Stanford’s NIT Title: So What?

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2012

On Thursday night, Stanford earned the right to be one of the handful of teams in Division I basketball to end its season with a win, storming to a 24-point win over Minnesota in the NIT Final. While plenty of people will write that off (with some reason) as just showing that the Cardinal are the 69th best team in college hoops, what exactly does the win mean for Johnny Dawkins and his budding program?

Stanford, NIT Champion

Stanford Took Home The NIT Title, But What Does It Mean For Next Year? (Frank Franklin II/AP Photo)

Conventional wisdom says that an NIT win bodes well for the future, providing a springboard to success in the following season. Even a cursory glance at the history in the last decade shows that this is not really the case. Of the last 10 winners of the NIT, just four teams made the NCAA Tournament the following year, with only one team, West Virginia’s 2006-07 squad, actually earning a victory in the ensuing NCAA Tourney. In fact, over those 10 years, the NIT winners actually turned in a record the following year that was, on average, 4.3 games worse than the record in the year of the NIT win.

Year of NIT Win Team Record in NIT Year Record the Following Year
2011 Wichita State 29-8 27-6* (lost in Round of 64)
2010 Dayton 25-12 22-14
2009 Penn State 27-11 11-20
2008 Ohio State 24-13 22-11* (lost in Round of 64)
2007 West Virginia 27-9 26-11* (lost in Sweet Sixteen)
2006 South Carolina 23-15 14-16
2005 South Carolina 20-13 23-15
2004 Michigan 23-11 13-18
2003 St. John’s 21-13 (NIT Title vacated) 6-21
2002 Memphis 27-7 23-7* (lost in Round of 64)

* Indicates team made NCAA Tournament

The common denominator for those teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in the year following the NIT Tournament was plenty of key returnees. For instance, while last year’s Wichita State team had four significant seniors on their NIT championship team, they still returned six players who played at least 30% of their team’s minutes, all of whom were upperclassmen this season. In 2009, Ohio State returned three players from the previous year’s NIT team who had played at least 50% of their team’s minutes; you might remember some of those names – Evan Turner, Jon Diebler and David Lighty. And the 2008 West Virginia team featured five players who had earned at least 30% of the Mountaineer minutes in the 2007 NIT title run, including high impact guys like Joe Alexander and Da’Sean Butler.

Like those teams, the Cardinal are suited to be one of those teams that uses the NIT title as a jumping-off point, given that they’ll return eight players who played this year, including five guys who got at least 40% of the team’s minutes. Their only loss to graduation for which there is not an immediate obvious replacement is forward Josh Owens, Dawkins’ most efficient offensive player this season. Sophomores Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell will get the first chance to grow into that role, but neither guy is nearly as physical as Owens. However, in the backcourt, the Cardinal seem set. Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle figure to be the type of players that stick around Palo Alto for four years, meaning they’ve got another couple of years together as a tandem, while wing Anthony Brown is still a guy from whom a big jump in production is expected. Throw in a solid recruiting class highlighted by four-star big man Grant Verhoeven and four-star wing Rosco Allen – both ESPNU Top 100 recruits – and a handful of potentially solid role players (John Gage, Gabe Harris, Stefan Nastic), and the Cardinal could be in line to translate the extra weeks of practice and game experience they got this March into wins next year.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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