There is only one word to describe the finals of the NIT on Thursday night: fitting.
After all of the jokes aimed at the Pac-12, the power conference that only managed to put two teams in the NCAA tournament, this season, it would have made too much sense for two teams from the Pac-12 to play for the NIT title.
Anthony Brown scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and Josh Owens added 15 and 12 boards as No. 3 Stanford knocked off No. 5 UMass 74-64 to advance to the title game, which is held at Madison Square Garden. It was nice to see that kind of run out of the Minutemen, a team that surprised people this season. With basically the entire roster back next season, don’t be surprised to see UMass near the top of the Atlantic 10’s preseason poll.
But in the other semifinal, top-seeded Washington lost a thriller in overtime to Minnesota, a six-seed, 68-67. Andre Hollins scored 20 points for the Gophers.
Minnesota has really come together during this tournament, as some of Tubby Smith’s younger players have seemed to finally grasp what he is asking of them. If both Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe return next season, Minnesota would have the potential to make some noise in the Big Ten.
But what if Washington had won? What if they hadn’t dug themselves a 15 point first half hole? What if they hadn’t lost another game to an opponent that they were more talented? Wouldn’t it have just made too much sense a Pac-12 team to have been guaranteed to win the NIT with the final even being played?
Minnesota and Stanford will tip-off at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday night for the title.