Why NIT appearance would be major step for LSU basketball
SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryLSU, @bigahickey or by email to Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question of the Day: Monday, March 5
The LSU basketball team concluded the regular season with a 17-13 record, putting the Tigers in solid shape to play in the National Invitation Tournament regardless of what happens in the SEC Tournament this week. With a win against Mississippi State on Thursday, the Tigers probably would earn a first-round home game.
That scenario sets up our question for Monday.
Should LSU basketball fans be excited about playing in the NIT?
The answer to that is a resounding yes.
When LSU previously found itself in this position, in Ben Simmons’ lone season in Baton Rouge, the school turned down its NIT invitation. A year later, Johnny Jones was fired.
First-year coach Will Wade is making certain history does not repeat itself.
“I’ve let the people at the NIT know we’d be fired up about going and fired up about playing in it,” Wade said on Monday.
For Wade, it’s a no-brainer.
Most of his roster will be back next year, bolstered by the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Any taste of postseason experience will be valuable for the Tigers’ future. And depending on the matchups, LSU is capable of reaching the tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. No matter the event, that venue prepares players for basketball’s biggest stages.
“From where we were last year to where we are now, that’s a pretty good improvement,” said Wade, who turned around a 10-21 program in Year 1. “For us to be able to play in the postseason would be important. Our guys want to play. They like being around each other. They enjoy what’s going on. It’s my job as a head coach to do everything possible to make sure we keep playing.”
Of course, Wade’s goal in St. Louis this week is to win the SEC Tournament and make the NIT a non-issue. But if that doesn’t happen, the NIT is an excellent consolation prize.
In future years, the thought of LSU playing in the NIT will be a letdown. The bar has been raised. But this year, LSU fans should embrace the tournament as an opportunity to strengthen the program’s foundation.
To see prior answers to our Question of the Day, we have you covered.