Raise your hand if you thought Stanford would be the last Pac-12 basketball team left playing this season. Now, put your hand down. You are lying. With all due respect, of course.
Granted, it’s not the tournament for all the marbles, but it’s true. With all of the conference’s other teams getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament, Stanford gets to make the Pac-12’s last stand at the NIT in New York.
Step one for Stanford (22-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59) is the NIT semifinal on Tuesday evening. A win would put the Cardinal in position to win the NIT Tournament for the second time in four years. Behind Anthony Brown’s 26 points, Stanford sweated out a 78-75 win over Vanderbilt last week to punch its ticket to Madison Square Garden.
Up first is Old Dominion (27-7, 13-5 Conference USA; RPI #46), who got to New York thanks to a buzzer-beater over Murray State in the NIT quarterfinals. Racer fans will likely be haunted by that game, much like Stanford meeting Old Dominion on a basketball court in March probably brings bad flashbacks to Cardinal women’s hoops fans whose memories go back to at least 1997.
The Monarchs are making their 11th straight postseason appearance, and are back in the NIT semifinals for the first time since 2006. They began by winning 13 of 14 games (breaking the AP Top 25 for the first time ever), finished by winning six straight to end the regular season, then promptly lost to Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA Tournament.
Trey Freeman leads the way for Old Dominion, averaging a team-high 17 points per game. The C-USA Newcomer of the Year also earned first team all-league honors. Fellow junior guard Aaron Bacote is the only other Monarch averaging in double figures (10.1 ppg). He blew up against VCU, scoring 31 in the Monarchs’ win over the then-ranked Rams.
Canadian sophomore forward Denzell Taylor has become the team’s leading rebounder despite starting only eight games this season. Sophomore guard Jordan Baker and graduate student forward Jonathan Aldredge round out the Monarchs’ probable starting lineup.
Off the bench, sophomore guard Ambrose Mosley has hit 60 three-pointers, and senior forward Richard Ross has swatted a team-high 53 shots. Junior guard Keenan Palmore has also played in every game for the Monarchs this season; his 11 points and nine rebounds helped Old Dominion past Illinois State in the second round of the NIT.
Stanford may be getting Old Dominion right where they want them: away from Norfolk. The Monarchs reigned supreme at the Ted Constant Center, going a perfect 20-0 at home. On neutral courts, Old Dominion has a perfectly neutral 2-2 record.
Indications Tuesday morning were that Michael Humphrey is still questionable for the game due to his ankle injury. After Stanford’s win over Vanderbilt last week, Johnny Dawkins revealed that Humphrey had participated in pregame warmups that day, but also admitted that he was not ready to return at that point. Seven days later, Cardinal fans are hoping Humphrey can make his long-awaited return to the lineup.
History is also on the line for Chasson Randle, who is 11 points away from becoming Stanford’s all-time leading scorer. Randle passed Adam Keefe last week, now only Todd Lichti remains higher on the list.
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