But the Tigers will have to go a long way to take advantage of the opportunity.
The NIT offered LSU’s reprieve Sunday night, but the Tigers will have to travel to the west coast for a first-round matchup against the San Francisco Dons of the West Coast Conference.
LSU (19-13) was the first team announced on the televised selection show after the four No. 1 seeds were revealed.
The Tigers will be one of the last to actually play, however, as the game will tip off at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ESPNU. The game will be in San Francisco’s cozy, 4,500-seat War Memorial Gymnasium.
“This year when we saw our name up on the board, it was an exciting time,” said LSU coach Johnny Jones, whose team was left out of the NIT under similar circumstances last year. “It’s certainly little bit nerve racking.”
LSU is the No. 5 seed in its quarter of the 32-team bracket, while San Francisco (21-11) is the No. 4 seed. The LSU-San Francisco winner will advance to play the winner of No. 1 seed SMU against No. 8 seed Cal-Irvine.
SMU (23-9), which is coached by Hall of Famer Larry Brown, was mentioned by many analysts as having the biggest gripe in not making the NCAA tournament.
Other teams in LSU’s quadrant include No. 3 seed Arkansas, which opens with No. 6 seed Indiana State, and No. 2 seed California, which gets No. 7 seed Utah Valley.
Other No. 1 seeds are St. Johns, Minnesota and Florida State.
The NIT semifinals and finals are played in New York City’s Madison Square Gardens on Tuesday, April 1 and Thursday, April 3.
The Tigers were one of two Louisiana teams in the field as Louisiana Tech (27-7) got one of the automatic bids the NIT gives to teams that win conference regular season titles but are not invited to the NCAA tournament. Louisiana Tech won the Conference USA regular season, but was left out of the Big Dance after losing to Tulsa in its conference tournament.
Tech was one of 13 teams that got automatic bids, which reduced the available at-large spots and dimmed LSU’s hopes of reaching the postseason.
But LSU and Arkansas were two of four SEC teams invited, along with Georgia and Missouri.
“There’s some teams that were left out of the field altogether, so to be one of the teams in is something we’re really excited about,” Jones said.
San Francisco finished tied for second with BYU in the West Coast Conference with a 13-5 league record.
The Dons had won six straight before falling to BYU 79-77 in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. Regular season and tournament champion Gonzaga and BYU were both invited to the NCAA tournament.
San Francisco features a balanced scoring attack with four starters in double figures, led by 6-7 forward Cole Dickerson, who tops the Dons with 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds.