Mid-Major Radar Finds North Dakota State, The Team To Beat in The Summit
This is the first article of a new series, "Mid-Major Radar."
In this series, I will discuss mid-major teams that deserve more attention than they are getting. In other words, you won't find anything about Davidson, Gonzaga, or Saint Mary's in this series.
Without further ado, meet North Dakota State of the Summit League.
This is the Bison's first year of postseason eligibility. If the wins keep coming like they have been, North Dakota State will find themselves in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
They are the epitome of a run-and-gun team. As a squad, the Bison shoot 48.6 percent from the floor and a stunning 40.3 percent from deep. Their 81.2 points per game is good enough to land them in the top 10 scoring offenses.
If you're thinking that this team, which has not been eligible for postseason play, is inexperienced, you're wrong.
Ben Woodside, Brett Winkelman, and Mike Nelson are leaders on and off the floor. These three Bison have been playing together in Fargo, North Dakota for four consecutive seasons, and have matured through the system.
You might remember Woodside for scoring 60 points in a triple overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin in December. The senior point guard is the country's sixth best scorer at 24.2 points per game.
Get this: Stephen Curry is the only other player in the nation who scores over 24 points per game and dishes out at least six assists. Both guards dish out 6.4 dimes per game.
Woodside has been an excellent leader of the herd.
The only downside for Woodside is his size. He stands 5'11" and weighs 185 pounds. He's quick, but his size has made it tough for him to pour in his average against bigger teams.
In an early season matchup against Minnesota, Woodside scored 16 points, but still managed to shoot 7-of-15 from the floor. The 14 points that he scored in a four-point loss against USC is his second lowest total of the season.
Other than those games, though, Woodside has been a talent worth noting. He has scored 20+ points in 12 of North Dakota State's 19 games.
Winkelman, Woodside's fellow statesman from Minnesota, has had his fair share of big performances. Unlike Woodside, Winkelman is yet to score under 10 points in a game. The 6'6" senior averages 19.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Despite starting at small forward, Winkelman leads the Bison in rebounding.
It might be hard to believe, but the senior's stats have actually declined since last year. Nonetheless, he is shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, a team-high 81 percent from the stripe, and 37.5 percent from long range.
These two seniors help each other out on the court. Woodside creates and dishes, and Winkelman puts the ball in the basket.
Nelson is the third leading senior on the team. He is less prominent than the previous two, but his three-point shooting has won some games for the Bison. Nelson, who hails from Madison, Wisconsin, hits two treys per game on 40.2 percent shooting from the distance.
This senior's long range shooting kept the Bison within striking range of Minnesota. He knocked down five threes on 10 attempts and scored 22 points.
These three seniors, along with senior Lance Moorman and sophomore Michael Tveidt, have led North Dakota State to a 14-5 record.
The Bison lack an impressive win that would merit an at-large bid, but they appear to be the team to beat in the Summit midway through conference play. Oral Roberts was the preseason favorite, and their one loss is to none other than North Dakota State.
A one-point loss at Oakland is the only obstacle between the Bison and a perfect conference record. On Thursday, Oakland will head to Fargo, where the Bison are 8-0.
After the game against Oakland, North Dakota State's only game against a team with a winning record is at Oral Roberts. The Feb. 28 matchup will be the final game before the conference tournament.
If Coach Saul Phillips' phone rings on March 15, the team on the other end must be prepared to cool off the Bison. If they don't, North Dakota State has the ability to shoot their opponent out of the gym.
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