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Wade views NIT as ‘good next step’ for LSU

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

LSU didn’t have a watch party to find out its postseason fate like most teams did on Selection Sunday. They knew their fate was likely to be the NIT.

LSU coach Will Wade called the chance to play in the NIT a “good next step” after a horrendous 2016-2017 season, but added that it wasn’t something that he wants his team to get used to being excited about in future years.

Wade said he views the NIT as opportunity for more practice time and creates a belief in the progress the team has made and the culture that they are trying to build.

The Tigers (17-14, 8-10 Southeastern Conference) also get another home game this season as the No. 3 seed and are hosting No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette (27-6, 16-2 Sun Belt) on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

“I know myself, my coaching staff is excited,” Wade said. “I expect our players to be excited. They were excited when we talked about it before. It’s a great opportunity for us to keep playing and to play competitive and highly charged games, and we’ve got to live to our level of play and play better than we’ve been playing.”

Something that stuck out to Wade was ULL’s physicality down low, which can pose a massive issue for LSU. The Tigers have struggled to win the rebounding battle in most games and average just 33.5 rebounds per game compared to ULL’s 38.9.

In the SEC tournament game against Mississippi State, LSU went small because of the lack of production from senior big men Aaron Epps and Duop Reath. It is something that Wade views as not ideal, but gives the Tigers another option if necessary.

The main option for LSU is freshman point guard Tremont Waters. Waters averages 16 points and almost 6 assist per game.

“Any team would be dumb to not game plan around him if you’re playing us,” Wade said. “Coach [Bob] Marlin is a good coach, they know what they’re doing, and I’m sure they’ll game plan around him.”

It’s the third time LSU faces an in-state opponent in the NIT (Tulane 1982, UNO 1983) and the first time LSU hosts since 2002. The Tigers have beat ULL in all five games since 2000 and hold a 36-10 advantage over the Cajuns.