BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers received the news they were hoping for shortly after 7:30 p.m. when its name came up for a spot in the 2014 post-season National Invitation Tournament.
The Tigers are slated to play the San Francisco Dons at 9 p.m. CDT in San Francisco Wednesday in a game televised by ESPNU. This will be the first meeting between the teams in men's basketball.
LSU is 19-13 and 9-9 in the SEC, while San Francisco enters the NIT 21-11 and 13-5 in the conference. San Francisco is the fourth seed and LSU the fifth seed in what was called SMU quadrant, as they are the No. 1 seed. The winner of this game will meet the winner of the SMU-UC Irvine game.
This will be LSU’s seventh trip to the NIT and the 27th post-season appearance since 1953 for the Tigers. LSU last went to the NIT in 2012, losing in the first round to Oregon in Eugene.
LSU is coming off a 1-1 split in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, winning over Alabama (68-56) in the second round before losing to Kentucky (85-67) in the quarterfinals.
The game will be played in Memorial Gymnasium on campus, a facility that seats around 4,500 fans.
LSU’s best showing in the post-season NIT was in 1970 when Pete Maravich was a senior at a time when the 16-team event was played entirely at Madison Square Garden in New York City. LSU won two games before losing in the semifinals.
The Dons are making their 23rd overall postseason appearance and sixth showing in the NIT. USF won the 1949 NIT title with a 48-47 victory over Loyola-Chicago and also made NIT appearances in 1950, '66, '76 and 2004.
Coach Johnny Jones made a brief appearance with the media late Sunday evening and here are some of his comments:
“We are really excited about the news that we got earlier tonight about the opportunity to continue playing this year in postseason play in the NIT. As a staff and as a team, our guys are really looking forward to the challenges that are in front of us against a very good San Francisco basketball team. Our guys are really looking forward to an opportunity to continue playing together, improving as a basketball team and making some positive strides for our basketball program.”
On the feelings leading up to the selection of teams in the tournament…
“Well, it’s tough because you’re sitting there on edge. You’re waiting on an opportunity to hear some news and not knowing. Just like any of the tournaments that you’re sitting out there – that you’re welcoming that opportunity. To be one of those teams that’s left out, it’s certainly extremely tough. We went through that last year. This year when we were able to see our name come up on the board, it was an exciting time. So yes, it’s certainly a little bit nerve-wrecking – the wait.”
On if the team got together to watch the NIT selection show…
“No, we did not assemble as a team. We did as a staff in the office in preparation, trying to get ready so if we are selected that we could start getting to work on our opponent. So again, when we saw our name come up there, we were excited but not knowing and being in that position is extremely tough.”
On if he was surprised on getting selected to the NIT…
“I thought we had a great opportunity at least – I think our body of work and what we’ve done especially this season – the teams that we’ve played, the caliber schedule that we’ve played and our conference. After watching the picks from the NCAA Tournament and talking about Florida, Kentucky where they went, but to see that they had Tennessee in a play-in game and where they were seeded, certainly disappointed. I thought that we would get another team in – Georgia. So, I did not know how the NIT brackets would shake out after watching the NCAA brackets.”
On the importance of the NIT…
“I think its growth program-wise especially from where we were last year. I think it signifies that we’re making some positive steps. When you look at the guys that we have in this basketball team, we have underclassmen having an opportunity to continue playing in the postseason – being one of those 32 teams selected after the 68 teams who are playing in the NCAA Tournament. Having an opportunity to be one of those 32 teams, we are really excited about.”
On why he thinks his team was selected to the NIT…
“I thought they looked and probably saw that we were a team that have really challenged this year. The wins that we’ve had and being able to compete at a certain level against some high-caliber teams and how we were able to challenge. They are some teams that were left out of the field all together. There were good teams. To be selected, we were really excited about that.”
On what he knows about San Francisco...
“Not a lot. Not enough – I did coach against the head coach (Rex Walters). He was the head coach at Florida Atlantic when I was coaching at North Texas for a while, and we had an opportunity to compete against each other. But I don’t know a lot about this year’s basketball team. We’ll certainly have to get to work on them tonight.”
On San Francisco Head Coach Rex Walters’ coaching style…
“He played at Kansas, and he kind of has that background. He was there with Roy Williams so he’s from that school of basketball. So their system and everything that they run, that’s probably about as much or as close without knowing their team by knowing a little bit about their system.”
On the quick turnaround…
“Well, it’s a quick turnaround. But at the same time, you’re excited about playing about getting to the destination out there and getting yourself ready. The big thing is it’s a new opponent. It’s not one of those conference teams that we’re familiar with so we’re going to have to do a lot of work – prepping and preparing for each other, but we are in the same situation that they are. That’s what the postseason play is about. You have to be excited about it.”
LSU Men's Basketball History in the NIT
1970 National Invitation Tournament
Coach Press Maravich
Madison Square Garden - New York, New York
March 15 - LSU 83, Georgetown 82 (First Round)
March 17 - LSU 97, Oklahoma 94 (Quarterfinals)
March 19 - #8 Marquette 101, LSU 79 (Semifinals)
March 21 - Army 75, LSU 68 (Third Place Game)
1982 National Invitation Tournament
Coach Dale Brown
First Round - Baton Rouge, La.
March 12 - Tulane 83, LSU 72
1983 National Invitation Tournament
Coach Dale Brown
First Round - Baton Rouge, La.
March 16 - New Orleans 99, LSU 94 (ot)
2002 National Invitation Tournament
Coach John Brady
First Round - Iowa City, Iowa
March 13 - LSU 63, Iowa 61
Second Round - Baton Rouge, La.
March 19 - Ball St. 75, LSU 65
2004 National Invitation Tournament
Coach John Brady
First Round - Norman, Okla.
March 17 - Oklahoma 70, LSU 61
2012 National Invitation Tournament
Coach Trent Johnson
First Round -- Eugene, Ore.
March 13 -- Oregon 96, LSU 76
2014 NIT Pairings
8 UC Irvine at 1 SMU, Wed., 8 p.m. ESPN2
5 LSU at 4 San Francisco, Wed., 9 p.m. ESPNU
6 Indiana St. at 3 Arkansas, Tues., 8 p.m. ESPN
7 Utah Valley at 2 California, Wed., 9:30 p.m. ESPN3.com
8 Robert Morris at 1 St. John's, Tues., 6 p.m. ESPNU
5 Belmont at 4 Green Bay, Tues., 6:15 p.m. ESPN3.com
6 Georgia St. at 3 Clemson, Tues., 8 p.m. ESPNU
2 Illinois at 7 Boston U., Wed., 6 p.m. ESPN2
8 High Point at 1 Minnesota, Tues., 7:15 p.m. ESPN3.com
5 Utah at 4 St. Mary's (CA), Tues., 10 p.m. ESPN2
6 Toledo at 3 Southern Miss, Wed., 7:30 p.m. ESPN3.com
7 Davidson at 2 Missouri, Tues., 8 p.m. ESPN2
8 Florida Gulf Coast at 1 Florida St., Tues., 6 p.m. ESPN2
5 West Virginia at 4 Georgetown, Tues., 6 p.m. ESPN
6 Iona at 3 Louisiana Tech, Wed., 6:30 p.m. ESPN3.com
7 Vermont at 2 Georgia, Wed., 7 p.m. ESPNU