It all started in Tulsa. North Dakota State’s final game of January at Oral Roberts kick-started a wild roller coaster ride the rest of the way for the Bison.
North Dakota State, meddling in mediocrity through its first seven Summit League, knocked off ORU 67-57, which became a springboard to a five-game winning streak, including three victories on the road.
Then came a three-game losing streak against South Dakota State, Omaha and South Dakota.
Questions began to resurface in eastern North Dakota.
But a regular-season finale win over Purdue Fort Wayne began another winning streak -- one that would carry the Bison right into the NCAA Tournament field.
As the league tournament’s No. 4 seed, North Dakota State knocked off No. 5 Oral Roberts, No. 8 Western Illinois (after the Leathernecks pulled off the upset of the tournament) and No. 2 Omaha. The Bison controlled much of the championship game and beat the Mavericks, 73-63, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the Bison’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
Where is North Dakota State?
The university is located in Fargo, North Dakota, which is pretty much the Kansas City of North Dakota, straddling two different states within the city limits. It’s 155 miles up I-29 to reach the Canadian border. It’s a much shorter drive -- 1.4 miles -- to the Minnesota state line from campus. NDSU’s last NCAA Tournament appearance ended when the No. 15 Bison lost, 86-76, to No. 2 Gonzaga in Seattle. Before that, North Dakota State, as the No. 12 seed, beat No. 5 Oklahoma in Spokane in 2014. But it was San Diego State that kept the Bison from the Sweet Sixteen. There’s no NCAA Tournament site in the Pacific Northwest this year, so North Dakota State will have to venture somewhere other than Washington this time.
Who is NDSU’s coach?
David Richman is the definition of a North Dakota State lifer. He was a graduate assistant for the Bison from 2003 to 2005, and he followed that with a two-year stint as an assistant coach from 2005 to 2007. Under Saul Phillips, Richman was North Dakota State’s associate head coach, and he became the program’s head coach when Phillips left for Ohio University in 2014. Now in his fifth season as NDSU’s head coach, Richman is 95-66.
Is there a player from North Dakota State to know about?
North Dakota State generally operates without a go-to scorer, but the team’s most electric offensive leader would be junior college transfer Vinnie Shahid. The 5-foot-11 junior guard averages 12.8 points per game and is a 36 percent 3-point shooter.
The rest of the roster
In the Summit League Tournament, the Bison used 6-foot-6 wing Tyson Ward in the post to try and garner mismatches. It worked wonders against Oral Roberts (25 points) and Omaha (15 points). Deng Geu comes off the bench and averages 9.9 points per game, and Rocky Kreuser shoots 36 percent from deep.
NDSU assistant coach Kyan Brown and his family are currently living out of a hotel after a house fire displaced them recently. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster shares Brown’s story after the Bison advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Can they win?
After UMBC knocked off Virginia last season, isn’t anything possible? The Bison head to the NCAA Tournament, where Duke awaits them if they can make it out of Dayton. Anything beyond that would take a herculean effort and about 60 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.