In the eyes of the experts, few women’s basketball teams have had a better offseason than Kim Mulkey and the LSU Tigers.
Mulkey’s first season back home in Baton Rouge was one of the best in recent memory for the program, winning the most games (26) since 2008 and earning a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament thanks a senior-laden squad.
Four of the Tigers’ top five scorers graduated following the disappointing end to an encouraging 2021-22 season, leaving more questions than answers about how they would look entering this year. In ESPN’s first edition of the way-too-early rankings, the Tigers didn’t crack the Top 25.
A couple of months since LSU flamed out of March Madness, falling to No. 6 Ohio State on its home floor, Mulkey and her staff attacked and addressed the needs of the program. Their work has women’s college basketball minds raising expectations,
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The Tigers now appear poised to be a preseason top-15 team heading in 2022-23. ESPN moved LSU into the top 25 at No. 22 last month and listed Mulkey’s Tigers No. 14 in its latest way-too-early top 25 rankings earlier this week.
One of the major reasons for the Tigers’ ascension is the coaching staff’s work in the transfer portal. LSU landed ESPN’s top-ranked transfer in Maryland forward Angel Reese, who paced the Terrapins to a great season last year averaging 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Reese has size at 6-foot-3 and adds much-need versatile skill to the team. Reese can post up and play with her back to the rim and she can take defenders off the dribble at the top of the key.
LSU needed length and it got it with forward LaDazhia Williams (6-4), who signed with South Carolina out of high school and spent the last two seasons at Missouri, paired with Reese.
The coaching staff also signed a talented freshman class, headlined by guard Flau’jae Johnson, who’ll push for playing time among returners Alexis Morris and Ryann Payne and transfers Kateri Poole (Ohio State) and Jasmine Carson (West Virginia).
There’s also a belief from women’s basketball experts in Mulkey and how she builds and sustains success, as she proved during her 21-year tenure at Baylor, leading the Bears to three national championships.
In her season in Baton Rouge, the Tigers generated a bevy of buzz around a program that hadn’t seen that level of accomplishment in 14 years. Mulkey garnered AP Coach of the Year honors.
Maintaining and improving will be key for LSU following 2021-22, and that confidence in Mulkey’s ability to do so has national pundits high on the Tigers in 2022-23.