NIT 2012: Stanford and Minnesota Will Finalize Final Four

T.J. McaloonContributorMarch 21, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 08:  Andre Hollins #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrates against the Northwestern Wildcats during their first round game of 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 8, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One half of the NIT’s Final Four is set with the Washington Huskies and Massachusetts Minute Men advancing to Madison Square Garden. 

Now, they await the winners of the other two regional final games, which will be the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Stanford Cardinal advancing past their regional finals to meet these teams. 


Stanford Cardinal

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07:  Head coach Johnny Dawkins and Aaron Bright #2 of the Stanford Cardinal talk during the game with the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first round of the Pac12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 7, 2012 i
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Stanford had a good season winning 21 games. However, they were left on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament. Despite being ignored by the NCAA selection committee, they have put together a solid NIT run doing whatever it takes to scrape together two victories. 

In their first game, Stanford brushed by Cleveland St. 76-65, but got a tough match against Illinois St. surviving a close 92-88 overtime win. Now, they go up against a Nevada team that thrived off of playing weaker competition in the Western Athletic Conference. 

Against Nevada, Stanford will get a big performance from freshman guard, Chasson Randle. 

The young player has had a great month of March scoring in double-figures in four of their five games. He’s averaging 18.8 points per game during this month, and has led the Cardinal to a 4-1 record. 

He will have to have a big shooting game, where he goes off for 25 points for Stanford to make the Final Four. When he does, it will make them a dangerous team that has a great chance to advance to the finals. 


Minnesota Golden Gophers

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 08:  Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers talks with Joe Coleman #11 against the Northwestern Wildcats during their first round game of 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhous
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Golden Gophers finished with a respectable 19 wins this year. However, their subpar eight wins in the Big Ten Conference kept them from being a higher seed in the NIT. 

They started this year winning 12 of their first 13 games, but ended up losing 13 of their last 20 games. They won the first game in their conference tournament beating the No. 4 seed, Northwestern, in overtime, 75-68. 

However, what should scare potential NIT opponents is that this Golden Gophers team came within a late-game meltdown of defeating a good Michigan Wolverines team before losing in overtime, 73-69. 

Minnesota blew through a good Miami Hurricanes team in the semifinals of their region 78-60, leading them with a ton of momentum against a weak Middle Tennessee team who lost their opening conference tournament game to an 14-20 Arkansas State team. 

Minnesota will advance past Middle Tennessee behind a big game from junior forward Rodney Williams. Williams led the Gophers to this spot after destroying the Hurricanes for 21 points and five rebounds in only 23 minutes. 


These two teams will cruise to victory, thus making a great Final Four for the NIT.