NIT Preview: South Dakota State at Texas
With their hopes of a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament dashed by an early exit in the Summit League Tournament, South Dakota State shifts to Plan B this week as they head South for their second appearance in the National Invitation Tournament.
The Jackrabbits (24-8) landed in the NIT after successfully defending their Summit League regular season title but then losing in the quarterfinals one of the conference tournament to Western Illinois.
In the NIT, SDSU is seeded seventh and will travel to play number-two Texas, Tuesday (March 19) night.
The Longhorns (16-16) finished sixth in the Big XII Conference this season and have been dealing with injuries late in the season, as they have dropped five of their last six games, including the conference tournament opener against Kansas.
Texas was without leading scorer Kerwin Roach II for the final five games of the regular season. He did return for the Kansas game but only played 20 minutes and scored just eight points - half of his season average.
While he was returning to the lineup, Longhorns center Jaxson Hayes was going down with an injury in the loss to the Jayhawks. The 6'11 Freshman of the Year in the Big XII suffered a knee sprain and won't be in the lineup against South Dakota State. Hayes hit 73 percent of his shots this season and was the team's leading shot blocker, second-leading rebounder, and third-leading scorer.
6'9 Senior Dylan Osetkowski will present match-up problems for SDSU. The forward is fourth in the Big XII in rebounding and is the Longhorns' second-leading scorer.
Freshman guard Courtney Ramey moved into the starting lineup at mid-season and had scored in double figures in nine of the last 13 games.
Sophomore point guard Matt Coleman is fifth in the Big XII in assists.
The Texas bench features 6'9 and 6'8 players that will challenge a Jackrabbit team not known for its' size.
The Longhorns were the best team in the Big XII taking care of the ball this season, turning it over just 11 times per game. They were also second in the conference averaging nearly nine three-pointers per game and third in fewest points allowed per game.
UT was near the bottom in points scored, rebounding, and opponents field goal percentage.
Tipoff is 8:00 PM, Tuesday in Austin. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The winner faces the winner of Xavier and Toledo in the NIT's second round.
This is the Jackrabbits first meeting with the Longhorns and the second SDSU appearance in the NIT. In 2015, The eighth-seed Jacks opened with a win at Colorado State before falling two nights later at Vanderbilt.
I talked to South Dakota State associate head coach Eric Henderson about the NIT opener at Texas: