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LSU Basketball Looking for More Success in Midseason Tournament

Tigers haven't had best luck in early season tournaments, Will Wade dives into why it's next step of building program up
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When LSU guard Adam Miller went down right before the start of the season, there was a sense that the Tigers season while capable of still being great would have a ceiling. 

For the last several years under Will Wade, the Tigers have been led by three or four "star" level players and having everyone else try to squeeze in so there was reason for some hesitancy when Miller went down. But after five games this team has proven that one through eight in the rotation is capable of leading on a given night and that the ceiling could very well not exist. 

"We've got good players, I told them all when he [Miller] went down that every single one of you is a good player," Wade said. "People don't know who you are. We got really good players and the biggest thing is keeping the guys you wanna keep. They were highly recruited and we beat other high major teams for every single one of them."

Eric Gaines, Darius Days, Mwani Wilkinson and Alex Fudge have all brought their games to another level while offseason additions of Tari Eason, Xavier Pinson, Efton Reid and Brandon Murray are all paying off. 

It all starts with the defense for this 2021-22 team, a statement that hasn't been true the last several years. LSU has been a joy to watch on offense with some really skilled players but the defense hasn't been up to the same standards. A lot of it has to do with LSU's inability to grab defensive rebounds, leading to extra chances for opposing teams. 

But a more traditional seven-foot big in Efton Reid compounded by having a team full of players who really care about defense has this as the most exciting team of the Wade era. Through five games LSU leads the country in steal percentage at 19.1% of possessions while also being No. 3 in block percentage at 23.9% of its defensive possessions. 

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Essentially that means that 43% of defensive possessions for the Tigers have resulted in a steal or a block. What's most important is that of the 105 turnovers LSU has forced in five games, the Tigers have scored 137 points off those turnovers, an average of 27.4 points per contest. 

Through all of the early season success, Wade and the Tigers won't be satisfied until they have some success in the in season tournaments. LSU will be traveling to Florida for a tournament this week beginning with Penn State on Friday, looking to break out of a struggle in these early season tournaments.

"We've been awful in these early season tournaments," Wade said. "We've won a lot of games, we've done a lot of good stuff but we've been horrific in early season tournaments. This is another thing that we've gotta get right. We gotta go to Destin and be locked in for Penn State because quite frankly this is one are we've gotta improve in if we want to be the program we want to be.

"We got beat by Florida State in overtime after we beat Charleston. We gave away the Utah State game. I told our guys, we've won a lot of games, won the SEC but have been terrible in these early season tournaments. We've gotta go there on a mission, with purpose to win the thing. To win the thing you've gotta win the first one. We gotta put everything into Friday against Penn State."

Facing a 3-1 Nittany Lions team that has lost UMass this season should be a winnable game for LSU as it continues its rise up the college basketball ranks. This is a team that shouldn't be taken lightly and starting with a big win on Friday would get the Tigers tourney season started on the right foot.

"Good team from the Big 10," Wade said.  "They'll have athletes and bodies like ours and so we've got to be better in these environments. We've gotta get that changed starting Friday."