New York Colleges: NIT

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 76, BYU 70

April, 2, 2013
What it means: Baylor is one win away from its first NIT title.

The Bears defeated BYU in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, 76-70, in a game that was tight until the final few minutes (see below).

Baylor (22-14, 9-9 Big 12) had a disappointing regular season, finishing sixth in the Big 12 after being picked to finish second in the preseason. But the Bears are ending the season in fine form.

BYU (24-12, 10-6 WCC) failed in its quest win the NIT for the third time. The Cougars also won the tourney in 1951 and 1966.

The turning point: The first half of this game was tight: The lead changed hands six times, but neither team went ahead by more than four points. With the game tied at 33 in the closing seconds, Taurean Prince tipped in a rebound to give Baylor a 35-33 advantage at intermission.

The second half unfolded like the first -- lots of lead changes early, with neither team able to separate from the other. Leading 57-54 with less than five minutes remaining, the Bears finally asserted control, thanks to Pierre Jackson. The 5-foot-10 senior, who was averaging 19.7 points per game, scored seven straight points -- capped off by a trey -- to make it 64-54 with 3:24 left. BYU's Matt Carlino drained three consecutive shots from beyond the arc down the stretch to bring the Cougars within three, 71-68, but they would get no closer.

Star watch: Jackson scored a team-high 24 points for Baylor -- 15 of them coming in the second half -- and also had 10 assists. Junior forward Cory Jefferson scored 21 points, and freshman center Isaiah Austin had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Tyler Haws scored a game-high 25 points for BYU. Carlino added 19.

Number crunch: BYU was shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range coming into the game, but shot just 25 percent from downtown (5-for-20) on Tuesday. The percentage would have been far worse if not for Carlino's late hot streak. Also, Baylor committed just seven turnovers on the night.

What's next: Baylor will play the winner of the second semifinal, Maryland versus Iowa, in the championship game at 9 p.m. Thursday.

BYU heads home to Provo, Utah, and looks forward to next season.

W2W4: Maryland vs. Iowa

April, 2, 2013
Here are three things to watch for when Maryland (25-12, 8-10 ACC) plays Iowa (24-12, 9-9 Big Ten) on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Tipoff will be at approximately 9:30 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN2.

TRADITIONAL POWERS: These two programs are accustomed to being in the NCAA tournament, not the NIT. They have a combined 46 appearances in the Big Dance (Maryland 24, Iowa 22) and five appearances in the Final Four (Iowa three, Maryland two). Maryland won the national championship in 2002.

But Maryland and Iowa have fallen on hard times of late. The Terrapins haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2010; the Hawkeyes haven't been there since 2006. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon (second year) and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery (third year) are both in the process of restoring their teams to national prominence.

Maryland is a No. 2 seed in this tournament, while Iowa is a No. 3 seed. The teams have met twice before, in 1984 and 1999. Maryland won both games.

THE TERRAPINS: Maryland, picked to finish sixth in the ACC in the preseason, ended up in seventh, under .500 in the conference. But the Terps upset No. 2 Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinals before losing to North Carolina by three in the semis, and then knocked off Niagra, Denver and Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) to earn a trip to New York.

(Incidentally, Maryland also opened their season in New York, with a 72-69 loss to Kentucky, in the first-ever college basketball game at the Barclays Center.)

Two players average in double figures -- 6-foot-5 sophomore swingman Dez Wells (13.2 ppg) and 7-1 sophomore center Alex Len (11.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

The Terrapins are one of the best rebounding teams in the country -- ranked fourth in the country in rebound margin (+8.7 per game). But they are one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to turnovers -- 338th (out of 345) in Division I in turnover margin (-4.2 per game).

THE HAWKEYES: Iowa, picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten in the preseason, ended up in sixth place. The Hawkeyes were a game better than Illinois and Minnesota in the standings, but both those teams made the NCAA tournament. Iowa had its bubble burst on Selection Sunday, but beat Indiana State, Stony Brook and Virginia (in Charlottesville) to earn a trip to New York.

Two players average in double figures -- 6-foot-6 junior forward Roy Devyn Marble (15.1 ppg) and 6-8 sophomore forward Aaron White (12.9 ppg).

The Hawkeyes are also a good rebounding team -- ranked 38th in the country in rebound margin (plus-5 per game). They're also one of the best defensive teams in the country -- ranked 18th in defensive field-goal percentage (38.8). But they're not particularly good on offense -- 219th in offensive field-goal percentage (42.4) and 269th in 3-point percentage (30.9).

St. John's, Stony Brook make the NIT

March, 17, 2013
St. John's and Stony Brook will represent the Big Apple in the year's NIT.

The Red Storm, a No. 5 seed, will play at No. 4 seed St. Joseph's, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Seawolves, a No. 7 seed, will play at No. 2 seed Massachusetts on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.

(Click here to see the entire NIT bracket.)

Stony Brook (24-7, 14-2) was one of 10 automatic qualifiers in the 32-team field, guaranteed a slot because of it was the America East regular season champion. The Seawolves were upset by No. 4 seed Albany in the America East tournament semifinals.

They'll open against UMass (21-11, 9-7), which finished tied for sixth in the Atlantic 10.

St. John's (16-15, 8-10) received one of 22 at-large bids. The Red Storm, who finished 11th in the Big East, lost five games in a row to end the regular season. And they will be without leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison, who was suspended for the rest of the season on March 1, for conduct detrimental to the team.

They'll open against St. Joe's (18-13, 8-8), which finished tied for eighth in the Atlantic 10.

"We all wanted to be in the NCAA tournament, but we have to deal with the reality of where we are in the evolution of our basketball program," said St. John's coach Steve Lavin. "The NIT represents an opportunity to extend our season so we can set the foundation to sustain our program for years to come."

This marks St. John's 29th appearance in the NIT, which is the most all time.

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.

W2W4: Seton Hall vs. UMass

March, 16, 2012
Here are three things to watch for when Seton Hall (21-12, 8-10 Big East) takes on Massachusetts (23-11, 9-7 Atlantic 10) on Saturday morning at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, N.J.

Tip-off is at 11 a.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN, or via ESPN3.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A spot in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.

Seton Hall, one of four No. 1 seeds in this year's NIT, got here by beating Stony Brook 63-61 on Tuesday night. UMass, a No. 5 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Mississippi State in Starkville, 101-96 in double overtime, also on Tuesday.

The winner will play the winner of No. 3 seed Drexel versus No. 7 seed Northern Iowa. If Seton Hall wins, they will host that quarterfinal game on Tuesday, again at Walsh Gym on campus.

THE PIRATES: Seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope led Seton Hall, as usual, against Stony Brook -- Theodore had 21 points and six assists, Pope had 20 points and nine rebounds.

Despite the disappointment of not making the NCAA tournament in their final opportunity, the two seniors looked motivated to play well in the NIT and get back to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and championship game.

It's also a great opportunity for all the Seton Hall freshmen and sophomores to accumulate some postseason experience.

THE MINUTEMEN: UMass finished tied for fifth in the regular season in the Atlantic 10, upset top-seed Temple in the A-10 tourney quarterfinals, and then lost 84-80 to eventual A-10 champ St. Bonaventure in the semifinals.

The Minutemen are led by 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Chaz Williams, a Brooklyn native who transferred from Hofstra, who is averaging 16.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. Six-foot-nine sophomore forward Raphiael Putney and 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Jesse Morgan average 10.3 and 10.1 points per game, respectively.

UMass is 16th in scoring in the country (77.5 ppg), but 293rd in scoring defense (72.6 ppg). The Minutemen are 32nd in 3-point field goals per game (8.1), but just 219th in free throw percentage (67.9). They are eighth in the country in steals per game (8.9), but 271st in turnovers per game (14.9).

Derek Kellogg, a former UMass point guard and John Calipari disciple, is finishing his fourth year as head coach.

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.