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NIT Championship 2012: Stanford Cardinal Stand In Way Of Minnesota Golden Gophers Title

The Minnesota Golden Gophers weren't expected to make a lot of noise in the college basketball postseason considering their wretched end to the regular season, but Tubby Smith's youngsters have turned things around. It'll all culminate on Thursday night in a game against the Stanford Cardinal for the 2012 NIT championship.

The Gophers have been carried by Rodney Williams through the majority of the tournament, but big contributions from Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman have helped along the way. The majority of those checking out SB Nation Minnesota are well aware of what the Gophers bring to the table, though, so we offer the excellent analysis of Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus for what to watch regarding the team on the other side of the gym:

Over the course of the season, freshman Chasson Randle has emerged as Stanford's go-to player. Randle is a versatile scorer who's made 81 three-pointers at a 43.8 percent clip and can get to the paint off the dribble, though he too has struggled as a finisher, making 43.4 percent of his twos. Randle is at his best when he's getting to the free throw line. He drew 12 foul shots in a 30-point effort against Arizona State. Inside, senior Josh Owens commands a double-team in the post. Owens has nice touch on hook shots and has shot 57.6 percent on two-point attempts. Sophomore point guard Aaron Bright is the last stalwart for the Cardinal, contributing 43.3 percent shooting from downtown.

Beyond them, Johnny Dawkins mixes and matches from a large pool of role players. 6-9 sophomore forward Dwight Powell is the most talented of the group, but the one-time NBA prospect has yet to translate that into consistent production. He did have 18 points and nine boards against Illinois State. Josh Huestis has emerged as a perimeter stopper for Stanford, but he is not a threat from the perimeter.

Once again, it sounds like a difficult matchup for the Golden Gophers. If they're able to keep the turnovers to a minimum, though, there's a good chance Minnesota could win a college basketball championship -- even if it really only means they're the 69th best team in the nation.

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.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.