s likely Wade will be toying with the rotations some and Wilkinson makes sense to be a stable force with the starters. 

Forward: Tari Eason

It was only one scrimmage and many players did not suit up for the game in Thibodeaux but Eason showed exactly why there’s so much potential in his game. In the scrimmage win over Nicholls, Eason went for 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Tigers in both categories.

Wade has been extremely complimentary of Eason’s all around game as a physical, long wing who has the potential to not only space the floor a bit but be a force in the paint, taking some of the load off Days’ shoulders. At 6-foot-8, Eason’s size will really allow LSU to switch a lot more on defense and feel good about the matchups.

It’s possible Wade could like Alex Fudge as a potentially more nimble wing and more side-to-side quickness in the rotation and keep Eason as a punisher off the bench. But like it’s been mentioned, there are plenty of potentially dominant lineups that can be used.

Forward: Darius Days

Days is the one guy you can pencil in as a starter as he returned for a senior season with a few different goals in mind. The first three years, Days established himself as a legitimate long distance threat from the wing and someone who is a real force in the paint for offensive rebounds and put back buckets.

Those are two valuable traits to have on the court but he’s really worked this offseason on being more of a facilitator and driving to the basket, two elements we haven’t seen a lot from him because it’s not been asked of him. Days can burn any team from the outside but if he’s able to put it on the floor, make the right pass or finish at the rim, he’ll be a much more complete player.

Wade has also said that Days’ leadership, particularly from a vocal standpoint has been much more noticeable this season.

“He sets the standard for what we want to do and what we want to be about and the other guys understand that,” Wade said. “He’s going to have a career year this year, his best year. He’s done everything we’ve asked since he’s been here and we want to pay it off here.”

Center: Efton Reid

The big, splashy freshman addition to the 2021 roster was without a doubt Reid, who gives Wade something the last two teams have been missing, a traditional big. LSU in recent years has been a bit on the small side in the frontcourt, which has led to some halfcourt defensive issues that Reid’s presence should immediately fix. 

But it’s not just his defense that will be so vitally important but his ability to rebound and score at will in the paint. He’s a capable shooter which should keep team’s honest when defending him but at 7-foot-1, most of his points will come in the paint.

“He’s a weapon and we’ve worked on feeding that post, we worked on it for eight minutes the other day in practice,” Wade said. “If you cover him one on one he’s going to score every time. You double team him, he’s legit, he’s got great feel, he can pass. He’s like a throwback big and he’s a weapon. When he’s in the game we’re going to get him the ball.”

This will be a must follow player throughout the SEC as he’s got double double average written all over him, with the chance to really elevate this team to another level. 

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