North Dakota State was the lock of the NCAA Tournament, and boy did they deliver with the win over the Oklahoma Sooners. Now, we didn't expect that it would take overtime in order to get past them, but the Bison were up to the challenge thanks to some pretty intense final moments of regulation.
The reward for North Dakota State is a date with San Diego State on Saturday, who also needed overtime to take down Sim Bhullar and the New Mexico State Aggies.
So who has the advantage in tonight's matchup?
How North Dakota State wins the game:
The biggest thing for North Dakota State is going to be establishing themselves inside on the offensive end. The Aztecs are not Oklahoma. They have 6-10 Skylar Spencer, who is a block machine. He had four swats during the game against New Mexico State, part of nine blocks by the team. North Dakota State is one of the best teams in the country at avoiding the block, but that will be put to the challenge on offense. The secret may be taking the ball back outside the paint and getting a few shots from about 10 feet to fall. It will certainly make things harder for them. The other issue is that the Aztecs are not foul prone, not even Spencer. Who ever heard of a big man that doesn't foul out? The Bison are not going to get to the line as they are used to.
On defense, the Bison have to be the ones to control the glass. They should have the ball defense to stay with the Aztecs, but they can't allow multiple shots and extended possessions, especially since San Diego State plays at a slower pace already. Really the challenge will be on the offensive end for them, and finding a way to score.
How San Diego State wins the game:
The Aztecs will control the tempo of the game with their defense, and should have the ability to shut down the top scorers for North Dakota State. But they need to really make sure they control the inside and ensure that the Bison don't goad them into silly fouls. This is something that the Aztecs are good about normally, but normally isn't the NCAA Tournament.
The real issue will be shooting for San Diego State and whether they can better the 39 percent that they hit during the second round. That was not a shining moment for the Aztecs, but the Bison also don't have the same size advantage that New Mexico State had. That said, it won't be easy against one of the better blocking defenses in the country (on par with the Aztecs themselves).
Who will win?
You hate to say it, but this looks like a case of whomever has the ball last will win the game, because they have the ability to get that final shot. We are going to see a low offensive output from both teams, which should play into the hands of San Diego State. But the Bison certainly have the offensive talent to score and if they can establish an early lead, they would establish the game-long advantage. We are going to lean towards North Dakota State, but barely. This one is going to be fun, let's say 61-58 Bison.
No. 12 North Dakota State vs. No. 4 San Diego State
Where: Spokane, Wash.
When: 6:10 p.m. Eastern, Saturday