This is the time of year when optimism reigns supreme across much -- if not all -- of Division I's basketball programs. The offseason reports usually fall into a familiar pattern. The veterans have been in the weight room and are now much stronger (or, if they were kind of hefty before, they're much leaner now). The incoming freshmen are all much more mature and talented than expected. And the coaches are "excited" and "looking forward" to the new season.
Far be it from me to throw cold water on such sentiments. In fact, I'm here to do the opposite. In my estimation, the following four teams are correct to be excited about the upcoming season. These teams ended last season in their conference tournaments but should do better than that in 2013-14.
The last two times we've seen LSU in the NCAA tournament, the Tigers were impressive on both occasions. In 2006, a team led by Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tyrus Thomas made it all the way to the Final Four. And in the 2009 round of 32, LSU gave eventual national champion North Carolina a better game than just about any other opponent in the Tar Heels' entire bracket.
Trouble is, those are the only two appearances the Tigers have made in the tournament over the past eight seasons. Will LSU make it back to the field of 68 in 2014? It could happen.