With Loaded Incoming Recruiting Class, LSU Basketball Ranked No. 18 in 2020 ESPN Preseason Rankings

Glen West

LSU, like most of the college basketball world, is entering uncharted waters. The cancellation of the 2019 NCAA Tournament in conjunction with the NBA regular season being suspended has sent shockwaves up and down every level of the sport.

How will these events affect recruiting? Will it impact underclassmen who were considering entering their names in the NBA draft? These are questions that for now, seem unanswerable as the world remains in pause mode due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, that doesn't mean it's too early to theorize what the 2020 LSU team could look like and where it will start the season. Over the weekend, ESPN released its "way-too-early" preseason college basketball rankings and LSU cracked the top-20.

LSU was one of four SEC teams to make the preseason top-25 with Kentucky (No. 5), Tennessee (No. 14) and Arkansas (No. 20) all making the list. Despite LSU coming in with the No. 6 overall recruiting class in the 2020 season, ESPN writer Jeff Borzello believes there are a few contingencies that result in the Tigers receiving that high a ranking.

"Will Wade's team could be absolutely loaded with talent if things fall right," Borzello wrote. "Of course, the people of Baton Rouge will have to wait and see what happens with the potential draft decisions of Javonte Smart, Trendon Watford and Emmitt Williams. All three could at least explore their options, and Skylar Mays is already out of eligibility. But if a couple of the draft hopefuls return to school, the Tigers will have the pieces to push toward the top of the SEC standings again. 

"Wade has a talented incoming recruiting class, led by five-star guard Cam Thomas -- arguably the best pure bucket-getter in the 2020 class. Georgetown transfer Josh LeBlanc and ESPN 100 prospect Mwani Wilkinson also should make an impact. This ranking could drop significantly if a couple of the aforementioned players keep their names in the draft, though."

Decisions on Smart, Williams and Watford should be coming in the days and weeks ahead but if Wade was somehow able to convince one or two of those players to return to school for another year, the Tigers would be absolutely loaded.

Not mentioned in Borzello's analysis is the transfer of Shareef O'Neal from UCLA to Baton Rouge. O'Neal didn't play much in his first and only season with the Bruins but a year after having heart surgery that was probably to be expected. 

The former four-star recruit should step in and at 6-foot-9, be able to help on the boards and defending the rim regardless if the Tigers lose Williams or not. 

A lot must happen between now and the fall as the Tigers might not have a good understanding of what their roster looks like until late in the summer. Wade told LSUCountry recently that the Tigers are still looking to add one or two more pieces to the mix but with recruiting at a standstill, those dates could be pushed back.

"I mean there's just a lot of stuff that everybody's in the unknown and so we've just got to have as many irons in the fire as we can to figure it out," Wade said. "Certainly we feel like we're moving in the right direction. We're gonna have a very good team and a deep team, which is important."