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LSU, not Duke or Kentucky, will have college basketball's best freshman class

With the addition of Brandon Sampson, the Tigers will have the most impressive collection of young talent in college hoops next season.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Sampson was originally slated to attend St. John's before the firing of Steve Lavin caused the four-star guard to reopen his commitment. That coaching changed proved to pay major dividends for LSU. Sampson chose the Tigers on Monday morning, giving coach Johnny Jones what's likely to be considered the top incoming recruiting class in the country.

Sampson is a 6'4 Louisiana native who chose St. John's in January over offers from LSU, USC, UCLA and Cal, among others. He's a long shooting guard known for attacking the rim. Sampson joins a class that already includes No. 1 recruit Ben Simmons and five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney.

The best collection of freshmen next season won't be at Duke or Kentucky, it'll be at LSU. The Tigers were primed for a big season even before the addition of Sampson, but the four-star guard likely pushes LSU past Arizona, Duke, Michigan State and anyone else in recruiting rankings. 247 Sports already has declared the Tigers own the top recruiting class.

The trio of freshmen joins the team one year after big men Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey leave school early for the NBA. Had one or both of those players chose to come back to school, LSU might have been preseason No. 1. As it stands, the Tigers will still be a preseason top 25 team mostly thanks to the star power of Simmons. After the first semester, the Tigers will also add power forward Craig Victor, a transfer from Arizona was ranked as a four-star out of the class of 2014.

Perimeter play was an issue for LSU last season, but that won't be the case anymore. Expect to see the 6'10 Simmons handle most of the point guard duties out of the power forward slot, while his former AAU teammate Blakeney and Sampson fill in on the wing.

It took some good fortune for the Tigers to get here. Simmons' godfather David Patrick is an assistant at LSU and once played professional ball with Simmons' father. Blakeney had originally committed to Louisville before re-opening his commitment 10 days later amid whispers of pressure from Nike. Sampson would have ended up at St. John's had Lavin kept his job.

The Tigers will be Kentucky's main competition out of the SEC next season, so long as these three freshmen live up to the hype. Kentucky lost its top seven scorers from last year's team and may strike out on the remaining few impact players left in the class of 2015. The Wildcats will still have a talented core led by Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee and incoming freshman Skal Labissiere, but the Tigers will be a challenge.


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