Friday night the season ended. It was the result that was widely predicted but how it happened, few predicted.
The Bison went shot for shot against the most talented team in the country for the first 20 minutes of play. Detractors could say that the Blue Devils were sleep walking their way through the first half and turned it on the in second half. Considering the way that the scoring went after the break, it's hard to argue against that. The counter point that I would emphasize is that NDSU was abysmal from the behind the arc, which is the strength of the team yet managed to hang around. When it came down to it, Zion & the Dukies were not about to join Virginia in the history books and they made sure that there was no doubt about it.
For NDSU though, it was a win before they even left Dayton.
The team can talk all they want about the belief they had in themselves and that it wasn't a surprise that they won the Summit League. I'm not about to call it a barefaced lie but it is cliched sports talk. What they accomplished this year wasn't supposed to happen. It was supposed to be South Dakota State's coronation year. They lost the memo then got swept out of the NIT for good measure. But if not the Jacks, then probably Omaha. Yet NDSU took care of business against the Mavericks & earned the right to play in the nations greatest sporting event. As soon as the announcement was made last Sunday I had confidence that it would be NDSU versus Duke. North Carolina Central proved to be a worthy opponent in the days in-between but once again, the Bison handled their business!
They did it all with a team that was playing together for the first time. That's a legitimate reason for the slow start to the year and partly why it looked like this could be another lost season as recently as two months ago when they got smashed by the Jacks in Brookings. They came together and did something special in the months that followed the loss. Here's the rub though, their accomplishment may not be repeated next year. I think they will be the favorites in the Summit & should be able to make it two straight NCAA tournaments but nothing is guaranteed, as this year's favorites showed.
Yet for all that promise for next season, for the upstart nature of the team this year, I say again they won no matter. After the game was over they got to shake hands with one of the best coaches of all time, with players that seem assured of having 10 - 15 year careers in the NBA and may end up in the Hall of Fame. It was the experience of a lifetime. That's what college is supposed to be. That it all happened as the capper to a surprising tournament appearance should take away from what a great moment that was. It was a short run but that is a sweet sweet moment in the history of the university and in the lives of those young men! Let's not forget that in all the other things that are thought & said these days!