NIT 2012: Golden Gophers Advance To Thursday Night's Championship Game

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will play Stanford on Thursday for the NIT Championship. Tip off is at 6 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN.

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NIT Tournament 2012: Washington Huskies Unique Challenge For Minnesota Golden Gophers

The 2012 National Invitational Tournament, better known as the NIT, has featured some solid games when considering 68 teams were all involved in the actual NCAA Tournament. It's nearing a close, though, as Tuesday night's game between the Washington Huskies and Minnesota Golden Gophers will determine one half of the championship matchup.

That matchup won't be easy, either, for Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers.

The Gophers entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed whereas the Huskies were the top-seeded team in the tournament. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus detailed the differences between the two teams in a column on Tuesday afternoon.

First, the takeaway on Washington:

The Huskies have the most NBA talent in the remaining group. In wing Terrence Ross and guard Tony Wroten, they boast two future first-round picks. Ross has been terrific in the NIT, averaging 26.3 points on 66.3 percent True Shooting. Wroten turned passer in the first two games, handing out 15 assists and attempting just 10 shots, before getting to the free throw line 14 times and scoring 22 points against Oregon. Washington has also gotten solid contributions from point guard Abdul Gaddy, a non-factor at times much of the season.

And now, our beloved Golden Gophers:

The key for Minnesota has been the play of athletic forward Rodney Williams, who shifted from the wing to the post after Mbakwe's injury. Williams has always been an impact defender and high-percentage shooter, but using an above-average share of the Golden Gophers' plays is a new addition to his repertoire. Williams has averaged 22.0 points in the NIT. Minnesota has also gotten 17.0 points per game from freshman point guard Andre Hollins, who has shot nearly the same percentage from three (39.1 percent) as inside the arc (39.8 percent) this season. Better to play Hollins-no relation to backcourt-mate Austin Hollins, who is the son of Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins-for the drive.

It won't be easy for the Gophers, especially if Ralph Sampson III remains on the sideline, but at least the level of play should make the game worth watching.

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also learn more about college basketball around the nation at SB Nation's College Basketball hub.

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