Another trip to Tulsa


NDSU heads to Tulsa today with the opportunity to win the Summit League title tomorrow night with a win against Oral Roberts and some help from South Dakota State.

Brett Winkelman and NDSU won a huge game at Oral Roberts in 2009.

Brett Winkelman and NDSU won a huge game at Oral Roberts in 2009.

This trip takes me back six years ago when the Bison went to ORU needing a win to lock up the Summit League championship. Or so they thought. All heck broke loose the night before, when league commissioner Tom Douple informed then Bison AD Gene Taylor and coach Saul Phillips that they would have to beat the Golden Eagles to take the top seed, which was completely the OPPOSITE of what NDSU and everyone else was led to believe that week. Going in Phillips told the media that even if NDSU lost to ORU, the Bison would get the top seed because of a higher RPI rating. Douple said that was not the case and if ORU won, they would win the title. What made this news even more frustrating was at the time the Golden Eagles were humming, winners of 35 straight home conference games.

What happened remains a great night in NDSU basketball history. Ben Woodside scored 29 points, Brett Winkleman chipped in 21 and the Bison won their first Summit League championship. The trip back to Fargo lives in infamy in terms of celebration, I remember greeting the team at the airport and you could still see the excitement in their faces the next morning.

To me that signaled a changing of the guard in the Summit. Oral Roberts had won four straight regular season titles prior to NDSU winning and the Golden Eagles won just one title after that. The Bison and SDSU have combined to win four since then(counting 2015). That night signified to me and many others that the Bison were going to be a factor in the league race and it all comes full circle tomorrow night.

Bottom line: Bison need a win, and help from the Coyotes

Once again, NDSU could be involved in a regular season league tiebreaker situation, only this time, there’s more on the line. Recall in November when the Bison football team got the Missouri Valley Football Conference autobid after finishing tied with Illinois State, a team it did not play. The Valley tiebreaking procedures went all the way to the third and final criteria, which was the Gridiron Power Index. NDSU had the higher rating, thus got the nod — although it really didn’t mean much because both teams were virtually guaranteed spots and first round byes in the FCS playoffs.

Basketball is different, and here’s what NDSU needs this week: a win over Oral Roberts and a South Dakota State loss at South Dakota. Anything different and the Jackrabbits will be declared regular season champions and here’s the significance: the regular season champ gets an autobid to the N.I.T. should it fail to reach the NCAA tournament. If NDSU and SDSU both win this week, the Jacks would get the nod because the criteria goes to whichever team had the better record against the next-highest finisher, in this case the team that matters would be South Dakota. NDSU split with the Coyotes while the Jacks would have swept. The other two teams in the top five, Fort Wayne and ORU, would both be moot in the discussion because NDSU would have swept ORU and both split with Fort Wayne. Sixth-place Denver and IUPUI, both at 5-9, are out of the discussion.

By the way, this is unofficial. Nothing surprises me in tiebreaker criteria.

Here’s the schedule this week:

  • SDSU (12-3) is at USD (8-6) Saturday
  • NDSU (12-3) is at Oral Roberts (8-6) Thursday
  • Fort Wayne (8-6) hosts Omaha Thursday and Western Illinois Saturday
  • Oral Roberts (8-6) hosts NDSU Thursday and Denver Saturday.
  • USD (8-6) hosts Denver Thursday and SDSU Saturday

The Fight for First

NDSU’s men’s basketball team continues to rack up the wins at home, taking care of IUPUI last night 57-48, despite falling behind 9-2, you can watch highlights of the game here. With the win, the Bison moved back into a first place tie with SDSU at 11-3 in the Summit League, each with two games remaining, while Fort Wayne and Oral Roberts have faint hopes of making the top two. Here’s what everyone has left:

SDSU: 11-3 (Saturday vs Oral Roberts, next Saturday at USD)

NDSU: 11-3 (Saturday vs Fort Wayne, Thursday at Oral Roberts)

Fort Wayne: 8-5 (Saturday at NDSU, Thursday vs Omaha, next Saturday vs WIU)

Oral Roberts: 8-5 (Saturday at ORU, Thursday vs NDSU, next Sat. vs Denver)

It’s this simple, if NDSU and SDSU win on Saturday that means they will clinch no worse than the two seed for the Summit League Tournament, which is huge since that gives you the extra day off from the quarters to the semifinals. A win tomorrow for the Bison is anything but a foregone conclusion since the Mastodons are the hottest team in the league, winners of seven straight, they haven’t lost in a month, January 21st. I know I had a couple of people ask me about the tiebreaker procedure if the top two teams are tied, here it is straight from the Summit League:

Tiebreaker Procedures
Tiebreaker procedures shall be used ONLY to determine seeds for the League tournament. Regular season standings shall stand.

If there are multiple ties, the ties shall be broken in descending order. (i.e., a tie at the #1 position will be broken before any others).
Once a tie is broken using the procedures below, it shall remain broken for purposes of all future comparisons.
Two-team Tiebreaking Criteria. The following criteria should be applied (in order) to break ties between two teams:
Results of head-to-head competition between the two tied teams.
Comparison of each tied team’s record against the team occupying the highest position in the standings continuing down through the standings until a team gains an advantage.
When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to that group’s own tie-breaking procedure) rather than the performance against individual tied teams.
If a tie still cannot be broken after applying criteria (1), (2) and (3), it will be broken by comparing each tied team’s RPI (based upon the Report issued on the morning following the last regular season League game).
Multiple-Team Tiebreaking Criteria. The following criteria should be applied to break ties between more than two teams:
Results of each tied team’s collective record against the other teams tied for the same position.
If multiple ties still remain, then each tied team’s record shall be compared to the team or group (if 2 or more are tied) occupying the highest position in the standings continuing down through the standings until a team gains an advantage.
If the above results in two teams remaining, the two-team tiebreaker is used.
If a tie involving three or more teams still cannot be broken after applying criteria (1) and (2), it will be broken by comparing each tied team’s RPI (based upon the Report issued on the morning following the last regular season League game.)

Last home games for L.A.? Hard to believe

Lawrence Alexander

Lawrence Alexander

Hard to believe that Lawrence Alexander is down to his final two games at home. One thing about a nine-team league, the home games go fast. Today at practice, junior forward Kory Brown was asked about IPFW being L.A.’s last game in Fargo. “It’s sad that it’s L.A.’s last game here at home,” he said. “Ooh, man, thinking about it kind of gives me shivers so I’ll just let that one go for now.”

Alexander has put this team on its back, the No. 1 reason the Bison are two wins from reaching 20 for the season. Nobody, absolutely nobody, expected this group to be in position to reach that seasonal victory milestone. Alexander is averaging 19.3 points per game and is third in the country in minutes per game at 38.3 a night. It will be a lonely Senior Night on Saturday with Alexander being the only one on the team. He came in with Chris Kading and Joel Lindberg, but Kading redshirted and Lindberg had his career cut short by injury.

More than that, he’s been rock solid around us media types for four years. I can see why Saul Phillips and now Dave Richman love coaching the guy. So, on Saturday afternoon, give it up for this guy. He deserves it.

Friday’s hot links

North Dakota State’s Lawrence Alexander helped his team edge Denver in a thriller. It captured ESPN’s attention, too.



The NDSU softball team gets a split in tourney.

Kolpack forgives, apologizes to members of the sports community.

Rylee Nudell of Maple Valley High School verbals to NDSU.

West Carolina departure Part II: There are no cheap options anymore

NDSU leads the country in FCS national titles in the last few years. And the Bison probably lead in the number of buyouts it’s had to endure. First it was Montana State that pulled out of a 2013 game and now Western Carolina said goodbye to a 2016 game at the Fargodome. Before that, Montana said no to the back half of a home-and-home that started in 2003 with NDSU going to Missoula. In the case of Western, I’m hearing the Catamounts simply mailed a check for $200,000 to NDSU without much of an explanation and the cash was sitting in the Bison athletic mailbox when they got back from Frisco. Whether you break up with a text message, phone call or formal letter, I guess it doesn’t matter.

The price of success is nobody really wants to play you and that’s why I would be shocked if anybody comes to Fargo for less than $250,000, approximately what Prairie View A&M got in coming here. It negotiated hotel rooms and who knows else what because it knew NDSU was between a rock and a hard place for opponents. We’ll never know how desperate the Bison are right now because those negotiations are private, obviously

On that note, I’m further convinced NDSU’s days of scheduling a winnable FBS game are over. The Mid-American Conference has long not answered a 701 area code. I think you can add the lower division teams of the power conferences, too. It took awhile, but they finally figured it out: in this day and age of the spread offense, there are not many physical teams out there anymore and that matchup is something FBS schools want no part of. You can’t blame them. Moreover, that’s only going to drive the price up of a guarantee to another FCS school. They know NDSU’s options are probably limited.

NDSU scheduled the 2016 game at Iowa in September of 2011. It is now 3 1/2 years later and there is no hint of another FBS possibility. And you have to wonder how big the pot is for FCS opponents in 2016.

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Western Carolina is out

NDSU is back in the business of looking for a football game. That’s after the news we broke yesterday that Western Carolina had bought out of its 2016 date in Fargo, instead scheduling a game against East Carolina for September 3rd, 2016. NDSU was scheduled to host WCU on September 1st.

NDSU and Western first agreed on a game back in August of 2011 to play it during the 2013 season. Problems arose in late 2012 when WCU scheduled three FBS opponents for the following season. The official announcement came in February of 2013 that Western had moved the game to 2016. Things seemed to be set for that date, until this came out yesterday:

NDSU Athletic Director Matt Larsen confirmed that WCU had bought out of the game with the Bison about a month ago, using the 200,000 buyout to get out of the game. That price tag had been upped by 50,000 dollars after NDSU moved the game in 2013.

Now NDSU has an opening for 2016, and already with a home date set for September 10th against Eastern Washington and September 17th at Iowa, you have to figure that this would be a home game. Home and homes seem to be the new scheduling policy for NDSU, inking deals with Weber State and EWU in recent years, but already with a road trip guaranteed in 2017 to EWU, it likely wouldn’t happen that year. The only other game that’s set beyond that is the 2019 home game with UND.

It’s also possible that NDSU goes with just a straight up game, but those have proved to be pricey in recent years. A look at what the Bison have paid to get games:

  • 2012 – Prairie View A&M – $250 K
  • 2013 – Ferris State – $180 K
  • 2013 – Delaware State – $200 K
  • 2014 – Incarnate Word – $190 K
NDSU fans will remember the 2013 dates came in the wake of two scheduling woes; first the Delaware State game was scheduled after WCU moved out and Ferris State had to come in after the Montana State fiasco. Now NDSU has 200K to throw at someone from the Western buyout, I’m curious though where NDSU goes with this. And just so we can get it out of the way, North Dakota is playing at Stony Brook that weekend.