NIT 2012 Semi-Finals: Final Four Teams Make NIT a Must-Watch for Basketball Fans

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08:  Andrew Zimmermann #34 of the Stanford Cardinal boxes out David Kravish #45 of the California Golden Bears during the quarterfinals of the Pac12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. California won 77-71.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I'm going to write something you probably aren't used to seeing, so get ready for a shocker:

You absolutely should watch the conclusion of the NIT this week.

Think about it like this—you have a whole week without any college basketball if you wait for the return of the tourney this weekend. For a diehard college basketball fan—or the insatiable gamblers out there—that stretch without basketball simply isn't acceptable.

But there's more to it than just that, of course.

The remaining teams and matchups are genuinely intriguing.

Consider Washington, an NCAA tournament snub who have ripped through the NIT, scoring at will. Led by future NBA players Tony Wroten, Jr. and Terrence Ross, the Huskies are as fun a team to watch as any in college basketball.

But they get a Minnesota team that is better than a 22-14 record suggests. The Golden Gophers have beaten Indiana and Northwestern this year and losing closely-contested games against Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State.

On the other side of the bracket, UMass takes on Stanford in a battle of two very solid teams.

The Minuteman have used a high-powered offense to survive against Mississippi State, Seton Hall and Drexel, a bevy of schools with NCAA tournament aspirations. UMass has survived the toughest road of all four teams remaining in the NIT, and they've done so behind sophomore guard Chaz Williams, who has scored 20 or more points in each game.

But the Cardinal boast superior depth, with eight players averaging 12 or more minutes a game and a bench that can go 10-deep if needed.

Expect UMass and Stanford to be a shootout. And expect the NIT's final four teams to provide far more compelling basketball than you might expect.

Even if you aren't a helpless college basketball addict or depraved gambler.


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