SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The state of North Dakota will be represented in the NCAA tournament this month. As to which of the Division I men’s basketball schools that will earn the honor remains to be seen.
North Dakota State defeated Oral Roberts and the University of North Dakota beat Purdue-Fort Wayne in the Summit League semifinals on Monday night. It means the Bison and Fighting Hawks will tip it off at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center for the right to earn the league’s automatic berth to the "Big Dance."
The teams split in the regular season, with the Bison winning 83-74 at home and the Fighting Hawks, behind a last-second 3-pointer from Marlon Stewart, ending NDSU’s seven-game winning streak in Grand Forks with a 71-68 win.
The rubber match will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
“We know who they are; we know they're a tremendous opponent,” said UND head coach Paul Sather. “And we have a great deal of respect for them so let’s get ourselves ready to go and get our plan ready to go and see what happens.”
Of all the NDSU-UND men’s basketball games over the years, this one will undoubtedly carry the highest stakes. The Bison came into the Summit tourney as the No. 1 seed, so the fact they’ve made it to Tuesday night is not a surprise.
UND was the No. 6 seed, but the Hawks knocked off No. 3 South Dakota in the first round and then took care of the No. 7-seed Mastodons, who upset No. 2 South Dakota State in their first round game.
The Bison will be gunning for their second straight NCAA tourney appearance and fourth overall. They previously won this tournament in 2009, 2014, 2015 and last season. UND won the Big Sky Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA in 2017. A second-year member of the Summit, this is its first shot of winning the league’s autobid.
“They've had a lot of reasons to maybe make excuses and not believe but they just continue to believe,” Sather said. “And that's something I can't control. That's them. It's been fun to work with them because it always hasn't been roses but they've stayed together as a team and that's fun to be a part of that.”