North Dakota State and Kansas tip off at 12:30 EDT from the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis today.
For Kansas, it's their first game of their title defense, if you want to go that far.
For North Dakota State, it's their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Both teams have a lot to play for. Kansas ended it's regular season with one win in its last three games, while NDSU on the other hand, is flying into the tournament with the Summit League title in tow.
For many analysts, an upset special has been par for the course in regard to the NCAA Tournament. I think taking the Bison over the Jayhawks in your bracket is pretty risky, despite it being one of the sexiest upset picks to choose from this season.
North Dakota State fans only have to travel three hours into Minneapolis from Fargo, while the trip from Lawrence is over six hours.
Many have pointed to this as a factor.
I don't really think it will play too big a role. The Metrodome has to be one of the biggest venues for sports events. While it gets deafening when the Twins are in the pennant race, I doubt that there will be enough people in the Homerdome to have a major affect on the Jayhawks.
Keys to the Game
For Kansas, the keys minimal and simple to understand.
Most importantly, Cole Aldrich is playing just a stone's throw from his house in Bloomington. The Jayhawks need to get the ball to him every offensive possession. He can control the game because North Dakota State lacks size.
Secondly, they have to defend the perimeter. North Dakota State loves to shoot and make the three. They shoot an incredible percentage from behind the arc, and Kansas must defend the three well.
Finally, look to see how well the Kansas freshman handle the pressure of their first NCAA tournament game. They've played shaky at times in big settings away from home this season, but if they can perform decently, Kansas shouldn't have a problem.
For North Dakota State, the first key will be to get open looks from three-point land. They have four guys who can shoot from just about anywhere on the floor. If they can shoot their average, they have a shot at the upset.
Second, the Bison's star player, fifth-year senior, Ben Woodside has to play a great game. He has to slash, distribute and score. If he can put up big numbers, he'll keep his Bison close.
If KU shuts him down, game over.
Finally, the Bison need to come out relaxed. A lot of energy will come with playing your first tournament game in school history, but that energy can be a double-edged sword. If they come out too tight, Kansas can get out to a large lead early.
I think Kansas has the upper hand experience-wise. They have two tournament tested players in Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. North Dakota State, meanwhile, is a dangerous team.
Kansas, however, will be twice as good as any team the Bison have faced this year.
Final score: Kansas 82, NDSU 68
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