The 2008-09 season was the first that North Dakota State was eligible to play in the NCAA tournament. The Bison wasted no time seizing the opportunity.
North Dakota State earned the first NCAA tournament bid in school history by defeating Oakland 66-64 in the Summit League conference tournament championship game. The Bison also won the regular season championship, going 16-2 in conference play. They enter their first NCAA tournament with an overall record of 26-6.
The Bison only played a couple of games against “big conference” competition. Minnesota defeated North Dakota State 90-76 on November 29. The Bison then lost to USC 61-57 on December 20. Other than those games, North Dakota State goes into the 2009 NCAA tournament as a very untested team.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bison will make for an easy win for whoever faces them in the first round. Senior guard Ben Woodside is someone who could make a serious impact in the NCAA tournament. Woodside averages 22.8 points and 6.3 assists a game for North Dakota State. He is also a 43 percent three point shooter. Woodside has help underneath in the form of 6-6 forward Brett Winkelman. A fellow senior, Winkelman scores 18.7 points a game and adds 7.4 rebounds a contest for North Dakota State. Winkelman has also made 39 of 102 three point attempts this season (38 percent). Senior guard Mike Nelson, a 40 percent three point shooter, scores 11.9 points a game. Michael Tveidt, a sophomore forward, averages 9.7 points a game.
As a team, North Dakota State shoots about 74 percent from the free throw line. Woodside and Winkelman both average over 80 percent from the charity stripe. As a whole, the Bison shoot an impressive 41 percent from three point land and 49 percent from the field. They have averaged 80.8 points a game in the 2008-09 season.
At 6-10, senior Lucas Moormann is the tallest player on North Dakota State. Moormann only averages 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. The Bison as a team grab less than 36 rebounds (35.5) a contest. If Woodside and company find themselves a little overexcited and begin clanking shots left and right in their first round match-up, the Bison really don’t have anybody (other than the 6-6 Winkelman) who can go up and grab offensive rebounds.
The intimidation factor is simply something you just don’t know about when discussing a team that’s never played in the NCAA tournament. One plus for North Dakota State is that the three most prominent scorers on the team are all seniors. You don’t need to doubt Ben Woodside’s ability to make something happen in the clutch. It was Woodside who made a 17-footer with three seconds remaining to win the conference tournament championship game.
North Dakota State is an exciting basketball team that can put lots of points on the board in a hurry. Not many people know about the Bison, a fact that makes them even more dangerous in the NCAA tournament. They’re also on a roll. North Dakota State has won seven straight and 18 of their previous 19. This is absolutely one team you should not ignore when filling out your brackets.
All stats courtesy of ESPN