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March 16, 2014

Tigers to face San Francisco in NIT

When coach Johnny Jones saw that only three Southeastern Conference teams received berths in the NCAA tournament, he knew that could spell the end of LSU's NIT hopes.

Certainly Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas would receive invites to the NIT. Such a situation did occur Sunday night. However, the SEC got a fourth team in the NIT as the Tigers were named the No. 5 seed in the SMU quadrant.

LSU will travel to San Francisco for a first-round game Wednesday night. The Dons have a 21-11 record, including a 13-5 mark in the West Coast Athletic Conference. San Francisco tied BYU for second place behind Gonzaga in the WCAC. Both BYU and Gonzaga are in the NCAA tournament.

"I thought we had a great opportunity of getting selected to the NIT," said Jones at a press conference late Sunday night. "After watching the picks from the NCAA tournament, seeing Tennessee in a play-in game I was disappointed.

"I thought we would get Georgia in the NCAA. So, I did not know how the NIT brackets would shake out after watching the NCAA brackets."

The NIT brackets shook out in such a way that LSU's season will continue this week. The Tigers will be traveling to the West Coast for a first-round NIT game for the second time in three seasons. In 2012, LSU lost by 20 points at Oregon. At least, the Tigers will be taking on a mid-major team this time.

"I don't know a lot about San Francisco," Jones said. "I did coach against their head coach (Rex Walters). He was the head coach at Florida Atlantic while I was at North Texas. He's a Kansas guy, so he probably uses that system."

The players did not watch the NIT Selection Shaw together. The staff was together in case the Tigers received a bid.

"We did not assemble as a team," Jones said. "We did as a staff in preparation to get ready for our opponent if we were selected. The guys are real excited to be playing in the NIT. That's what we are looking for and what we need."

LSU had a similar record last season - 19-12 overall, 9-9 in the SEC and a quarterfinal-loss in the SEC tournament. The only difference is this year's squad had a 19-13 record. The Tigers got no invitation to the NIT 12 months ago.

"It's tough because you are sitting there on edge," Jones said. "You are waiting on an opportunity to hear some news. To be one of those teams left out is 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."

There are four brackets of eight teams with the winners advancing to the semifinals and finals at Madison Square Garden on April 1-3. The four top seeds are SMU, St. John's, Minnesota and Florida State. The higher seed is the home team in all bracket games.

SMU will play Cal-Irvine in a first-round game. The winner of that game will play the winner of the LSU-San Francisco game. The other two opening-round games in the SMU bracket have California hosting Utah Valley State and Arkansas hosting Indiana State.

Georgia is the No. 2 seed in Florida State's bracket. The Bulldogs will play host to Vermont in a first-round game. Missouri is the No. 2 seed in Minnesota's bracket. The Tigers will play host to Davidson in a first-round game.



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