Regardless of all the trials and tribulations of this season, regardless of all those losses, this feels like the beginning of something really good.

LSU lost 14 games. They were one-and-done in the SEC Tournament. They missed the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.

Still, I’m beaming with optimism.

Regardless of all the trials and tribulations of this season, regardless of all those losses, this feels like the beginning of something really good.

That wasn’t the case at this time last year. The program was finishing up a season that saw them plummet to rock bottom.

The Tigers were just plain awful. They finished the year at just 10-21, which included an abysmal 2-16 stretch in the SEC.

LSU went a horrendous 1-17 in their final 18 games. At one point, they lost 15 straight. Thirteen of those losses were by double-digits.

After years of being in the hot seat, LSU finally parted ways with head coach Johnny Jones.

When the Tigers did make a new hire, there was still some uncertainly among the fans. They brought in a guy in Will Wade that wasn’t a household name.

Wade was just 34 years old at the time and only had four seasons of being a head coach under his belt.

But any doubts fans might have had about him quickly went to the waist side when he stepped foot in Baton Rouge. The LSU faithful immediately fell in love with his energy, his passion and his tendency to not mince any words.

Still, even with the admiration they may have gained, it was important to remain realistic. I know I did.

I knew the team would improve under Wade. I knew they wouldn’t be limited to just 10 wins. I knew they would never suffer through a 15-game losing streak.

But there’s just so much Wade could do. Sure, he could coach his butt off. He could change the culture of the program, but at the end of the day, players win games on the court.

If you don’t have the personnel, you won’t win. At least, consistently you won’t.

The Tigers had basically the same exact roster they had the previous year, when they went a lowly 10-21. That roster was in no way bursting with NBA talent.

I was just hoping the team would be competitive and finish the season close to .500. Even Wade later admitted that his No. 1 goal was to merely end with a winning record.

The Tigers did that and then some.

They finished the regular season 17-13 and won eight SEC games.

This is even more impressive when you consider just how good the league is top to bottom this season. After a few lackluster years, the SEC is back, and they’re back in a big way.

Why? Coaching.

Look at the guys leading SEC programs at this time: John Calipari, Rick Barnes, Avery Johnson, Frank Martin, Bruce Pearl, Ben Howland, Mike Anderson and Bryce Drew, just to name a few.

Eight SEC schools made the tournament.

In addition to winning eight league games, LSU won seven contests against RPI top-50 teams. This included wins over Michigan, Houston, Missouri and two victories over both Texas A&M and Arkansas. All those teams made the tournament.

They didn’t have a single RBI top-50 win last season.

Also, six of their 14 losses came against top-50 teams, and only five of those 14 defeats have been by double-digits.

A lot of this has to do with Wade’s coaching and his ability to get his team to play hard, but a lot of it has to do with his recruiting.

He brought in freshman phenom Tremont Waters.

Waters has had one of the greatest freshman campaigns ever at LSU. He finished the regular season averaging 16 points and six assists per game.

That doesn’t even take into account just how much better he makes the players around him.

And the future looks bright.

At this moment, ranks LSU as having the fifth-ranked recruiting class for 2018. This class includes five of the top-50 recruits in the country.

Florida power forward Emmitt Williams (No. 21) is committed, and power forwards Nazreon Reid (No. 22) and Darius Daye (No. 49) are all signed.

Scotlandville guard Jevonte Smart (No. 35)—who has been Louisiana Player of the Year for three straight seasons—is also signed.

And by the way, 6’11 transfer forward Kavell Bigby-Williams, who was an important piece on Oregon’s Final Four team, will finally be eligible to play next season.

We’ve had some great players over the years, but we didn’t have someone who could coach them. Now we do.

Here’s to hoping this could be the start of something special in Baton Rouge.