LSU is back in the basketball postseason.
It’s not where the Tigers want to be just yet, but it’s a step toward the future they needed when the 2011-12 season began.
After a 17-13 regular season and a strong 1-1 showing at the SEC Tournament, LSU was picked for the 2012 NIT Sunday.
The Tigers (18-14) were seeded sixth in a bracket headlined by Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington. LSU will travel to Eugene, Ore., to face the Oregon Ducks (22-9), who finished third in the Pac-12. The game is set for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Matthew Knight Arena and will be televised on ESPN.
LSU beat Arkansas 70-54 in the opening round of the SEC Tournament last week before pushing No. 1-ranked Kentucky for 33½ minutes before falling 60-51.
“We are excited about receiving the invitation to play in this event,” Tigers coach Trent Johnson said in a statement released by the athletic media relations office.
“The NIT is a very prestigious tournament and has a long history of outstanding teams and players taking part. For us to have an opportunity to still continue to play, to still continue to grow as a basketball team off of our last two games in the SEC Tournament – in which I thought we competed and played as well as we have all year – is going to be very exciting for both the coaching staff and the players.”
For LSU to stick around in the postseason, the Tigers will have to do something they haven’t done well the last 2½ months: Win on the road.
LSU was just 1-7 in SEC road games and lost five of them by double digits. But before league play began, the Tigers won three of four true road games and went 2-1 in a neutral-site tournament.
None of that matters as much as the clean state LSU gets to begin with this week, though.
“There are 100 teams in the country out of 345 that have an opportunity to play in either the NCAA or the NIT, so we are looking forward to our opportunity and the challenge,” Johnson said. “The team is going to work immediately (Sunday) now that the selection show is over and we know our opponent and begin to prepare for Oregon.”
Beating the Ducks will be a major challenge.
Under second-year coach Dana Altman, the Ducks came on strong down the stretch to win six of their final eight games and they’re 15-3 at home.
Since Jan. 8, Oregon’s last four losses have come by 10 points total, including a pair of one-point setbacks against Colorado, the Pac-12 Tournament champion. Before that, though, UO lost five games by 13-17 points – including defeats at Vanderbilt in the season opener (78-64) and at home to Virginia (67-54) on Dec. 18.
LSU lost 76-61 at Vandy on Feb. 8 and dropped a hard-fought 57-52 decision to Virginia at home on Jan. 2.
Of the four NIT brackets, the one LSU is in is the only one with five teams from power conferences – Northwestern, Iowa and the No. 1-seed Huskies are the others.
Each of the other three brackets includes SEC teams as Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss were also selected.
If the Tigers are able to beat the Ducks, they would face the winner of a game between No. 2 seed Dayton and 7th-seeded Iowa. Because of a gymnastics meet at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Friday and the NCAA Women’s Tournament first and second rounds in the building a week from Sunday and March 18, LSU will not host an NIT game.
This is the Tigers’ sixth appearance in the postseason NIT and third in the last 11 years. LSU was in the 1970 tournament, all played in New York City, and also played in the NIT in 1982, 1983, 2002 and 2004.