The 2012 NIT championship game takes place tonight at Madison Square Garden, where Minnesota will face off against Stanford to see who is the best of the rest. Though the level of talent may not be to the level of the NCAA tourney, the drama of the games is just as enthralling.
While all eyes are descending on New Orleans, readying themselves for the Final Four, featuring basketball juggernauts Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas, few will even think to tune into to this final. But if it continues the trend of tournament, then it should be a good game to watch.
Here is a look back at three of the NIT’s best games so far.
No. 1 Washington vs. No. 6 Minnesota, 67-68 (OT)
Minnesota may be looking at a title tonight, but they first had to face off against the No. 1 overall seed Washington in the semifinals. The Gophers, who were a surprise to get that far, were the underdogs in the contest, but overcame a late surge by the Huskies to pull out the overtime win.
Minnesota controlled the game for long stretches and never ceded the lead to Washington, but 21 turnovers by the Gophers kept it close.
Andre Hollins led the way for Minnesota, scoring 20 points, five of which were in overtime.
It was a hard-fought win and one of the tournament's biggest upsets—but for the Gophers, it will all be for naught if they cannot complete it with a win against Stanford.
No. 4 Miss. State vs. No. 5 UMass, 96-101 (2OT)
It took 60 minutes to decide the outcome of this first-round matchup between Mississippi State and UMass, but it was the Minutemen who would come out on top, outlasting the Bulldogs to being their run that would take them all the way to the semifinals.
Chaz Williams led the way for UMass with 28 points, hitting 4-of-7 from beyond the arch.
MSU’s Arnett Moultrie was the best player on the floor, nabbing 34 points, but did not have the kind of support that Williams was gifted, and could not carry the Bulldogs on his own.
No. 3 Stanford vs. No. 7 Illinois State, 92-88 (OT)
The Cardinal's run to Madison Square Garden was not easy. In only the second round they already faced an uphill battle, having to climb out of hole and force overtime to get by Illinois State.
Neither team was truly able to establish a confident lead, but Stanford was the one playing catch up for most of the 40 minutes. In overtime, the two sides exchanged baskets again, but the Redbirds' inability to hit their shots down the stretch was their undoing.
Stanford plays tonight in the championship game against Minnesota. Both are battle-tested and have gone the distance to be at this point. Each team knows what it takes to win.
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