New York Colleges: 2012 National Invitation Tournament

Stanford routs Minnesota in NIT final

March, 29, 2012

Stanford and Minnesota had the college basketball stage all to themselves Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, two days before the NCAA Final Four.

The Cardinal put on a heck of a show, pummeling the Golden Gophers 75-51 to win the 75th annual National Invitation Tournament.

Stanford, under fourth-year coach Johnny Dawkins, finishes the season 26-11 -- the program's most victories since 2008, the last time the Cardinal made the NCAA tournament.

"This season has been a little bit of a roller coaster ride for us," said Dawkins. "I thought our kids saved the best for last. They played a terrific game from start to finish."

The game was close for most of the first half, the two teams tied at 21 with less than six minutes remaining before intermission. That's when Stanford's Aaron Bright connected on a 3-pointer and was fouled in the process.

The ensuing free throw made it 25-21 with 5:28 remaining.

The Cardinal led 31-25 at halftime, and then scored the first nine points of the second half to make it 40-25. That, in effect, was the knockout blow. Minnesota never recovered.

Stanford led by as many as 30, and the final few minutes of the game were nothing but garbage time.

"We’ve had good runs before," said Dawkins, "but never on a stage of this magnitude, playing for a championship."

Bright and fellow guard Chasson Randle scored 15 points apiece for Stanford, with Bright being named the tournament's most outstanding player.

Rodney Williams led three Minnesota players in double figures with 12 points before fouling out.

"We didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball," said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, whose team had 22 turnovers on the night. "We missed, I thought, some easy baskets in the first half. … When you’re missing those shots like that, you get a little frustrated.

"A lot of it had to do with Stanford, and their intensity."

"I thought we did a good job in transition of making them a half-court team," said Dawkins. "Our identity all year long has been to defend, defend, defend. We preached it so much, and I’m just happy to see the kids have success."

After starting the season 10-1 (with the only loss coming against Syracuse, by just six points, also at Madison Square Garden), Stanford lost five of six games from mid-January to early February, and ended up finishing seventh in a weak Pac-12.

But the Cardinal finished the season on a high note, and have reason to feel good about the future. Bright is a sophomore, Randle a freshman, and some other key contributors are underclassmen as well.

"We have a really good core group of young kids that really stepped up throughout this tournament," said Dawkins. "I think they’ve grown up this year, and that’s exciting for our future."

"We know what it takes to win a tournament now," said Bright. "I think we can use this experience for next year, and making a run at March Madness."

As for Minnesota, its final game was very disappointing. But the Golden Gophers, a No. 6 seed in this tournament, won three straight road games to get to the Big Apple, and then beat Washington in overtime in the semifinals two nights ago.

Minnesota finished 23-15 overall, tied for ninth in the Big Ten, but suffered a big blow just seven games into the season when leading scorer Trevor Mbakwe suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the rest of the campaign.

Smith will lose just one senior from this team -- starting center Ralph Sampson III, who also missed the NIT due to injury. And it appears likely Mbakwe will be back after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

"I learned that they’re as competitive as any group I’ve ever coached," said Smith, when asked what he learned about his team in this tournament. "And I know about their heart, because we had to overcome a lot of adversity.

"I’m just glad we have 'em all coming back, that’s the best thing."

Both teams are looking forward to brighter things in 2012-2013. But only one will be able to look back at an NIT title.

"They’re champions forever," said Dawkins of his 2011-2012 Stanford squad. "That’s something that no one will ever be able to take away from them."

Rapid Reax: Stanford 75, Minnesota 51

March, 29, 2012

NEW YORK -- A quick take on Stanford's 75-51 win over Minnesota on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

WHAT IT MEANS: Stanford wins the 75th annual National Invitation Tournament -- its second NIT championship, after also winning the title back in 1991.

The Cardinal become the 17th team to win multiple NITs. This also marks Stanford's first win over Minnesota in five meetings all time.

Stanford finishes its season 26-11, while Minnesota wraps up at 23-15.

TURNING POINT: This game was tied up at 21 with less than six minutes to go in the first half. That's when Stanford went on an 8-0 run, ignited by a four-point play by Aaron Bright. The Cardinal led 31-25 at intermission.

The real turning point was the first four minutes of the second half, when Stanford exploded on a 9-0 run to make it 40-25. Jarrett Mann, Anthony Brown and Andrew Zimmerman contributed the points during that stretch, which proved to be a knockout blow. This one got out of hand early -- the Cardinal led by as many as 30, and the last several minutes was nothing but garbage time.

KEY PLAYER: Stanford got a well-rounded team effort on Thursday night, but the guards led the way. Freshman Chasson Randle had a game-high 15 points, making three of his five attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. And Bright, a sophomore, also scored 15 off the bench, and was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

KEY STAT: Stanford shot 50 percent from the field (29-for-58), while Minnesota shot just 37.3 percent (19-for-51). Also, Minnesota had 22 turnovers.

WHAT'S NEXT: The college basketball season at the Garden has officially come to a close. We'll see you back here in November.

Enjoy the Final Four, everyone.

W2W4: Stanford vs. Minnesota

March, 29, 2012
Here are three things to watch for when Stanford (25-11, 10-8 Pac-12) takes on Minnesota (23-14, 6-12 Big Ten) on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN, or via ESPN3.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The championship of the 75th annual National Invitation Tournament. These two teams are among the final eight Division I teams in action this season. Pittsburgh will host Washington State in the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational on Friday night. Then the Final Four gets under way on Saturday.

Stanford, a No. 3 seed in the NIT, won three home games to get to New York (against Cleveland State, Illinois State and Nevada), and then defeated Massachusetts 74-64 in the semifinals on Tuesday night at MSG.

Minnesota, a No. 6 seed in the NIT, won three road games to get to New York (against LaSalle, Miami and Middle Tennessee), and then defeated Washington 68-67 in overtime in the semifinals on Tuesday night at MSG.

THE CARDINAL: Stanford got off to a 10-1 start this season, its only loss coming versus Syracuse, 69-63 at Madison Square Garden on the day after Thanksgiving. But then it lost five of six games from mid-January to early February, finished seventh in the Pac-12 standings, and lost to California in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

The Cardinal, coached by former Duke guard and assistant coach Johnny Dawkins, have three players who average in double figures: 6-foot-1 freshman guard Chasson Randle (13.8 ppg, .434 3P%), 6-foot-8 senior forward Josh Owens (11.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Aaron Bright (11.6 ppg, 3.6 apg).

Stanford is 39th in Division I in 3-point field goal percentage (37.7), and 42nd in rebound margin (+4.6 per game). But it is 202nd in turnovers per game (13.8), and 257th in free throw percentage (66.5).

THE GOLDEN GOPHERS: Minnesota began the season 12-1, but lost its leading scorer, Trevor Mbakwe, to a torn in ACL in the team's seventh game of the season -- obviously a big blow. It then lost four straight games right after Christmas, and six in a row in February, finishing tied for ninth in the Big Ten with Illinois, and losing to Michigan in overtime in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

The Gophers, led by former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, have just one player currently averaging in double figures: 6-foot-7 junior forward Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg); 6-foot-3 junior guard Julian Welch, 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Austin Hollins and 6-foot-1 freshman guard Andre Hollins (no relation) chip in 9.6, 9.1 and 8.9 points per game, respectively.

Minnesota is 26th in the country in blocked shots per game (4.9), and 31st in assists per game (15.1). But it is 239th in 3-point field goals per game (5.4), and 245th in turnovers per game (14.5).

One final note: Tubby Smith is trying to become the 10th coach to win both an NCAA tournament title and an NIT title. That list currently includes Adolph Rupp, Al McGuire, Dean Smith, Bob Knight and Jim Calhoun.

Rapid Reax: Seton Hall 63, Stony Brook 61

March, 13, 2012

Recap | Box score

WHAT IT MEANS: Seton Hall (21-12), one of the four No. 1 seeds in the National Invitation Tournament, withstands a tough challenge from No. 8 seed Stony Brook (22-10) and advances to the second round of the NIT.

The Pirates, who were disappointed to not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, extend their season for at least one more game. The Seawolves, who won the America East regular season title but were upset in the conference championship game by Vermont, are done for the season.

TURNING POINT: After Stony Brook went ahead 2-0, Seton Hall scored 12 points in a row -- the Seawolves went almost eight minutes without a point, turning the ball over on several occasions. But then Stony Brook started making shots, and rallied to trail by just two, 32-30, at halftime.

Stony Brook actually took a three-point lead early in the second half, 39-36, with just over 16 minutes remaining. The game was tied midway through the second half at 46. The key sequence came right after that -- a 7-0 Seton Hall run to make it 53-46.

In the middle of that run, Dave Coley -- Stony Brook's second-leading scorer -- picked up his fourth foul on a charge call, and then received a questionable technical foul for protesting the call. That knocked Coley out of the game, and Stony Brook really could have used him down the stretch.

Still, Stony Brook had one last chance to tie or win the game. Bryan Dougher missed a long 3-point attempt that would have put the Seawolves on top, and then Tommy Brenton's putback at the buzzer went around the rim and fell out.

KEY PLAYER: Seton Hall's two senior leaders stepped up in a big way Tuesday night. Jordan Theodore had 21 points and six assists; Herb Pope had 20 points and nine rebounds.

For Stony Brook, seniors Dallis Joyner and Dougher were both in double figures in their final collegiate game -- Joyner had 14 points, Dougher added 12. Marcus Rouse had 13 points off the bench.

KEY STAT: Seton Hall had 15 steals on the night, including six by Fuquan Edwin, the NCAA leader in steals this season.

MISCELLANEOUS: This was the first Seton Hall game played in Walsh Gymnasium, on the Seton Hall campus, since Dec. 4, 2000. ... Seton Hall had lost 11 straight games in the NIT, dating back to 1956.

WHAT'S NEXT: Seton Hall will next face No. 5 seed UMass, which beat No. 4 seed Mississippi State 101-96 in double overtime Tuesday night. The date for the game has not yet been determined, but it will be at Walsh Gymnasium.