No. 15 North Dakota State was unable to duplicate its NCAA tournament success of a season ago Friday night, as they fell 86-76 to No. 2 Gonzaga in a South Region matchup in Seattle. David Richman’s team fought throughout however, with Dexter Werner sparking a second-half comeback on his way to a career-high 22 points. Werner led four Bison in double figures, with senior guard Lawrence Alexander next in line with 19 points.
Following the game Richman addressed the team in the locker room, both discussing the standard that’s been set within a program that’s been to three NCAA tournaments in the last seven years while also thanking them for the work they put in. He also thanked Alexander, who will go down as one of the school’s all-time greats.
“Learn from him. He’s a hell of a player, guys,” Richman said of Alexander. “The numbers speak volumes for it, OK? They do. Your hunger and humility, kid, is what we’re all about. And I don’t have anything great to say to you, except for what all of us can say and a whole bunch of other people is thank you.
“You’ve raised the bar at North Dakota State University men’s basketball. A standard has been set by you. This culture changed when you go here. Myself, my family, every one of these kids are forever indebted to you. I love you, and I know this is just the start for you. Go finish it.”
Video credit: NDSU Athletics
Late Night Snacks: No. 7 Gonzaga, three other teams claim automatic bids
One night after William & Mary fell short of its goal of earning the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid, NEC regular season champion St. Francis-Brooklyn met the same fate on their home floor. Rodney Pryor led five Colonials in double figures with 17 points and Elijah Minnie grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go along with his 14 points. Tyreek Jewell had a chance to tie the game with three free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining, but he missed the first two and missed the third intentionally.
1. No. 7 Gonzaga 91, BYU 75
The Bulldogs avenged their lone WCC loss Tuesday night, and WCC Defensive Player of the Year Gary Bell Jr. was a key reason why. Bell was the primary defender on BYU’s Tyler Haws, who scored 15 points but did so on 6-for-14 shooting. Six Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by Kyle Wiltjer who scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds, and BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth led all scorers with 28 points. While Gonzaga will likely be a two-seed, an anxious five-day wait begins for BYU.
Both teams defended well but the Crusaders were just a bit better on that end, as the limited the Phoenix to 30.2 percent shooting. David Skara scored 12 points off the bench and E.Victor Nickerson added 11 for Valparaiso, whose head coach (Bryce Drew) was on the team that’s responsible for both of the program’s NCAA tournament victories (1998). Keifer Sykes scored 14 points for Green Bay but he shot 5-for-15 from the field, and Carrington Love made just one of his ten shots from the field.
Lawrence Alexander scored 25 points, with 16 coming in the second half, to lead North Dakota State to its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Both teams were solid defensively, but the Bison holding the Jackrabbits to less than 32 percent from the field gave them the upper hand. Cody Larson led South Dakota State with 19 points.
1. Virginia Tech’s Jalen Hudson
Hudson scored 32 points and made the game-winning shot in the Hokies’ one-point win over Wake Forest.
2. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan
Like Hudson, Hanlan’s late-game heroics were the difference in a one-point win. Hanlan scored 25 points in a 66-65 win over Georgia Tech.
3. Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer
Wiltjer scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds in the Bulldogs’ 91-75 win over BYU.
4. North Dakota State’s Lawrence Alexander
Alexander scored 25 points, shooting 6-for-9 from three, in the Bison’s 57-56 win over South Dakota State.
1. Georgia Tech’s Quinton Stephens
Stephens struggled mightily in the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Boston College, shooting 1-for-12 from the field.
2. Green Bay’s Carrington Love
Love shot 1-for-10 from the field in Green Bay’s 54-44 loss at Valparaiso in the Horizon League title game.
3. South Dakota State’s George Marshall
Marshall scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, but he shot just 2-for-11 from the field in the Jackrabbits’ loss to North Dakota State.
ACC first round: There were two one-point games in Greensboro Tuesday, with Boston College beating Georgia Tech 66-65 on an Olivier Hanlan jumper with 10.9 seconds remaining and Virginia Tech beating Wake Forest 81-80. Jalen Hudson, who scored 32 points, gave the Hokies the win with a shot with 11.7 seconds remaining. Wednesday’s second round: Florida State vs. Clemson, Boston College vs. No. 19 North Carolina, Pittsburgh vs. NC State and Virginia Tech vs. Miami.
MEAC first round: Coppin State and South Carolina State were the two winners in Norfolk, with the Eagles holding off Bethune-Cookman 64-60 and the Bulldogs beating North Carolina A&T 63-54. Wednesday’s quarterfinals: Coppin State vs. North Carolina Central, South Carolina State vs. Norfolk State.
SWAC first round: Alcorn State won the lone game, beating Grambling State 66-52. Next up for the Hornets is top seed Texas Southern. Wednesday’s quarterfinals: Alcorn State vs. Texas Southern, Mississippi Valley State vs. Alabama State.
– Also, Princeton beat rival Penn 73-52 in what was the final game for Penn head coach Jerome Allen. Princeton’s Hans Brase led all scorers with 18 points.
Introducing Cinderella: Meet the North Dakota State Bison
Seeding: In our latest bracket top seed South Dakota State was seen as a 15-seed, but North Dakota State could land on the 16 line.
Names you need to know: Lawrence Alexander (18.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg), A.J. Jacobson (11.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Kory Brown (8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg), Carlin Dupree (7.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Stats you need to know: The Bison shoot 38.1 percent from three and they’ve scored nearly 32 percent of their points by way of the three-point shot entering Tuesday’s game. What will also help the Bison in the NCAA tournament is the fact that they’re one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country. NDSU ranks third nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (77.1 percent), and they accomplish this by committee with seven players averaging between 3.7 and 5.4 rebounds per game. The tallest player of those seven: 6-foot-8 Chris Kading (4.0 rpg).
Tendencies: With Marshall Bjorklund and Taylor Braun gone from last season’s team, it’s understandable that the Bison don’t convert inside of the arc as well as they did in 2013-14. After shooting 55.4 percent from two last season (ranking sixth nationally), North Dakota State are making just over 45 percent of those looks this season. That’s why they’ve relied so much on the perimeter shot, with Alexander (94), Jacobson (52) and Paul Miller (34) being the leaders in three-pointers made. Defensively, the Bison play man the majority of the time.
Big wins, bad losses: Their best non-conference win came at home against Akron. Outside of that there isn’t a whole lot to sell when it comes to getting off of the 16-line. The Bison have two wins over South Dakota State, but their losses include Southern Miss, South Dakota and Oral Roberts.
How’d they get here: North Dakota State won the Summit League tournament as the two-seed, beating Denver, Oral Roberts and South Dakota State. The Bison limited the Pioneers and Golden Eagles below 60 points, and in their win over ORU they avenged a 16-point loss in the regular season finale for both.
Outlook: Not as good as it was a season ago. With Braun and Bjorklund inside the Bison had two talented front court prospects who could give opponents fits. They don’t have that kind of interior productivity, but they do have a stud in Alexander (Summit League POY) who can get hot from anywhere on the court. But given the likely seed, that’s unlikely to yield a result as memorable as last year’s.
How do I know you?: You saw them beat Oklahoma in last year’s NCAA tournament as a 12-seed, and in that game Alexander scored 28 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field. The head coach of that team, Saul Phillips, is now at Ohio and the head coach of their first NCAA team (2009) was Nebraska head coach Tim Miles.
Kentucky entered the 2013-14 season with buzz about a potential perfect season on the horizon. However, it was Wichita State, the Final Four darling from the previous March, flirting with perfection in the NCAA tournament, taking a 35-0 record into the Round of 32. Kentucky’s shortcomings resulted in the Wildcats being slotted as a No. 8 seed, a dangerous third round matchup for the undefeated Shockers.
Wichita State led 69-64 with 4:30 left after a few 3-pointers from Cleanthony Early. James Young would led a run for the Wildcats who took a 70-69 lead with under three minutes to play. A two-possession lead, 75-71, was cut to a single point after Ron Baker banked in a three. Julius Randle hit a pair of free throws, and Fred VanVleet’s final 3-point attempt was off the mark.
Bo Ryan advanced to his first Final Four with a dramatic 64-63 win over top-ranked Arizona in the West Regional final. Arizona possessed the nation’s top defense, but Frank Kaminsky proved to be the ultimate mismatch with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon both guarded Kaminsky. Nick Johnson would front him. Nothing worked. Still, the Wildcats had a chance to win, although, a controversial charge call went against Johnson with 3.2 seconds remaining.
It needs to repeated because Harrison replicated a game-winner against Michigan in the Elite 8 in Kentucky’s Final Four matchup against Wisconsin. No seriously, look: identical shots. Harrison’s 3-pointer with two seconds left sent the Wildcats to the national championship game.
Kentucky was part of the toughest region in the bracket. The Wildcats needed to top Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan in order to reach Arlington. Thanks to Aaron Harrison’s long, contested 3-pointer, Kentucky topped the previous season’s national finalist, 75-72.
The long anticipated matchup between new conference rivals, Duke and Syracuse, did not disappoint. The Orange, in front of 35,446 fans inside the Carrier Dome, took down the Blue Devils 91-87 in overtime. Rasheed Sulaimon forced the extra frame with a buzzer-beating three. Syracuse, leading by one, was aided by a favorable no-call as Rodney Hood missed a dunk over Jerami Grant. The bigger Syracuse frontline was led by C.J. Fair’s 28 points and Grant’s 24. Duke countered with 15 threes. The second meeting between the two storied programs and two Hall of Fame coaches was equally as memorable.
The upset of the tournament was No. 14 seed Mercer over No. 3 seed Duke. The Blue Devils had struggled on the defensive end all season long, and those problems came to light in the Round of 64 with the Bears shooting 55 percent from the field. Duke hit 15 threes, but took close to 40 attempts from beyond the arc. However, as a team, Duke was 35 percent from the field with Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combining for 20 points off 6-of-24 shooting.
The first of two games between the Cowboys and Cylcones went to triple overtime with Iowa State pulling out a 98-97 win. In the second overtime, DeAndre Kane’s offensive rebound turned into a 3-pointer for Naz Long, tying the score at 89-all and forcing an additional five minutes. Iowa State took control in the third overtime and while Oklahoma State had its chances, the Cowboys couldn’t convert.
The Lumberjacks were a trendy upset pick as the No. 12 seed. Stephen F. Austin had won 28 straight and had one of the nation’s top defenses, though, late in the game against No. 5 seed VCU, it looked as if that upset bid would come up short. That was until Desmond Haymon was fouled on a four-point play to tie the score with 3.6 seconds left, which forced overtime. The Lumberjacks prevailed in overtime and advanced to the Round of 32.
The Louisville All-American hit a game-winner with two seconds left to led the Cardinals to a road victory over Cincinnati in February. Smith was clutch down the stretch with a pair of assists in the game’s final moments.
Tennessee became a dangerous No. 12 seed, rolling through UMass in the Round of 64 while missing out on a matchup with Duke — thanks to the Mercer upset — in the following round. The Volunteers nearly reached the Elite 8, erasing a double-digit lead only to have a controversial charge call go against them late in the game. Jarnell Stokes was called for a player-control foul on Jordan Morgan, with Michigan leading by one, with six seconds left.
Turnover is the name of the game for the Summit League as we head into the 2014-2015 season. There will be five new head coaches in the nine-team league and that doesn’t include Scott Sutton, the head coach at Oral Roberts, who will return to the conference after a two-year stint in the Southland. Just one first-team all-conference player is back this season, and among those who have left were the league’s best player (Taylor Braun) and biggest personality (former North Dakota State head coach Saul Phillips).
That said, the Summit League should end up being one of the tightest conference races in the country this year, as the separation between the top teams in the conference is quite small.
Our pick to win the regular season title is Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles had enjoyed a terrific run near the top of the Summit League for a decade-and-a-half before the school got swept up in the realignment chaos and wound up in the Southland. After a two year hiatus, Sutton is back with one of his better teams. Senior Obi Emegano is healthy after tearing his ACL last season and junior guard Korey Billbury had a terrific sophomore campaign in Emegano’s absence. Losing Shawn Glover will hurt, but the key for ORU will be whether Brandon Conley takes a step forward this season.
ORU’s biggest challenger will be Joe Scott’s Denver Pioneers. While he loses Chris Udofia to graduation, Scott does return Brett Olson, a first-team all-conference guard last year and our Preseason Player of the Year. He’s a sharp-shooter who hit more than 50 percent from three in league play, but he’s also going to have to learn to be “the guy”. In total, the Pioneers bring back four starters from last year. Denver joined the Summit prior to the 2013-2014 season.
New IPFW head coach Jon Coffman will enter this season without three of the Mastodons’ top six players from a year ago, but he does get back sophomore point guard Mo Evans, who is expected to be one of the league’s breakout stars, as well as big man Steve Forbes. Forbes is a dominating presence in the paint, but he only averaged 21.3 minutes as a junior due to fitness and foul trouble.
South Dakota State loses a number of key pieces, but former Florida big man Cody Larson will be one of the league’s most athletic players. The Jackrabbits will also get a boost when former Wisconsin point guard George Marshall gets eligible in December. North Dakota State will be without Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and former head coach Saul Phillips, but the Bison have built a strong enough program to withstand the turnover. Expect big seasons from Lawrence Alexander and Kory Brown.
In: Oral Roberts Out: None
PRESEASON SUMMIT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brett Olson, Denver
Olson is the only player from last season’s all-Summit first-team to be returning to school this season after averaging 14.5 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 boards. He shot 51.5% from beyond the arc in league play, but with Chris Udofia graduating, Joe Scott is going to need Olson to take on a more commanding role this season if the Pioneers are going to play their way out of a tough, balanced conference.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SUMMIT LEAGUE TEAM:
Cody Larson, South Dakota State, Sr.: Larson, who began his career at Florida, might be the bst athlete in the conference.
Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts, Jr.: Emegano was on pace to have a huge season in 2013-2014 but tore his ACL in the fourth game of the year.
Lawrence Alexander, North Dakota State, Sr.: A four-year starter at the point, Alexander will be the catalyst for the Bison, will have plenty of scoring to replace.
Steve Forbes, IPFW, Sr.: The big fella needs to get in shape and stay out of foul trouble, but he’s a monster when he does.
With the plans of building a new Scheels Center at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex leaving the North Dakota State basketball program without the use of its original home, the school announced Wednesday that it has agreed to a two-year deal with Scheels Arena to play its games there during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Scheels Arena is a 5,000-seat off-campus facility, and in addition to every men’s team home game the women’s team will play three games there during the 2014-15 season.
“We are extremely excited and very appreciative of the opportunity to partner with Scheels Arena,” head men’s basketball coach David Richman said in the release. “There is no doubt that it will provide a first-class atmosphere for our fans and our student-athletes.”
This sets up for an interesting period for the North Dakota State program, with Richman being in his first season as head coach and the Bison looking to build on a season that featured the school’s first NCAA tournament victory. Richman will have to account for the departure of three of the team’s top four scorers, as Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright are all out of eligibility.
However Lawrence Alexander, who averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 assists per game last season, returns as does fellow guard (and starter) Kory Brown (7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg).