Those of you who follow college football beyond the major college level probably know that North Dakota State has won all but one of the last eight Football Championship Subdivision titles. Bison fans pretty much start making plans for a January trip to Frisco, Texas, on the day after their team wins the title. It's a program heavy on Minnesota talent -- and ripe for debate about how well it would do if it played "major-college" teams on a weekly basis. We're not here to start that debate, though.
Basketball is a different story. The Bison men's basketball team has now made the field four times in the past 10 years, including a 2009 appearance when North Dakota State came to the Metrodome to play Kansas in the first round with hype and hopes that were quelled by a Jayhawks team that featured Bloomington Jefferson star Cole Aldrich.
This year, the Bison enter the tournament after winning the Summit League championship after finishing fourth in the conference. In other words, making the field was something of a surprise and not afforded the seeding respect NDSU had gotten in previous years. You can make an argument that, under the circumstances, NDSU got the best possible outcome:
A 16th-seed play-in game on Wednesday vs. North Carolina Central, in which the Bison will enter as the favorite.
And if they win:
It's North Dakota State vs. Duke, the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Gulp. Good luck with that, guys.,
But, in the meantime, NDSU can deflect any thought about being led to the Blue Devils by talking about the winnable game in Dayton, Ohio.
On Sunday's CBS-TV selection show, the Bison were the first team called out after Duke was revealed as No. 1 overall in the 68-team field.
Vinnie Shahid, who played high school basketball at Hopkins, told Jeff Kolpack of the Fargo Forum: "To see North Dakota State on the screen and to see North Dakota State on my chest is an amazing feeling. It happened so fast. We weren't expecting it to come up so fast. We're excited to play North Carolina Central and we'll go from there."
"Go from there" will mean (1) Having modest expectations and (2) More than one reminder about how 16th-seed Maryland-Baltimore County defeated No. 1-seeded Virginia last year. We'll stake out the position that lightning of that sort won't strike again for another decade or two, and hope that isn't seen as a slight as much as a reality check.
North Carolina Central is also a surprise entrant to the tournament, beating the Nos. 1 and 2 seeded teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to earn its spot.
"I watched their game against Norfolk. Other than that I don't know anything," Bison junior guard Tyson Ward told Kolpack.
The Bison roster includes five players from the metro area and one from River Falls, Wis., so there's a sideways Minnesota rooting interest here, which makes up for the University of North Dakota fans who would root for the devil ... or the Blue Devils ... before cheering a North Dakota State team.
Two more thoughts. Don't be like this curmudgeon:
And some day, the Bison players may well have quite a story to tell their kids. They might need this tweet as proof.