NIT Championship 2012: Stanford Basketball Is One Win Away

Mar 27, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Stanford Cardinal guard Chasson Randle (5) shoots over to score during the second half of the semifinal round against the Massachusetts Minutemen at the NIT held at Madison Square Garden. Stanford won 74-64. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The Stanford Cardinal look like they might have a bright future ahead of themselves. They're playing a mediocre field, but they've played good enough basketball for the right to be 69.

This wasn't an aesthetically-pleasing game they played against UMass in the semifinal, as one would expect. There were 34 turnovers and 24 assists. As expected, the UMass defense caused plenty of problems for Stanford's young offense (shooting 36.9% from the field), all while hitting under 39% of their two point shots. Jarrett Mann and Andrew Zimmerman missed all eight of their shots combined, Dwight Powell shot 1 for 5, even Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle hit only six of 15. If not for Anthony Brown and Josh Owens, Stanford would probably be on a flight back to the Bay Area.

Luckily, as expected, Stanford's defense was just as stout. UMass shot only 33.8% from the field and missed 17 of 22 threes while being outrebounded 54-45. Owens (12), Powell (9), Randle (6), Josh Huestis (5) and Brown (5) all combined to crash the boards and keep the Minutemen from ever establishing any offensive rhythm.

Stanford also took advantage of their free throw opportunities. Randle, Powell, and Bright hit fourteen free throws on their own, which was more than the entire UMass team (13). Eleven free throws near the end (particularly by Randle and Bright) cinched things up.

Stanford again rode their youngsters, particularly Powell, Brown, Bright and Randle. That appears to be the nucleus that Johnny Dawkins will rely on the next few years, and they're proving themselves in this NIT Tournament run. It'd be a modest success for this improving Cardinal squad, and given the weak nature of the Pac-12, there should be high expectations going into next season.

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