South Dakota State, the Summit League regular season co-champions and Summit League Tournament runner-up to North Dakota State, grabbed an automatic bid in the 2015 National Invitation Tournament and will open play at Colorado State, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

The Jackrabbits are the number eight team in their region. It is SDSU's fourth straight post season appearance. The NIT is a tricky proposition for some teams, who had their sights set on making the NCAA Tournament field of 64 teams, but need to adjust their goals in just a few days to get ready for this event instead.

I talked with SDSU's top assistant coach Rob Klinkefus about getting the team ready mentally for this tournament:

Despite losing the in the Summit League Tournament Championship game to North Dakota State last week, the Jackrabbits are playing some of their best basketball of the season, and with the exception of their shooting woes against the Bison, Coach Klinkefus says the Jacks are doing a lot of things right heading into the NIT:

Colorado State v San Diego State
David Becker/Getty Images

The Rams (27-6) are one of four number one seeds in the 32-team field, after finishing third in the Mountain West Conference regular season standings and losing to San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals. They are in the top 50 in the nation in rebounding, assists, and fewest turnovers, and led the MWC in scoring, free throw attempts/makes, and rebounding margin.

And even though there isn't a lot of time to craft a detailed scouting report for CSU, the SDSU coaches already have a pretty good idea what their opponent will try to do for former Iowa Sate head coach Larry Eustachy, who's now in his third season in Fort Collins:

J.J. Avila - Colorado State
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

One big question mark for Colorado State is the status of senior forward J.J. Avila.  The number four scorer and number four rebounder in the Mountain West Conference missed the Rams last game with a sprained ankle.  Without him, CSU scored a season low 43 points in a loss to San Diego State.  Coach Kilinkfus says they're planning on seeing Avila in the lineup Wednesday night:

The Rams have two other players who average in double figures: Daniel Bejarano and Stanton Kidd.  They also have four different players who average at least five rebounds a game.

South Dakota State University vs North Dakota State University Men's Summit League Tournament
Dave EggenInertia

SDSU (23-10) is led by senior forward Cody Larson, the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, guard Deondre Parks, the conference Newcomer of the Year, and All-Summit League first team selection, guard George Marshall. The Jackrabbits are in the top 50 in the nation in scoring, margin of victory, and three-point shooting.

Coach Klinkefus says this is one of the most special group of players to ever wear a SDSU uniform.  Stringing together a few wins in the NIT would mean good things for this program:

This will be SDSU's first NIT appearance and first-ever meeting with Colorado State. Tipoff in Fort Collins is 9:00 PM, Wednesday night.  The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.

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