FARGO — North Dakota State unexpectedly gained ground in the Summit League men's basketball standings last weekend without playing. With two weekends to go, the Bison regained their own destiny in search of the regular season title.
The first series, and the last two home games, for the Bison are this weekend against South Dakota State. With four games to play, NDSU and South Dakota are 9-3 in the conference while the Jackrabbits are 6-2. All three have the same winning percentage. USD, which won its first nine Summit games, was swept by North Dakota last weekend.
SDSU defeated the Bison 77-75 in the nonconference Dakota Showcase in Sioux Falls in December. The Jackrabbits played that game without standout center Douglas Wilson because of an injury. SDSU will play the rest of the season without leading scorer Noah Freidel, who announced on Wednesday he is leaving the team to deal with depression and anxiety issues.
Freidel was averaging 17.1 points per game. Wilson, however, has returned to the lineup and is averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Saturday will be Senior Night for the Bison, who will honor backup center Tyler Witz in his last home game.
"Crazy to think it's February and the last home weekend of the year," said Bison head coach Dave Richman. "Tyler Witz will go down as one of the ultimate teammates I've been a part of. His role has diminished this year but that hasn't changed who he is as a person."
The fact Witz will be the only senior honored is a major clue that senior forward Rocky Kreuser will return for another season. This season doesn't count against anybody's eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kreuser is the team's leading scorer at 14.8 points a game.
"We've had some preliminary discussions and all indications at this point are that," Richman said of Kreuser returning next year. "But like anybody, we'll evaluate everybody's happiness at the end of the season."