By Steve Lansdale
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas men’s basketball team’s season will continue Tuesday when the Longhorns host the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State at 8 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Texas enters the game with a 16-16 record, including an 8-10 mark this season against Big 12 teams; SDSU will arrive in Austin with a 24-8 record, going 14-2 this season against teams from The Summit League. The Longhorns are the No. 2 seed in one of the four eight-team brackets. South Dakota State is the No. 7 seed.
The appearance in this year’s Postseason NIT will be UT’s first in 33 years, since the 1985-86 season. Texas is 6-3 all-time in four previous NIT appearances, including a run to the 1978 NIT championship.
Not only did the Jackrabbits run through much of The Summit League, they held their own against some of the better opponents on their schedule, falling 88-80 at Memphis and scaring then-No. 7 Nevada before falling, 75-68. SDSU lost, 79-76, to Western Illinois in the quarterfinals of The Summit League Championship.
T.J. Otzelberger took over as South Dakota State head coach in 2016 after serving as an assistant coach at Iowa State and Washington. The Jackrabbits have reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons at the helm.
SDSU has three players who have averaged more than 10 points per game this season: senior forward Mike Daum (6-9, 235 pounds) leads the Jackrabbits with an average of 25.3 points per game. He scored more than 40 points in a game twice this season, including a season-high 42 points in a 101-92 victory over Southern. Guard David Jenkins (6-2, 200) averaged 19.7 points per game, while 6-6, 210-pound guard Skyler Flatten put up 15.5 points per game. In addition to his offense, Daum also leads the team in rebounds (11.7 per game) and blocked shots (30). Guard Tevin King leads SDSU with 138 assists and 57 assists, and is his team’s fourth-leading scorer, with an average of 9.3 points per game.