North Dakota State’s improbable March run will continue on for another few days after the Bison knocked off North Carolina Central 78-74 in the First Four on Wednesday night. NDSU was led by Tyson Ward’s 23 points, while Vinnie Shahid added 14. Jared Samuelson and Sam Griesel each had 10 as the Bison rallied from a five point deficit late in the second half to earn their second ever NCAA Tournament win.
Next up is the bluest of blue bloods in college basketball, the Duke Blue Devils, five-time national champions, the number one overall seed who also boast the likely number one pick in the draft, Zion Williamson. Williamson is a freight-train of a player, who just returned from a knee injury, the 6’6 freshman has been the talk of college basketball since taking the floor in November. He’s been tapped as a can’t miss NBA player since his high school senior year. That awaits NDSU Friday night.
This game Friday will put NDSU in a spotlight that they’ve never achieved since moving up to Division 1. The Bison will play in primetime on CBS Friday night with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill calling the game, the men who will call the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium in three weeks. I mentioned this yesterday, the Oklahoma win gave the school a notoriety that it never had from winning any FCS Championship, and it was the biggest moment until Carson Wentz was selected with the number two pick in the NFL Draft.
This game Friday will top that. The football hardcore fans have taken umbrage with that statement, but it’s fact. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is the biggest thing going in college athletics and now NDSU will face the top team in said tournament.
The Duke name is like the Yankees, you either love them or hate them. The names that played there are some of the best; Laettner, Hill, Hurley, Battier, Ferry, Gminski, Williams, Irving, Tyus Jones and Williamson will add his name to this list after the season ends. The interesting connection this year with Duke and the Final Four is that each time Minneapolis has hosted the Final Four, Duke has won the title.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall of Famer, he’s won five national titles, three Olympic gold medals and is the standard of college coaching. Dave Richman will be matching wits him on Friday night. It’s not overstating this is NDSU’s biggest basketball moment, bigger than the 2009 game with Kansas, the 2012 game at Indiana, the 2014 win over Oklahoma or the game earlier this season with Gonzaga.
It’s also not overstating that this is NDSU’s biggest athletic moment as a Division 1 school. College Gameday was big. Beating Iowa and Kansas State. That was big. Number two overall draft pick? Good stuff. There’s something about the NCAA Tournament and the name Duke that makes it bigger to me.
From a basketball perspective it’s huge for NDSU because they don’t play ACC teams. They have only played one since the move to D-1 and that’s a new ACC team in Notre Dame. The Bison won that game in 2013.
For Duke, they only have one previous matchup against a Summit League school, the Blue Devils beat South Dakota 96-80 in December of 2017.
So buckle up, Bison fans. Zion and the Dookies await.