Seth Coatta

North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team will be a young squad in 2015-16 with just two seniors on the roster (Kory Brown and Chris Kading). That means just two available scholarships for the Class of 2016 and the Bison filled one of those spots on Friday night as they received a verbal commitment from Minnetonka shooting guard Seth Coatta (pronounced Coat-ah).

Coatta (6’3, shooting guard) just wrapped up his junior season for the Skippers, and according to his former coach Tom Dasovich; “quite simply he’s the best shooter in the state of Minnesota.”  Coatta’s numbers back that up, he hit 49 percent of his three-pointers and 91 percent at the free-throw line. Dasovich was on Kolpack and Izzo on Saturday morning and said while his shoot is his strongest skill, he added that his handle is getting better and can dunk the ball well.

Coatta only had offers from Division 2 schools, but I was told he said he had an immediate fit with NDSU. One source told me more offers from Division 1 schools would be coming if Coatta didn’t commit now.

This leaves one scholarship open for ’16. I’m curious to see if NDSU goes for height with the other schollie, they have 5 guys on the roster for that season that are 6’7 or taller, which will be by far the tallest team since the Bison moved up to Division 1. NDSU already has a verbal commitment for 2017 as well in Fargo North’s Siman Sem.

It’s Coming

Monday could go down as a landmark day for mid-major sports. Yesterday we found out that the Horizon League approved the new cost of attendance measure; mandating it in men’s basketball and for at least an equal number of female student-athletes in league sponsored sports. Our friend Joe Scalzo from the Youngstown Vindicator reports that Youngstown State will fund women’s basketball and the eight other schools in the league are expected to do the same. The stipend is projected to cost between 2,000-4,000 dollars.

For those that don’t know “cost of attendance” covers things beyond tuition, room and board, such as transportation for athletes to go home or other academic-related supplies.

Liberty will add cost of attendance to its football program in 2015.

Liberty will add cost of attendance to its football program in 2015.

The second big announcement on cost of attendance came courtesy of, which reported that Liberty would start to offer COA to its football team starting this fall. (The measure goes into effect August 1st). The Flames would become the first FCS program to go that route. The move shouldn’t surprise that many that follow FCS football closely, Liberty has been trying the last two years to move up to FBS and this can be viewed by Conference USA or the Sun Belt as a legitimate reason to add them to their league. But it also can serve as a alarm for rival or similar-minded schools at the FCS level that the train is leaving the station and you had better get on board.

That brings me to NDSU. Athletic Director Matt Larsen told me in February that the school was in a “wait and see” approach on how things were going to shake out with COA, but may have their hands forced depending on what other schools went forward with the measure. This is in my mind the first step to having NDSU make a decision on approving COA.

Let’s start with the Horizon League. A basketball-first conference, made up of nine schools, only two of which play football (Valpo and Youngstown), similar to the Summit, a conference of nine schools, where just four play football. This move by the Horizon signals they’re putting their eggs in the supposed basketball basket, which is no surprise, that’s the most recognizable sport in the league. The Summit however, is not in that same spot, the league does not have the television visibility of the Horizon and frankly hasn’t had the postseason success the Horizon has had.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference has bragged and rightfully so in my mind the last two years about being the best league in FCS. Seeing a team from the Big South approve COA is only going to push the issue in the Valley. UNI has to be considering it for basketball, just to stay competitive in that league, but what happens to football? You know the Panthers don’t want to fall behind NDSU if the Bison sign off on COA. Same can be said about SDSU and Youngstown. Perhaps more importantly in this discussion, is how many schools can actually afford to do this? Larsen told me that he believes it would cost 3,400 dollars a year on cost of attendance and if you offer for football at NDSU, what female sports will get it?

You know that if Liberty is moving forward with COA, that Coastal Carolina (its biggest rival) won’t be that far behind. And Bison fans saw first hand how the Chanticleers football program has improved. It’s about keeping up or staying ahead of the Joneses. With these decisions yesterday, expect something by this summer from NDSU about approving COA.

Couple of other basketball notes, Fargo North standout Siman Sem has been offered a scholarship. He’s going to be a junior next year, more on that story, click here. Also Maren Walseth has lost one of her top scorers from this past season in Kahla Becken, who has to quit the game after suffering a third concussion. Leaves NDSU with three open scholarships for next season.

Thursday’s hot links


Handicapping the Summit: Fifth-seeded USD will win it

It was about this time last year when the Summit League men’s basketball tournament looked to be NDSU’s to lose. The Bison had the Summit Player of the Year in Taylor Braun, South Dakota State no longer had Nate Wolters and the Bison had the veteran team with the veteran center (Marshall Bjorklund) and playmaking forward (TrayVonn Wright). The Bison also had a defensive stopper in forward Kory Brown, always an important role in any title-contending team.

This year is one big muddled mixture. If there ever was a year when a lower seed could win the tournament, this would be it. The Bison are the No. 2 seed, but they went overtime in both regular season games with No. 7 Denver, their first round opponent Saturday. I think this tournament is going to blow up from the conventional way of higher seeds advancing. So here’s my prediction:

First round: No. 1 SDSU over Western Illinois. No. 5 USD over No. 4 Fort Wayne. No. 2 NDSU over No. 7 Denver. No. 3 ORU over No. 6 IUPUI.

Semifinals: No. 5 USD over No. 1 SDSU. No. 3 ORU over No. 2 NDSU.

Title: No. 5 USD over No. 3 ORU.

Reasoning: South Dakota is hot winning five of its last six including a convincing win over the Jackrabbits to close the regular season. The Coyotes have six players, six, who averaged double figures in scoring in Summit League games with Tyler Larson, who is one of the top overall players in the league in scoring and rebounding. They’re a veteran team loaded with juniors and seniors, look out for this team. SDSU has one of its better defensive teams under Scott Nagy, but I’m not convinced there’s enough overall scoring to get through three games. Brown’s bad knee is not a good sign for the Bison. Like a shutdown corner in football, you need a defensive stopper in tournament time and if he’s not 100 percent, that’s pretty tough. Lawrence Alexander can carry a team in a weekend series, but to do it for three games may be asking too much. Oral Roberts is intriguing after bombing the Bison, but that may have been an emotionally-charged win as much as anything after one of its top players was suspended. Over three games, reality will set in for the Golden Eagles. Fort Wayne has a chance with center Steve Forbes, but the Mastodons are also coming in losers of two of their last three including to a very average Nebraska-Omaha team.

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.)

Out of nowhere

It’s been a remarkable start for the Bison men’s basketball team, 12-6 on the season, 4-1 in the Summit League, made more remarkable by how young the team and the lack of depth on this squad, NDSU is playing just seven guys regularly. One of the main reasons why the Bison sit on top of the Summit standings is Bismarck’s Dexter Werner, who I profiled yesterday:

The Summit League standings heading into tonight:
NDSU: 4-1 (at IUPUI, at IPFW)
SDSU: 5-2 (at ORU)
ORU: 4-2 (vs SDSU)
USD: 3-2 (at WIU)
IUPUI: 3-2 (vs NDSU, vs USD)
Denver: 3-3 (at Omaha)
WIU: 2-4 (vs USD)
IPFW: 1-5 (vs NDSU)
Omaha: 1-5 (vs Denver)

Bison Video Blog: Dylan Miller Commits to NDSU Basketball

It’s a heavy football time, but the men’s basketball team is making some waves, Dave Richman has locked up his first verbal commitment for the Class of 2015 in Hillsboro, Illinois big man Dylan Miller. Miller is 6’8, he averaged 17 points per game to go along with 10 rebound a game and his high school head coach Joe Vanzo believes he can come in and play right away. NDSU is going to be a young team for a couple years, the Bison have eleven players on this year’s roster that are sophomores or younger. NDSU has just three scholarships for 2015, provided nobody leaves, so that leaves two. Here’s my interview with Vanzo, and a link to Jeff’s story on Miller committing.


Decisions And Dates

The NCAA made a couple of decisions early this week under the radar that could have a major impact on the FCS. First up the Sports Management Cabinet approved a change to the Simple Ratings System (for those that forgot, that’s the FCS version of the BCS rankings, that the playoff committee takes into account for seeding and selecting playoff teams, it also had Eastern Illinois ranked ahead of NDSU in its final rankings last year) by standardizing the amount of games teams play in making a decision on how to rank teams. Last year the committee did not standardize if teams played 11 or 12 games, so we could see this being a large factor come later in the season, depending on how tough your schedule is and who you play and when you play them.

There was a second change put forth by the football committee to the SRS, and that was margin of victory. The committee proposed capping margin of victory formula to be capped at 21 points to discourage teams from running up the score to improve their position in the rankings, but that was not approved.

Lastly, the committee approved raising the minimum money guarantee for schools to host 2nd round, quarterfinal and semifinal games in the FCS playoffs. They raised it to 40 K for the 2nd, 50 K for the quarters and 60 K for the semis.

It will now cost schools more money to host FCS 2nd round, quarterfinal and semifinal games.

This could potentially be a huge deal for teams that don’t draw like NDSU or UNI that want to host a playoff game in the early rounds, you could see teams with better records possibly playing on the road in the early rounds because they can’t afford to lose money by hosting. Schools that only average 5K for home games very well could have been priced out by this decision. Gene Taylor and NDSU went way over the minimum the last time the Bison were unseeded heading into the FCS playoffs in 2010, getting them a first home game at the Fargodome against Robert Morris. I think it’s something that bears watching as we get closer to Selection Sunday in November.

Finally we’re starting to piece together the basketball schedules for the men and women’s teams for this upcoming winter at Scheels Arena and the BBF, got a few dates to put out there, the full conference schedule will be revealed by the Summit League on Monday and Wednesday:

MEN – 11/5 – Minot State; 11/21 + 11/22 – 2 K Classic Home Games; 11/25 – UM Crookston; 11/30 – at Montana State; 12/13 – North Dakota; 12/16 – Akron (payback of Bracketbuster); 12/21- Kent State (El Paso); 12/22 – Alcorn State/UTEP;  12/28  – Northland College (D3 Wisconsin school); 1/2 – Oral Roberts (doubleheader); 1/4 – SDSU (doubleheader); 1/16 – Western Illinois, 1/29 – Denver; 2/5 – Denver; 2/7 – USD; 2/19 – IUPUI, 2/21 – Fort Wayne

WOMEN  – 11/7 – Bemidji State; 11/14 – Kent State; 11/16 – Milwaukee; 12/6 – UND(Scheels Arena); 12/8 – Mayville State; 1/2 – ORU (Scheels); 1/4 – SDSU (Scheels); 1/8 – IUPUI; 1/17 – Fort Wayne; 2/6 – Western Illinois; 2/8 – USD; 2/14 – Omaha; 2/26 – Denver

There’s one change from what I reported earlier; the UND games are no longer a doubleheader at Scheels Arena, the women playing on December 6th, the men’s game on December 13th. The men’s non-conference still has a couple of headline games to fill, including at Southern Mississippi; women going to Mississippi State as well. We’ll keep you updated.