One month stands between the North Dakota State men’s basketball team and a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the Summit League Tournament.
Four weeks until the Bison play for a fourth consecutive conference title game appearance.
Thirty-four days stand between now and the march for a third consecutive ticket to the Big Dance.
Hands down the best time of the year to be a college basketball fan is right around the corner with the normally frosty February finally hitting the calendar.
March Madness is soon upon us, and with the way this year’s Summit League conference play has been going, it’s going to be one heck of a tournament come the first weekend in March.
Just take the down-to-the-wire Bison’s game on the road Sunday against Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. IUPUI is considered to be a team still rebuilding entering the year.
The tide of the game went back and forth in the first half with both teams shooting the ball exceptionally well from the floor. NDSU turned in 56 percent from the field and 50 percent on three-pointers to hold a three-point lead at the half.
The Bison extended that lead to 10 with 8:00 left, but a 3-for-11 performance from the free-throw line in the second half allowed IUPUI not only to make it a game down the stretch but to also steal one from the Bison on a game-winning three-point jumper with seconds left.
With that victory against the Bison, IUPUI joined Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne, preseason favorites South Dakota State and this season’s surprise contender University of Nebraska-Omaha tied atop top of the Summit at 7-2 in conference play.
In the preseason poll, Omaha was picked seventh in the nine-team Summit League, but the Mavericks are looking to do something the 2009 NDSU squad with Ben Woodside and company know all to well about: a ticket to the NCAA tournament in the program’s first year of eligibility.
UNO finished 12-17 overall and 5-11 in the conference last year due to some injuries and late-game struggles, which probably played a part in the lack of preseason respect.
This year’s a different story for the Mavericks, a team disproving expectations. NDSU’s home winning streak sure heard about UNO, as the Mavs went into Scheels Arena in early January to snap 31-straight home victories for the Bison.
Entering the weekend, the Bison had a chance to join the frontrunners with a win at IUPUI, but all four of the teams tied for first left the Saturday and Sunday with a winning streak forcing NDSU down into the fifth spot at 4-4.
NDSU is one game behind all of the other teams in the conference, and this week’s slate of two games at the Scheels Arena is crucial if the Bison are going to join the tier of four at the top.
Thursday’s opponent Oral Roberts beat the Bison in Tulsa while the Frisco festivities of a fifth straight football title were still in full swing. Saturday brings IPFW to town in a repeat matchup from two weeks ago that the Mastodons held on late to win.