Hope everyone had a great holiday and spent time with family and friends, some really interesting news to share tonight on the ramblings led off by the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference has a planned visit for UMKC this week as a possible candidate to replace Creighton. No April Fools there either folks, it’s the real deal. It’s just weird to type that! But they are being considered according to the Kansas City Star; along with Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago and Loyola(IL). More on that in the blog; along with James Madison’s chances of heading to FBS. Last and not least, the 5 players I’m watching to have a big spring as practice begins tomorrow, Jeff and I will be there to start our coverage with a new blog.
Here’s the 2nd half of Jeff and I’s sitdown with Craig Bohl; talking about scaling back spring ball with so many injuries to guys and with more departures from the roster does that change recruiting philosophy?
Hope everyone enjoys their holiday weekend, have a deluge of video and info coming over the next couple of days as we get set for the opening of Spring Football for NDSU. Wanted to give an update on the FCS teams left by my count that have open dates for September 7th, September 14th and November 2nd. By this time, most schools have filled up their schedules, leading me to think that besides game 11 for NDSU being a road game, there is a slight(and I say slight) chance that perhaps game 11 is another FBS game. Here’s my unofficial list (you’ve all seen the notebooks!)
September 7th: Texas Southern, San Diego and Wagner
September 14th: Duquesne, Robert Morris, Bucknell, Georgetown, Marist and San Diego
November 2nd: Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis and Wagner
You’ll recognize most of these schools are familiar; the Northeast Conference hasn’t put out its schedule yet, but you have to believe some of these dates are going to disappear as well. NDSU is in a tough spot here, there’s few teams to talk to unless a team that already has a scheduled game for 9/7 or 9/14 wants to get out of it; say if they’re playing a D-2 to get another counter, but those may be far and few between. NDSU will not play just 10 games, they will get another and it won’t be D2, it will be a counter, now its left to find out if its FCS or FBS. We’ll keep you posted.
There was some conference movement on this Saturday; Western Kentucky; the school that left the former Gateway now Missouri Valley to allow NDSU and SDSU in, will leave the Sun Belt after 5 short years and head to Conference USA. That opening was created when Tulsa left for what is the old Big East. Don’t think too hard or blood will spurt out of your ears. Basically the old Big East is what Conference USA used to be and CUSA is what the Sun Belt looked like about 2 years ago. With the additons of Georgia Southern, App State, New Mexico State and Idaho, the Sun Belt stands at 11, you know they want an even number and you know they’ll be looking at the FCS for their next team. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports that James Madison and Liberty are strong candidates to fill that last spot. JMU makes all the sense in the world, great stadium, rock solid school and really good football team. The Dukes play in a stadium that seats 25K and have had great success at the FCS level, winning the 2004 title. I thought James Madison was the toughest team NDSU played on its way to the 2011 national championship, they were well coached and outside of their kicker kicking it out of bounds twice, that was a fairly close game. JMU just saw two of its FCS rivals leave in App State and Georgia Southern, not to mention CAA rival and in-state school Old Dominion move up in about 20 seconds. James Madison is another school that should cause NDSU to think harder about FBS, this is another recognizable school on the 1-AA level that would be gone.
Last year; Craig Bohl stopped by the Video Blog studios; this year Jeff and I went and visited the head coach; here’s part one of our interview with the head coach; talking about injuries; depth chart changes; three-peating and his thoughts
on Georgia Southern and App State.
The college basketball season has come to a close for those that follow it closely here and NDSU has plenty of expectations surrounding them heading into the offseason. Jeff and I will give out full grades on the season coming up later this week. Tonight is about looking at the future of the Summit League and the struggles of the league in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bison men’s basketball season ended tonight in a similar fashion to last year with a last second chance to try and win/tie the game; last year in the 1st round of the CBI at Wyoming; this year in the 1st round of the CBI at Western Michigan. Where there any differences or improvements from 2012 to 2013? Obvious when you look at record; NDSU won 17 games last season, they won 24 this year. They finally won a game at the Summit League Tournament; two in fact; before falling in the conference championship game. I predicted back in October that this team would make the Summit League final; I had them 2nd in my preseason poll, NDSU took 3rd. We can only speculate on what this team could have done had Taylor Braun not broke a bone in his foot; but he did.
- We saw continued great strides in Braun; who averaged 15 points a game and shot 46 percent from the field; he had stretches in games where he put the Bison on his back and refused to let them lose. He is the glue of the Bison team, a 1st team all-conference performer; who if he stays healthy; should garner plenty of votes as the conference player of the year. He improved his shooting this year and needs to do that again for next season. I’d like to see more times when he takes over a game; I think he can do it; he’s just that good.
- Lawrence Alexander; I thought was tremendous; he played the most minutes by almost 200 compared to everyone else; he averaged 11 points a game and asserted himself even more than he did during his freshman year. The key for him in my mind is to make the steps that Braun and Trayvonn Wright made during their junior year. I think his shot selection needs to improve; there were times that I thought he was somewhat out of control and was too quick to shoot; think that comes with maturity.
- Trayvonn Wright continues to wow with his athleticism; he had some dunks this season that made you shake your head and his improved shooting from outside was noticeable right from the first game of the season; but he had games against the high-majors and better teams (Indiana, Minnesota, Akron and the Summit Final) where he vanished. That cannot happen next season if NDSU wants to end its NCAA tournament drought.
- Marshall Bjorklund started the season on fire; his best night came against SDSU back in December when he scored 20 points and was unstoppable down low in the win against the Jacks. He was leading the NCAA in field goal percentage; but after Braun’s injury; Bjorklund was the most affected; he was double-teamed; sometimes triple-teamed; his point and shot totals took huge hits; just look at the 1st Western Illinois game and the SDSU games. Biggest key in my mind is how NDSU improves its offense so that Bjorklund is a factor in each game.
- I thought Kory Brown and Chris Kading each showed flashes that as a Bison fan you should feel good about. Brown’s high school coach told me when he verbally committed in May that he would be the best defender on the team. He was right. Brown became the shut-down guy for NDSU, he was on Nate Wolters when the games got tight and I thought his offense got better as the season went along. Kading provided some necessary height down low and some grittiness that will only get better after another year in the weight room. I can’t give enough of an evaluation of Brett VandenBergh; he had one great shooting game against USD; and I know that they needed VandenBergh to play but it would have been nice to save that redshirt.
Remember this team gets Joel Lindberg back next season; Saul Phillips told me in August before the Lindberg injury that he was going to be fighting for a starting spot. This team adds 2 incoming freshmen in AJ Jacobson and Carlin Dupree for next season, Jacobson for sure redshirts; Dupree has the athleticism to be a game changer, but on a team that is bringing a majority of it’s scoring back; is he needed? Time will tell. The door is open for NDSU to walk thru next season and be the top dog in the conference; we’ll see if they’re ready to take that next step.
Been in a basketball mode for the last couple of weeks; but still keeping an eye on the 2013 football schedule; where teams are dropping like flies by the day; by my count(which is unofficial; but like to think I keep it pretty up to date) there are 5 schools that have September 7th open; while 9 have September 14th available. Spoke to Gene Taylor today about an update on the 11th game; he told me they are talking to one school that initially said no; but then upped the money and this school was re-evaluating the offer. Taylor declined to tell me what school this was; only to say it was an East Coast FCS school. He added that options are dwindling and said a 6th road game is definitely in play as well. Stay tuned there.
Had a couple posters ask about where the BSA renovation project stands; asked Taylor about this as well; many of you know that April 2013 was a date thrown out by NDSU; Taylor told me that that date was to have the money in place; NOT to have a shovel in the ground. With the snow it be pretty hard to break ground as it is. The money needs to be in place so then NDSU can go to the State Board of Higher Ed and get approval for the project; then they can begin; with a goal of June or July to start everything up. I did ask as well about hosting a game in the CBI; he said they were approached about doing so and would entertain that possibility if the Bison were to defeat Western Michigan on Wednesday night. For those that missed it; Wyoming defeated Lehigh 67-66 on a buzzer beating 3 point shot; so if NDSU wins they’ll get a rematch with the Cowboys; who beat the Bison in the 1st round of the CBI last year.
I’ll be back tomorrow night with either a video or normal post about the big press conference coming as Butler; Xavier and Creighton announce they’re leaving their respective leagues for the new look Big East; college basketball as we know it about to look a lot different!
We all know my struggles this past season in the FCS Pick Em game, but wanted to open up a challenge for faithful readers of the blog in an NCAA Tournament Challenge; so here’s the linkPassword: BisonMediaBlog
Thanks for everyone staying up late and checking in here on the Ramblings; NDSU will play in the postseason for a 2nd straight year and 3rd time in it’s Division 1 history; heading back to the CBI and will face Western Michigan on Wednesday in Kalamazoo. There was an outside shot of NDSU playing in the NIT; but were not selected; head coach Saul Phillips told me tonight he was not surprised but the Bison being passed over; that the Summit League has “never been done any favors by the NIT.” Phillips added that if the Bison can advance on Wednesday there’s a chance of another home game in the next round. More details in the Ramblings!
Well now we wait. Unlike last season when NDSU was a surpise postseason entrant into the CBI and lost at Wyoming last March. The only surprise that will come this Selection Sunday is if NDSU somehow finds its way into the NIT, which as most everyone knows is the little brother to the NCAA’s but still for a program like NDSU an NIT berth would be huge. Besides the 68 that makes the NCAA’s another 80 schools will play postseason basketball this March/April ranging from the NIT(32 teams); the CIT(expanded to 32 this year) and the CBI (16). NDSU will find its way into most likely either the NIT or the CBI; the latter just because of the history that NDSU has with the Gazelle Group, that’s the outfit that runs the CBI and has put NDSU into its 2 preseason tournaments the last two years, first at Oregon and this year at Indiana and has an impressive lineup for next season. For those that don’t follow the NIT super close, that selection committee is similar to the NCAA, for the smaller conference schools that don’t win their conference tournament; they get an automatic bid into the NIT and with the havoc that’s been going on this week, bids may be getting smaller by the day. Already 9 teams have locked up spots in the NIT: Mercer(A-Sun); Stony Brook(America East); Charleston Southern (Big South); Northeastern (CAA); Niagara (MAAC); Robert Morris (NEC); Middle Tennessee(Sun Belt); Norfolk State(MEAC) and Louisiana Tech (WAC).
That only leaves 23 spots left and with the tournament being completely televised by ESPN, they are going to want some big name schools in this field. NDSU has an impressive record (24-9) and RPI (78 on Thursday night). Saul Phillips said after the Summit League final this team “deserves to be in the NIT.” He cited NDSU’s record with Taylor Braun in the lineup (19-4; the 4 losses being to Indiana, Minnesota, Green Bay and SDSU) It’s not mandated that every conference be represented in the NIT, but NDSU is the only shot the Summit League will have for this tournament. The NIT Selection Show is at 8pm on ESPN U Sunday night. If it’s not the NIT, the CBI is up next, that’s 16 teams and possibly a better shot of another home game. Now last I remember to host a game in this tournament you need to pay 30K to do it; now I can’t imagine NDSU doing that; especially knowing that there’s no way that that money would be recouped; unlike football where NDSU put down a huge sum to try and host a first round playoff game in 2010. This tournament is also televised by Mark Cuban’s network the former HDTV, now AXS TV; avid college hoops fans know that’s where the Gophers played in the Bahamas Tournament over Thanksgiving. Finally is the CIT; which has expanded this year from 24 teams to 32 this season, that’s where UND has went the last two years as champion of the Great West; ironically I think they may be going there again last year after a win tonight in the Big Sky Tournament.
There are 148 teams that will play postseason basketball this year out of 347 Division 1 schools; and NDSU for the 2nd straight year and third time in its D1 history will be playing as well. I think this team has a chance to win a game in one of these tournaments and that can be another huge step for a program that’s taken some big steps this year, from highest RPI ranking ever; to a BracketBuster TV game, to a return trip to the Summit Title game. The future looks bright for this team and can end on a good note starting Sunday. I’ll be following the smaller conference tournaments this weekend on Twitter (@DomIzzoWDAY) and will have a late night Bracketology ramblings on Sunday night.
One football note, Craig Bohl confirmed to me that junior running back John Crockett had surgery on a slight break in his right wrist; Bohl says that Crockett will have limited work this spring and joins a laundry list of starters that may or may not see the field this spring(Crockett; Beck, Ryan Smith, Colville, Perry and Heagle). Bohl also added that he’s hoping April 1st or 3rd for the official start of spring football depending on the weather.