Will Wade is on track for a fifth winning record in his five seasons guiding a college program:
SEASON - TEAM - RECORD - HIGHLIGHT
2013-14 - UTC - 18-15 - SoCon coach of year
2014-15 - UTC - 22-10 - 15-3 mark in SoCon
2015-16 - VCU - 25-11 - NCAA tournament
2016-17 - VCU - 26-9 - NCAA tournament
2017-18 - LSU - 11-4 - To be determined
Despite being picked to finish last among the Southeastern Conference's 14 men's basketball teams, LSU has back-to-back road wins at Texas A&M and Arkansas to go along with a quality nonconference win over Michigan at the Maui Invitational in late November.
In other words, Will Wade is working wonders again.
The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach has guided LSU to an 11-4 record in his first season, with his Tigers already surpassing the victory total from last year's 10-21 finish under Johnny Jones. LSU's latest triumph was its most impressive under Wade. The Tigers humbled the Razorbacks 75-54 late Wednesday night, halting their 11-game winning streak inside Bud Walton Arena that dated to last season.
"We prepared very well, but I never saw this coming," Wade said afterward on LSU's radio network. "I am so proud of our players. That's as well as we've ever executed and as disciplined as we've ever executed the plan all year long. We didn't turn the ball over. We shared the ball.
"We had a double-digit lead for 34 minutes of the game. It was surgical what we did."
Surgically repairing basketball programs is nothing new for the 35-year-old Wade, who earned his first head coaching job in 2013 at UTC. The Mocs had gone 24-40 overall and 13-23 in Southern Conference games in the two seasons prior to his arrival, but Wade led UTC to a 40-25 record and a 27-7 mark within the league before departing for the vacancy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Wade had been an assistant at VCU before coming to Chattanooga, and he guided the Rams to a 51-20 record and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons before accepting the opportunity in Baton Rouge.
Inheriting senior forwards Duop Reath and Aaron Epps and sophomore guard Skylar Mays, Wade added four-star point guard Tremont Waters to run the show. Waters, who is from New Haven, Conn., leads the Tigers with a scoring average of 17.4 points per game and canned a 25-footer with 0.7 second remaining last Saturday to give LSU a stunning 69-68 upset of No. 11 Texas A&M in College Station.
Earlier this week on an SEC teleconference, Wade said he hoped the miracle heave by Waters would provide more meaning than just one memorable win.
"We needed something good to happen for us, and I think that shot might provide a jolt," Wade said. "It's something we can build off of. When you're trying to turn something around, you need something good to happen. You need some luck to happen so they can see positive results from their work."
Judging by Wednesday night's performance at Arkansas, it appears Wade got his wish.
LSU was an abysmal 195th in the RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rankings used by the NCAA at the end of last season but moved up to 62nd after Wednesday's win over the Razorbacks, who dropped from 16th to 25th. The Tigers are 2-1 in SEC play after finishing 2-16 last season — Wade is a staggering 57-16 in conference games so far in his career — and they will try to surpass their league wins total from a year ago when they host Alabama this weekend.
"We need people hanging from the catwalks Saturday night," Wade said. "Our kids deserve it. Our fans have been waiting for a team that plays hard and gets after it, and our guys have earned it these last two games.
"If we can take care of our home court, we've positioned ourselves to really make a move."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.