Introducing Cinderella: North Dakota State is back in the dance

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Is North Dakota State a basketball school now?

For the second straight year and the fourth time in the last seven seasons, the Bison are heading for the NCAA tournament. They won a share of the Summit League regular season title and, after South Dakota State got picked off in the first round of the Summit League tournament, were able to take home the league’s tournament title. They struggled with Denver in the quarterfinals, but took care of business against Oral Roberts in the second round before laying the wood on in-state rival North Dakota in the title game.

As it stands, the Bison will enter the Big Dance having won 12 of their last 13 games. They’ve lost just once since a Jan. 22nd loss to South Dakota State.

LEAGUE: Summit League

COACH: Dave Richman

RECORD: 23-8, 13-3

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METRICS:

  • NET: 136
  • KENPOM: 113
  • TORVIK: 136

PROJECTED SEED: The Bison are likely looking at a No. 15 or No. 16 seed in the tournament. I don’t think they are in danger of ending up in a play-in game, but stranger things have happened.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: The reason I say that is because they have one of the better wins that you’ll find for a team projected to end up in the 15-16 seed range — they beat East Tennessee State, who ranks in the top 40 in the NET.

WHY NORTH DAKOTA STATE CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The Bison are not a team that will beat themselves. They may be the most conservative team in college basketball They don’t gamble for steals or for blocks — they rank outside the top 330 nationally in defensive turnover percentage, block percentage and steal percentage. They lead the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. They are 325th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. They run teams off of the three-point line and they are as good as anyone at forcing opponents to beat them 1-on-1.

WHY NORTH DAKOTA STATE WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

They may not beat themselves, but do they have the horses and the talent to be able to pull off the kind of upset they’ll need to if they want to win a game in this year’s tournament? They do have some talented guards — Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward can take games over — but I’m not sure that will be enough against one of the top eight teams in college basketball.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

The Bison have been to two straight NCAA tournaments and danced in four of the last seven years — including a trip in 2014 when they beat Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed — but NDSU is known as a football school, where they have been a FCS powerhouse. Carson Wentz says hello.

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The Bison play a pretty unique style, one that allows them to win a lot of games against mid-major competition. I am not convinced that they can beat college basketball’s elite playing that way.