It’s Opening Night

It seems like a perfect time for the Bison basketball teams to begin their seasons and that’s what we have tonight as the NDSU men and women each play an exhibition tonight (shamless plug: I’ll be live with Saul Phillips at 6:20 tonight on Channel 6); but was thinking when will Bison fans start paying attention to hoops? Last season it was definitely after the football team wrapped up, but I’m here to tell you if you do that this year, you’ll be neglecting one of the best stories going in college basketball.

Taylor Braun and the Bison men’s basketball team begin their journey to Sioux Falls tonight. (Mike Vosburg – Forum File Photo)

First; this men’s basketball team is the most talented group NDSU has had since the magical season of 2008-09, a squad that won the Summit League and made the NCAA Tournament. Remember that this team has made two straight postseason appearances, personally I thought they should have made the NIT last season, but that’s a debate for another day. The core group returns for a third straight season, Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and Trayvonn Wright have been thru the wars together, they have logged plenty of miles similar to Brock Jensen, Grant Olson and Marcus Williams. They have had some big wins, but are lacking that signature victory. That will come this season, I’m not saying at Ohio State or Notre Dame, but it could be for the Summit League regular season title (which guarantees an NIT bid) or in Sioux Falls.

Second; the league is completely different than what it was in 2009. Oakland and Oral Roberts were the clear challengers to NDSU that season and had been the Summit League powers for years. Fast forward to this year and those teams are long gone, Denver joins the conference with high credentials, the Pioneers come into the league off a NIT appearance and Chris Udofia may be the best player in the league. SDSU won’t drop off that much and Cody Larson’s arrival will certainly help the Jacks, it’s NDSU, Denver and SDSU for the right to go to the Dance.

Third; the non-conference schedule is the best in years, especially at home. I’ve heard fans complain about no good non-conference games at the BSA, but that’s not the case this season. Southern Miss comes to Fargo on November 18th, the Golden Eagles made the NIT quarters last year, Phillips said that “will be the most talented team that has ever come to the BSA.” Add on two more talented teams from the CAA, Towson and Delaware, the Tigers are ranked 24th in the first mid-major poll and have completely turned around their team from a one win squad a couple years ago. Also the game this year between NDSU and UND should be terrific; UND is picked 2nd in the Big Sky and the Bison lost the last time they played in Grand Forks, that game is on November 24th, FCS Selection Sunday, it figures to be a busy day on the blog.

Fourth and final, plenty of fans have told me over the past couple of years that they didn’t appreciate the Woodside/Winkelman crew enough that senior year. I remember seeing the BSA packed on a Saturday night for IPFW that year and thinking this is a different vibe. I don’t know what to expect from the crowd this season, but this may be another special group, Wright’s dunks have become must-see in person, and Taylor Braun is a player that should be playing in a better league than the Summit. IUPUI, Omaha and USD may not get the blood going, but this type of group won’t come along again, and I realize the arena is a major detractor, but this team has the potential to be special.

That’s just what I think, plenty of sites have written about NDSU; here’s some links:

Here’s what College Basketball Talk says on Bison

ESPN’s projection as well (You need to be an ESPN Insider)

Taylor Braun listed as Top 30 under the radar players


24 thoughts on “It’s Opening Night

  1. GREAT post Dom! I’m very excited for this Bison Men’s season and love to see them playing the quality of teams that they are to get them ready for the summit tourney and hopefully another ncaa tourney chance. I can see this team winning a game in the NCAA. They are scrappy inside, have a few shooters that can get hot and make a difference, and a quality seasoned pg.

  2. I think you are right with that the NDSU/UND game will be a good one. It is too bad that it will not be played in Engelstad. I can see where they want it in the much smaller Betty to have a packed house and charge a lot per ticket, but it takes away the opportunity for a lot of people to go and enjoy the game. I really think that is a mistake for a game which many people enjoy. I have heard that in the Betty it gives a better home court advantage, but if you can’t play your A game 100 yards to the east which will still be a majority home crowd, then you shouldn’t win.

    • Ndsu fans don’t go up there, rivalry is dead we will stay back in Fargo thank you very much.

      • There will probably be more NDSU fans that attend that game in Grand Forks than there was for the Summit League Championship game against the Bison’s so called rival. There might have even been more up there to watch NDSU’s awful volleyball team than there was at the Summit League Championship vs. SDSU. Sioux Falls isn’t that much further than Grand Forks, but their the real rivals? Looks like to most Bison fans they are not. The game is good for both UND and NDSU and brings a ton of exposure to both programs. It will be nationally Televised by Midco/Fox by the looks of it and it looks like the women’s game is also nationally televised too. Great exposure for everyone. Both should be great days for BBall in ND just like the Volleyball game was/is. Don’t ruin it for everyone else.

        • Not true, I was in Sioux falls, there was 500-750 NDSU fans, we were just scattered all over because SDSU fans were allowed to purchase in person earlier before we could call in for tickets .

  3. I too think this team has great potential. What does concern me is the coach. He seems like a great guy and is fun to listen to, but I just do not think he gets the most of his athletes. The games they get large leads, they seem to let off. A player who is lights out usually gets pulled at the wrong time. Killer instinct is lacking in a nutshell. Good luck herd.

  4. Love the press you are giving to the NDSU basketball team. People need to know this team is special and it could be an amazing year for NDSU. Win both MVFC and Summit league in the same year. The SDSU home game last year was really well attended however the rest should have been better. I am glad some of the games are on TV. This allows a new group of people to be exposed to NDSU basketball. Just like TV exposure has also helped our football team out expand in fan base.

  5. “One of the best stories in COLLEGE Basketball” Really? The NDSU men are going to be very good, in fact they will win The Summit, but “one of the best stories in College Basketball” just a tad of an exaggeration, don’t you think?

    • This schedule should set up for a 25-3 season if these seniors want to play at thier best every game! Yes lose to Ohio st, Notre dame @ st Mary’s, but they can win every other game. NDSU fans need to start getting 5000 to these games, the problem is at the BSA once you get past 4000 fans there only obstructed seats

      • Yeah and they could very well go down to Sioux Falls and get beat by Denver or SDSU with 6000 Jacks fans when about 500 show up in Sioux Falls again from Fargo. I can already hear the excuses…..

        “We couldn’t get a ticket!”

        “Weather was bad!”

        “I had to work!”

        If this were Bison football our there were tailgaiting you wouldn’t hear those excuses.

        • For one it was a Tuesday night (That makes a difference) when they played in the Summit Championship. Some people have to work… also you can skip 6 hours of driving and just watch it on ESPN in HD.

          • If the Bison football team were playing a Tuesday night title game in Juneau Alaska there would be 5-6K Bison fans somehow finding a way up there.

            Please don’t give me that excuse. Hell, in 09 there was a blizzard and 3,000 people still made it for that team. That’s because it mattered then. If the weather had been good there’d have been 5-6K when Woody and Co. won.

        • Our group bought 10 already, how about you? Oh that’s right you’re not a NDSU fan, how many fans will you have at weber state? 20-25?

          • LMAO. Because anyone who says anything critical is a UND fan. So says the same chowder heads who still insist UND is not a rival anymore. Riiiggghhhhtttt…..

  6. I appreciate Dom & the blog trying to pump up Bison basketball. I really do and so should most Bison fans. Because they need it. Basketball doesn’t move the meter in Fargo. It did briefly during the Woodside era, but that was a perfect storm of:

    -Big National Upsets when they were freshman/sophmores under Tim Miles that brought the school notoriety
    -Football still being in the transition purgatory and then subsequently having a terrible year when they were eligible for playoffs their first time in 2008.
    -The core of guys who played four years, that fans grew close too, and only had one shot for glory.
    -The first time aspect of getting to the Tournament & NDSU’s return to playing in any form of postseason

    There’s just not the interest. Hopefully this will change when the SHAC is built. That’ll help greatly. Honestly, if NDSU really wants to do something unique that will bring more fans and maybe get national attention:

    -Host basketball tailgating.

    Lets face it, win or lose, football also draws a ton because people can party it up pregame. I know that’s not a traditional thing in hoops, and it’s freezing cold out, but if you want to promote this team and drive up attendance, gotta think outside the box.

    One other thing that’s tough for people to come out for: aside from Trayvonn Wright’s dunks, this isn’t the most entertaining team to watch. That seems stupid to say, but there’s a nugget of truth. Remember, last year the point was made that Saul’s first great team in 09 was largely based around offense and up-tempo. We had the all time scoring leader in school history and an offense left over from Tim Miles. But Saul’s a Wisconsin guy. That school is defense and ball control. It can win and has, but if you’re not Wisconsin or playing in a major conference, it’s not the most thrilling thing in the world to watch. I know Western Illinois has been really good but I’d rather get my teeth pulled than watch them if they’re not playing NDSU.

    Just two cents. Frankly I don’t think this year will fall short because of anything related to NDSU. I think they’ll play well and have a fine year if everybody is healthy. Problem is we’re all greatly underestimating how good Denver is. They’ve been on the verge of NCAA Tournament berths in better leagues for years now. I think they edge us for the regular season title. And then in Sioux Falls it’s an ending we’ve seen before: 7,000 Jacks fans and SDSU beating the Bison in the semifinals, and another lower level tournament bid.

    • Remember this year the NCAA has changed the rules about how they are going to call defensive pressure in games. The NCAA is trying to get college basketball to be more high scoring so they are hoping to get defenses to back off instead of sending guys to the free throw line all game.

      I read a story where Tim Miles said he thinks good guard depth will be a priority since the guards could be in foul trouble for hand checking fouls.

      I have never seen an interview where Saul was asked about the changes to the defensive rules and how it will affect the way he coaches a game. You would think a couple of games of your guards fouling out would back a coach off and make his team play a more up tempo offensive game.

      • I do think NDSU has the horses to play up tempo, and Braun can certainly fill it up. Still not sure I’m that confident in the guards though. They really got exposed in Sioux Falls last year. Yes they get some slack because of….well…Wolters….but they left a ton to be desired just the same. They need to show significant improvement that you’d expect.

  7. NDSU and Fargo will always be football first. That’s just the way it is but if this team puts some big wins together more people will show up. The BSA has something to do with it too. That place is long overdue for a facelift.

    It’s NCAA or bust for the Bison this year. The NIT is a nice consolation but we need to go dancing again! GO BISON!!!

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