Stanford students have always excelled on the boards. This year, so does the Cardinal basketball team.

Stanford outrebounds its opponents by almost nine per game, the third-best margin in the nation. That's a statistic that worries Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs, whose team plays Stanford for the NIT championship tonight at Madison Square Garden."They're a very physical team," Tubbs said. "They're just bigger and stronger than we are."

Stanford is an elite academic school whose students usually get top scores on their college board entrance exams. But it hasn't won any postseason championships in basketball since the 1942 NCAA title.

That could change if Oklahoma gets overpowered by Stanford's formidable front line - 6-foot-9 center Adam Keefe and a pair of 6-7 forwards, Andrew Vlahov and Deshon Wingate.

Keefe, a two-time, All Pac-10 selection, is averaging 21.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He and Vlahov combined for 44 points and 21 rebounds in Stanford's 73-71 semifinal victory over Massachusetts.

"Adam is a great player," Tubbs said. "He's big and strong, but he's also a good athlete."

Like Oklahoma (20-14), Stanford had a mediocre regular season. The Cardinal (19-13) finished in a five-way tie for fifth in the Pac-10 after losing four of its last five games.

"I don't think anybody in their wildest dreams thought we would be in this place at this time," Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. "This is a tremendous boost for our program."