Moments after Stanford lost to Cal in the Pac-12 Tournament thereby dashingthe Cardinals faint NCAA Tourney hopes I commiserated with Coach JohnnyDawkins. I said, Hey, get into the NIT,and go win the thing. He smiled wrylyand nodded.Exactly three weeks later, Coach Dawkins and his team havethe chance to do just that. A win over Minnesota will giveStanford its second NIT championship.Now I know what youre thinking.Some combination of Who cares? and, Great, so theyll be the 69thbest team in the country. Ill address the latter quip first: thats plain silly. Thanks to the automatic bids, there are atleast 15 teams in the NCAA tournament that are worse than the majority of NITparticipants. And yes, smarty pants, Irealize that being the 54th best team isnt anything to brag abouteither. But its not about that. Its about winning a championship, even onethat is secondary in nature. Winning a32-team tourney aint easy, regardless of the name on the marquis.As for who cares, I will say this: There are two types of teams that play in theNIT those that are disappointed by not making the real tournament andtherefore dont really want to be there, and those that had little or no shotat the NCAA but believe theyre moving in the right direction and see the NITas a stepping stone. Stanford clearlyfalls into the second category.This is, without question, a team on the rise. Granted, four seniors includingall-conference forward Josh Owens will move on; but the real nucleus of thegroup is a monstrous sophomore class.Combined with freshman stud Chasson Randle, theyre primed not only toget back to the big dance next season, but to contend for a conferencetitle. This team is peaking at the right time, and more fun towatch than it has been in years. Hugetalents like Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown are finally beginning to realizetheir potential. Aaron Brightspassion gives his 59 body a 69 game.There is energy, there is excitement.That is why fans should care. For Stanford, the NIT is a means to an end. Getting in means little; winning it means alot. It would be a significant step inthe rebuilding process that began the moment the Lopez twins announced theywere leaving two years early for the NBA.And hey, always nice to hang a banner Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal women shouldnt get to have allthe fun.