GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota athletic department went to the Summit League to be reunited with its rivals North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.
The dangerous angle of that move is that some years you’re going to be on the bottom of the Dakota school heap.
So far in the basketball world, Year 1 is one of those years.
The UND men’s basketball team completed the discouraging hat trick in a 70-56 frustrating loss to South Dakota on Wednesday night, Jan. 23, at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
On the women’s side, UND is expected to make it 3-for-3 Dakota defeats, too, when it hosts South Dakota Thursday, Jan. 24.
The good news is only 1,532 fans were there to see the men play the Yotes because it was played on another Wednesday night, but that’s a column for another day.
For the men, a tight loss to South Dakota State last week and another down-to-the-wire defeat at the hands of North Dakota State didn’t even leave that sour of a taste in fans’ mouths. Those games were exciting and competitive.
UND’s expectations were low this year. The Fighting Hawks are a rebuilt roster, reeling from a late graduate transfer of leading scorer Geno Crandall to Gonzaga.
In those losses to NDSU and SDSU, UND fans could see some of the exciting youth that offered optimism for the future like in freshman sharp-shooter Aanen Moody and freshman Serbian dunker Filip Rebraca.
This was cringe-worthy. No amount of public relation spin could tell you otherwise.
“With a younger team sometimes -- after so many close games -- you’re going to have a letdown and disappointing that was tonight,” UND coach Brian Jones said. “Our biggest key was competing because South Dakota is a physical, tougher, older team. That was one thing we’ve stressed the last two days and it didn’t show up.
“I can handle losing, but when we don’t fight even when we’re undermanned without Conner … you can control your effort and your toughness.”
Both the UND men and women have rebuilding to do with their programs to get up to speed in the Summit.
Some nights the gap feels close, some nights it feels like a giant leap.
Wednesday was the latter.