The Stanford Cardinal (4th seed) take on the Stephen F. Austin (5th seed) Lumberjacks in the first round of the NIT tournament. Both teams found themselves on the outside looking in as far as the ‘Big Dance’ is concerned and now find themselves in this tournament. This is Stanford’s second straight appearance in the NIT as well.
The Lumberjacks hail from the Southland Conference and were the regular season champions with a 27-4 record although they fell short to Northwestern State in the Conference title game. While they had a very strong season their out of conference schedule was very weak and without winning the outright conference title they were out of luck.
For Stanford it was a rollercoaster type of season that ended in another disappointing year. They started to pull things together during the middle of the season but were unable to finish strong enough to make the tournament. They were also bounced from the Pac-12 tournament in the first round by the Arizona State Sun Devils.
The Lumberjacks are led by senior forward Taylor Smith who averages 15.6 points per game and just over nine rebounds. He also averages 2.9 blocks per game which is just outside the top ten in the country.
For Stanford it will be up to big men Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell to contain the Lumberjacks’ Smith inside the paint. Huestis averages 10.7 points a game while hauling in a team leading 9.3 rebounds as well as leading the team with 2.1 blocks per game. Powell led the team with 15.4 points each game while pulling in 8.2 boards off the glass as well.
The guards are also very potent with both Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle. Randle averages 14 points each game while Bright only averages 9.4 but that is more due to his inconsistent play. When he is on he in Stanford’s best guard and as a sophomore has a couple good seasons left in him.
What To Watch For
As I mentioned earlier, keep an eye on the matchup in the paint with which could be the deciding factor in the game. Stanford has their strong inside presence while Stephen Austin has one of their own. Both are well rounded with offfensive and defensive abilities but I think Stanford has the edge in this one because of their two-headed beast compared to Stephen F. Austin’s one. The thing is they only lost four games this season so the Lumberjacks are not to be taken lightly since they have proven they know how to win.