They were optimistic but no one knew for certain whether that defeat in Atlanta would be the last time they'd play this season. Especially for the seniors Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman, they spent most of their weekend wondering if they'd ever put on a LSU uniform again.
Most of the players said they spent Sunday night in their apartments, watching the various TV specials announcing postseason tournament selections. Coleman and Stringer were with Johnny O'Bryant, and there was a big rush of relief once they finally learned their postseason fate.
"I was excited for those guys being seniors," O'Bryant said. "Andre's like a brother to me, so if I can keep his career going, that'll sit well with me when this thing is over with. We were happy about it. We'll get the other guys excited and be ready to play."
Certainly the NIT doesn't carry quite the same amount of weight as the NCAA tournament, and the players admit they didn't reach their preseason goals. But any disappointment won't prevent the Tigers from being motivated to take on San Francisco on Wednesday night.
"You want to make the NCAA tournament, but this is the second best thing," said junior guard Anthony Hickey. "A lot of good teams that didn't make the NCAA will be in the NIT. It's up for grabs, you just have to go get it."
This marks LSU's first postseason appearance of the Johnny Jones era. The Tigers missed out on the NIT last season, but multiple players said this would provide an opportunity to continue moving LSU in the right direction.
Jones did say he won't measure the success of his program based on wins and losses in the NIT, but he admitted a deep run would certainly give him something to build on moving forward.
"Winning's always healthy," Jones said. "It's always a great momentum builder for your program when you're able to do that. Winning would certainly make us feel like we have momentum going forward…Getting to New York would put us in position to be even more excited and have more to build on and more to sell for the future."
NOTHING WILL KEEP STRINGER OFF THE COURT
Friday's loss to Kentucky left Andre Stringer battered and bruised, both physically and emotionally. Stringer said Monday he's a bit "banged up" but he's not suffering from an injury severe enough to keep him from playing in the NIT.
"I'm a little banged up right now, but I'll be fine," Stringer said. "Anything I do have going on, I'll play through it. Everything's going to be laid out on the line for me. There's no holding back."
MARTIN WILL RETURN FOR ANOTHER YEAR
Freshman forward Jarell Martin said Monday that he will return for his sophomore season.
Though many considered Martin a possible one-and-done candidate, his first year on campus didn't quite live up to expectations, and he admitted that. He said his game isn't "complete" enough for the NBA and he's well aware another year in college can help get him to where he needs to be.
"It was a big decision," Martin said. "Guys are very eager to go play in the league and that's a great experience. But I felt like I have some things to improve in before going off to the next level."
Martin said he has not discussed his decision with Coach Jones yet. Jones said he doesn't want those talks happening until after the season.
"That would be exciting news at the appropriate time, but it's not something I want him thinking about," Jones said. "But that will be exciting for them at the end of the year, as a coach you just try to help them grow into the kind of men that can make those types of decisions."
Many feel both O'Bryant and Jordan Mickey will have decisions to make after the season as well when it comes to the NBA. Neither said Monday that they've taken any time to consider that, and that will happen once the Tigers' NIT run is complete.