2012 NIT Tournament: Stanford Rides The Youngsters

March 8, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal guard Aaron Bright (2) controls the ball against the California Golden Bears during the second round of the 2012 Pac 12 Tournament in the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Stanford Cardinal are a team brimming with young and promising talent, and could very well for the Pac-12 championship this upcoming season. Although they have solid senior leadership from Josh Owens, the other Cardinal players like Andrew Zimmermann and Jarrett Mann haven't really been the efficient type during their time on the Farm, and the balancing act for finding the right shots for the right players has caused Johnny Dawkins plenty of headaches.

With nothing really at stake, makes sense for Dawkins to go with the youth movement in the NIT. And they're riding high after an overtime victory Monday night.

After a relatively modest coast-to-coast victory against Cleveland State, Mann and Zimmerman sat out most of the Illinois State win in the second half and let the kids run the show. Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle bombed out on three pointers (10 for 14!) to cancel out Illinois State's 15-30 three point barrage. Illinois State is one of the worst three point shooting defenses in the country and it showed.

It also shows how dangerous the Cardinal can be when Randle and Bright go off. If those two can be efficient from the outside, they can get the most from the talent at the swing positions and really unleash on opponents offensively. Getting Randle and Bright quality experience will be important for Stanford going into next season, when they'll need to carry the load with Owens heading out.

Of course, Stanford's biggest issue hasn't been their three point shot ($). It's the easy buckets they've had trouble converting on. Other than an excellent performance from Dwight Powell (8-11), the rest of the Cardinal shot around 40% on their twos and hit 57% of their free throws. Stanford's free throw percentage continues to be the most alarming trend under Dawkins; the Cardinal have ranked among the bottom 100 in the country three years running. It's an issue that needs rectifying in the near future (good news is that Randle, Bright and Powell are all above-average shooters).

The Pac-12 now has three teams in the NIT quarterfinals (with Oregon and Washington set to battle tonight). The battle to 69 is alive and well.

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