12. LSU (10-5, 2-0)
When Matt McMahon took over this program last season, there were virtually zero expectations, largely stemming from the fallout of Will Wade’s controversial tenure. In fact, last year’s LSU squad finished just 2-16 in conference play and had their worst season in half a decade. Now in his second season, McMahon has hope brewing in Baton Rouge, even if it’s still just the beginning of the road.
LSU lost at home to Nicholls State in the opening week of the season and many likely thought it would be the same story as last season. While the Tigers added further losses, they have a few nice wins, including against North Texas and Wake Forest back in November. They’ve been playing much better on the defensive end and got a huge road win over Texas A&M to open conference play, followed up by a business-like victory against Vanderbilt this past week.
These Tigers have already matched their total conference wins from last season and the schedule still has numerous opportunities. It’s been a work in progress completely building this roster, but the return of Jalen Cook has been a major boost for the Tigers in recent weeks. Despite the record, it’s premature to call the Tigers a contender in this league; they still sit pretty low on the significant metrics, but they’re certainly a team on the rise to watch in the SEC.