NCAA Tournament Preview: North Dakota State Bison

North Dakota State Bison NCAA

The Bison lost only six games this season, and only two of them were after January 1—both of them on the road in Summit League play.  Overall, in 2014, they are 15-2. They swept both the regular season title and the Summit League tournament, beating IPFW in the championship game 60-57. This is their second appearance in the NCAA post-season tournament. They lost in the first round to Kansas in 2009 as a 14-seed. Their number-12 seed is the highest for a Summit League team since 1997.

North Dakota State Bison (12 Seed, West Bracket)

Record: 25-6 (12-2 Summit)

Coach: Saul Phillips

Tournament Berth:  Summit League automatic bid

Big Wins:  Notre Dame, Delaware, Western Michigan,

Big Loses:  Ohio State, Southern Miss, Saint Mary’s

Team Leaders

POINTS

PPG

FG%

FT%

3PT%

Taylor Braun

18.2

.491

.781

.441

Marshall Bjorklund

13.4

.636

.629

.000

REBOUNDS

REB

OFF

DEF

BPG

Taylor Braun

5.5

0.7

4.8

0.2

TrayVonn Wright

5.2

1.4

3.8

1.8

ASSISTS

APG

SPG

TO

AST/TO

Taylor Braun

3.9

1.6

1.9

2.0

Lawrence Alexander

2.6

1.0

2.2

1.2

Starting Five

F – TrayVonn Wright

F – Marshall Bjorklund

G – Lawrence Alexander

G – Kory Brown

G – Taylor Braun

Who’s Hot:  TrayVonn Wright picked up the slack from Taylor Braun in the Bison’s championship game, leading the team in scoring with 19 points while Braun added 15. Braun, averaging over 18 points this season, poured in 28 in ND State’s semi-final win over Denver.

Who’s Not:  Not to be picky, because the Bison lead the nation in Field Goal percentage at .509, but in the Summit League championship game IPFW figured out a way to hold that percentage down to just over 40 percent, their third lowest shooting percentage of the year. Just one night earlier, the Bison shot over 62 percent in their win over Denver.

Outlook: The Bison carry a 12-seed into the West Region in a first round game against fifth-seeded Oklahoma in Spokane, WA, and many are making the North Dakotans an “upset special.” Their strengths include being the number-one team in the nation in Field Goal Percentage and no.47  in Scoring at over 76 points per game. On defense their best mark is no. 61  in points allowed, giving up just 65.5 per game. The Summit League may be looked at as a mid-major conference, but the Bison have beaten two tournament-bound teams in Delaware and Western Michigan as well as Notre Dame. They are not afraid to mix it up with the big teams and have held their own. The leader of the team, and leading scorer and rebounder is senior Taylor Braun, who is 6-7 and is listed as a guard. Besides scoring the most, he is passing the most too, leading the team in assists. Braun is not the only one on the team who can score, as the Bison have four players averaging in double-digits. Most of ND State’s scoring is done down low near the basket, and that helps account for their high field goal percentage, but Braun still shoots 44.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Bison are an experienced team, with three seniors and one junior in the starting five. If they should beat Oklahoma in their first game on Thursday, they will take on the winner of the San Diego State/New Mexico State game on Saturday.

Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
@Chuck_pod

Sources:
ESPN
North Dakota State
NewsOK

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