New York, NY (Sports Network) - The Minnesota Golden Gophers and Stanford
Cardinal are the last two teams standing in the 75th-annual NIT, and will meet
tonight at Madison Square Garden for the tournament title.
Tubby Smith can become just the 10th coach in NCAA history to win an NCAA
title and NIT title, providing his Golden Gophers successfully complete the
task at hand. Minnesota didn't fare all that well in the Big Ten this season,
posting a mere 6-12 league ledger, but the team did enough to garner an invite
to the NIT, where it has defeated La Salle, Miami-Florida and Middle Tennessee
all on the road, before edging out top-seeded Washington, 68-67 OT in the
tournament's semifinal round on Tuesday. The Golden Gophers have a rich
tradition in this event, sporting a 22-11 record in non-vacated games and a
28-12 record overall. The team won a pair of NIT championships in 1993 and
1998, although the 1998 championship was vacated. This is the fourth NIT
championship game appearance for Minnesota all-time (lost to Virginia in
The Cardinal are 25-11 on the season and played to mixed reviews in the Pac-12
this year. Johnny Dawkins' squad finished seventh in the conference standings
at 10-8. Stanford is 6-1 in the month of March however, and is seeking a
school-record seventh win this evening. The Cardinal played three straight NIT
games at home and posted wins over Cleveland State, Illinois State and Nevada,
before handling Massachusetts in the semifinal round on Tuesday, 74-64. With
the win over the Minutemen, Stanford improved to 11-4 in the NIT all-time. The
Cardinal are seeking their second NIT title, winning the whole thing in 1991.
Minnesota has won all four previous meetings with Stanford. However, it has
been 37 years since the school's last met (1975).
Washington went on a 12-4 run with under three minutes to play in regulation
and forced overtime against Minnesota on Tuesday, but the Golden Gophers
finally got the job done in the extra session, posting the one-point victory.
Andre Hollins was instrumental in the win, posting 20 points, including an
off-balanced basket in the overtime session to lead the way for Minnesota. The
freshman guard was joined in double figures by junior forward Rodney Williams
and sophomore guard Austin Hollins, who finished with 18 and 12 points,
The Golden Gophers are not the most explosive offensive team out there, but
they are efficient, converting 46.5 percent from the floor, while putting up
68.1 ppg. Strong defensive play is also an asset for this team, with Minnesota
allowing just 64.5 ppg this year and owning a +4.0 rebounding margin. Losing
its top player early on to injury (Trevor Mbakwe) and the recent loss of Ralph
Sampson III (doubtful/knee) certainly has left the team thin along the
frontline. Williams has done his best to handle the brunt of the workload and
currently leads the team in both scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.6 rpg).
Perimeter help comes in the form of Julian Welch (9.6 ppg), Austin Hollins
(9.1 ppg) and Andre Hollins (8.9 ppg).
In a game when neither team shot particularly well, the Cardinal were able to
keep UMass at bay thanks to advantages both on the boards and at the free-
throw line. Stanford grabbed an impressive 54 rebounds compared to 45 for
UMass, while holding a 21-13 edge in points from the charity stripe. Anthony
Brown led the way offensively, finishing with 18 points. Josh Owens posted a
double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Aaron Bright and Chasson
Randle posted 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Cardinal are fueled by a solid inside-out game. Randle and Bright handle
things along the perimeter, while Owens takes care of the dirty work down low.
Randle, who leads the team at 13.8 ppg, is one of the top three-point shooters
in the country, hitting 43.4 percent from beyond the arc. Bright (11.6 ppg)
can also fill up the basket from long range, combining with Randle for 151 of
the team's 246 total three-pointers. The 6-8 Owens converts a team-best 57.3
percent from the floor and nets 11.8 ppg. He is also the team-leader in
rebounding (5.9 rpg) and steals (44).
The Sports Network