It may not seem fair that we turn our attention to basketball a full week into February, but such is life in the Red River Valley when covering the five time national champions.
North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team picked up two rather large wins last week, defeating Oral Roberts and Fort Wayne at Scheels Arena, the latter a complete shutdown defensively, holding the Mastodons to just 46 points. The Bison raced out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back. What was more impressive was NDSU did this without its leading scorer, Paul Miller, who suffered a knee injury midway thru the first half against ORU. Head coach Dave Richman wouldn’t specify how severe the injury is, just to say it wasn’t an ACL tear. I would bet it’s hard to expect Miller to play this week on the road at South Daota and Omaha.
The fight for the top two seeds is as tight as ever. I said this to Jeff on Saturday morning, that for the first time since NDSU joined the Summit League it’s as wide open as it’s ever been. Think of the teams that won the league title since 2009.
- 2009 – NDSU (Fab 4)
- 2010-11 – Oakland (Benson and Hamilton)
- 2012-13 – SDSU (Wolters)
- 2014-15 – NDSU (Braun and Alexander)
You could throw SDSU into the mix as a co-favorite last year, but my point is there no dominant team like those teams this season. Any of the top five teams could go to Sioux Falls and win the tournament. It should be noted though that also since NDSU joined the league in 2009, no one has won three straight games in three straight days. Which makes getting one of those top two seeds even more important to get that extra day off. Here’s what the contenders have left in terms of major games.
- NDSU: 2 home, 4 away (Saturday at Omaha, February 20th vs IUPUI, February 25th at SDSU)
- SDSU: 3 home, 3 away (Wednesday at Omaha, February 18th at IPFW, February 25th vs NDSU)
- Omaha: 3 home, 2 away (Wednesday vs SDSU, Saturday vs NDSU, February 17th at IUPUI, February 20th at Fort Wayne)
- Fort Wayne: 3 home, 2 away (February 18th vs SDSU, February 20th vs Omaha, February 27th at IUPUI)
- IUPUI: 3 home, 2 away (February 17th vs Omaha, February 20th at NDSU, February 27th vs IPFW)
Just a brief synopsis would say that NDSU by far has the most difficult schedule remaining, with SDSU sitting in a good spot with four home games remaining. It’s going to be a great run to Sioux Falls and when we get to the tournament, look out.