Preview: Stephen F. Austin at Stanford
Stanford will begin its quest to become the third team to repeat as NIT champion when it hosts Stephen F. Austin in a first-round game Tuesday. The fourth-seeded Cardinal, who also won this tournament in 1991, finished in a four-way tie for sixth in Pac-12 play and was bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by Arizona State. Aaron Bright, who averaged 16.8 points during last season's NIT run, including a career-high 29 points in a second-round win against Illinois State, is coming off a season-high 27 points in the overtime loss to Arizona State.Stephen F. Austin owns the most wins in the 32-team field, yet the Lumberjacks are seeded fifth after getting upset by Northwestern State in the Southland Conference tournament final. Stephen F. Austin owns a win at Oklahoma, which is seeded 10th in the NCAA Tournament field. The Lumberjacks have never faced Stanford.TV: 11 p.m. ET, ESPN2ABOUT STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (27-4): The Lumberjacks lead all of Division I in scoring defense, allowing an average of 51 points. Taylor Smith, a 6-6 senior forward, spearheads the defense, averaging 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. He also averages 15.6 points while leading the nation in field-goal percentage (69.2). Fellow seniors Hal Bateman and Antonio Bostic hold down the back court, combining for 3.1 steals. Bateman, who is from Davenport, Iowa, will likely be matched against Chasson Randle of Stanford, who grew up across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Ill.ABOUT STANFORD (18-14): Smith and the Lumberjacks will surely have trouble matching up with Stanford's size. Dwight Powell, a 6-10 junior forward, averages 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. Josh Huestis, a 6-7 junior forward, averages 10.7 points, 9.3 boards and 2.1 blocks. He's one of only three Stanford players to accumulate at least 500 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in their careers. Powell and Huestis combined for 40 points and 18 rebounds in last week's loss to Arizona State, which had success using a small lineup for much of the game. TIP-INS1. The only programs to claim back-to-back NIT championships are St. John's (1943-1944) and South Carolina (2005-2006).2. Stanford is 3-1 all-time against teams from the Southland Conference, most recently defeating Central Arkansas in the 2011-12 season opener.3. Stephen F. Austin has held 62 consecutive opponents to fewer than 70 points, including three games this season against Northwestern State, the nation's highest-scoring team (81).PREDICTION: Stanford 70, Stephen F. Austin 64
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