Four bold predictions for LSU women's basketball in Kim Mulkey's second season
BATON ROUGE – The much anticipated debut of the full, new-look LSU Tigers for the 2022-23 season will officially receive its call to the spotlight Monday night.
Head coach Kim Mulkey will lead No. 16 LSU onto the floor at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in its season opener against Bellarmine (7 p.m. SEC Network+) and women's college basketball will get its first look at sophomore forward Angel Reese, the Maryland transfer, as well as other newcomers like freshman sensation Flau'jae Johnson.
After capturing lightning in a bottle in a surprisingly successful first season under Mulkey with 26 wins, the Tigers ooze more talent than last season, a prospect that should yield plenty of good for them as they find themselves ranked in The Associated Press preseason poll for the first time in nine years.
TIGERS WRAP UP PRESEASON EXHIBITIONSObservations from LSU women's basketball's win over Langston in final preseason exhibition
LSU WBB RECRUITINGKim Mulkey, LSU women's basketball land commitment from 5-star forward Aalyah Del Rosario
LSU STARTING LINEUP PROJECTIONSProjecting LSU women's basketball starting lineup, rotation
Here are four bold predictions for Mulkey and LSU in 2022-23:
Flau'jae Johnson will be National Freshman of the Year
Johnson has had a tremendous first few months on campus at LSU out of Sprayberry High School in Savannah, Georgia. Mulkey has mentioned that the 5-foot-10 wing has the natural instincts and qualities to be a leader this season but she also understands that she's a freshman.
The McDonald's All-American and signed rapper with Jay-Z's Roc Nation label has already flashed her knack for the big stage, no pun intended, and in the Tigers' two preseason exhibition games, she played with a mature mindset while sitting next to Mulkey on the bench at times learning.
Johnson will start right away and will grow throughout the entire season to ultimately top national freshman honors over UCLA's KiKi Rice, Texas A&M's Janiah Barker and South Carolina's Talaysia Cooper.
LSU Tigers will win more than 26 games
Now, part of this prediction is severely padded by a weak nonconference schedule that features zero preseason top-25 matchups – that's halfway to 26 there – but LSU will be the third-best team in the Southeastern Conference this year.
A conference loss outside of Tennessee (Jan. 30 at the PMAC) and at South Carolina (Feb. 12 at Colonial Life Arena) will happen, either at Arkansas to kickoff SEC play or at Florida during the second to the last week of the season. LSU will end the regular season with either 25 or 26 victories.
The Tigers will win two games in the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, to advance to the semifinals against Tennessee and also surpass their win total from Mulkey's first season.
Three players will average more than 13 points per game
Scoring isn't as much of a question coming into 2022-23 as it was a year ago. In fact, LSU won't have much of an issue putting up points this season.
Reese, senior guard Alexis Morris and West Virginia graduate transfer Jasmine Carson will all average more than 13 points per game to carry LSU to 26 wins or more.
Morris, the lone returner that played significant time last year, will duplicate her 15 points per game from her junior campaign. Carson, the Tigers' sharpshooter, will have space to let it fly, especially early in the season as teams pack the paint to defend Reese, and she'll carry over her 63 percent 3-point shooting percentage from the exhibitions into the season.
Where Reese will hurt opponents most is with her infatuation with rebounding. The 6-3 forward will score plenty of points off second and third chances and at the free-throw line, where she shot 68 percent at Maryland in 2021-22.
LSU will make the Elite Eight
Mulkey continues to stay a tad bit ahead of schedule in the rebuild and will guide LSU to the Elite Eight as a No. 3 NCAA Tournament seed in just her second season, an improvement off the second-round appearance in year one.
With Reese and Morris, the Tigers have a formidable one-two punch that will be consistent and steady as they reach the bigger games on their schedule later in the campaign.
Come postseason time, Mulkey will have the mostly roster playing together enough to make plenty of noise in March Madness.
Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his Tigers and Cajuns coverage on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Got questions regarding LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.