North Dakota State Bison
- Current record: 1-0
- 2011-12 record: 17-14 (9-9 in Summit League)
- 2012-13 Sagarin: 137 (IU is 5)
- 2012-13 Pomeroy: 104 (IU is 1)
- Series: First Meeting
- Head Coach: Saul Phillips (Sixth season, 85-67)
- TV: 7 p.m. Monday, BTN.com
[Editor's note: Please welcome the newest member of The Crimson Quarry staff, Austan Kas. As the polished product below makes clear, Austan has experience as a professional journalist. He spent several years as a sports reporter/editor/photographer for a small town newspaper in Indiana and will be writing about all things IU basketball this season. I think he will be a valuable addition to the team here as we cover what we all hope will be a special season for the Hoosiers. Welcome, Austan!---John M.]
After slaughtering Bryant, 97-54, in its season opener, top-ranked Indiana figures to get a little stiffer challenge tonight from North Dakota State. The Hoosiers and Bison tangle at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the Progressive Legends Classic. The contest will not be televised (set your DVRs, BTN will replay it at 5 p.m. Tuesday) but can be seen on BTN.com.
Fresh off a contract extension that will keep him in Bloomington through 2020, Indiana coach Tom Crean had nothing but good things to say about the Bison when he met with the media on Sunday.
"They are a good program with a lot of experience," said Crean, according to IUhoosiers.com, "and will present different challenges than we have faced this year. They are extremely tough and well-coached and they return their top five scorers."
While in its Division I infancy, North Dakota State has already made one trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Bison were first eligible for the big dance in 2008-09. They went 26-7 that year and, led by high-scoring guard Ben Woodside, threatened third-seeded Kansas in the opening round before falling 84-74.
North Dakota State dipped below .500 the next two years before posting a 17-14 record in 2011-12. The Bison played in the postseason a year ago, losing to Wyoming in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.
Coming in to this season, North Dakota State was tabbed to finish second in the Summit League Preseason Poll, garnering one first-place vote. Three Bison received individual honors: Taylor Braun was named to the Summit League's First Team while Lawrence Alexander, the conference's 2012 Newcomer of the Year, and Marshall Bjorklund earned spots on the Second Team.
The Bison are coached by Saul Phillips, who is in his sixth year. Phillips has ties to a pair of Big Ten coaches. Prior to becoming the head man at North Dakota State, Phillips served as an assistant for the Bison under then-head coach Tim Miles, who is in his first season with Nebraska. Before coming to North Dakota State in 2004, Phillips spent three years working for Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, serving as the Badgers' director of basketball operations. Phillips also spent two years as an assistant coach under Ryan at Wisconsin Milwaukee (1999-01). Will Ryan, Bo Ryan's son, is an assistant coach for the Bison.
When speaking with the media on Sunday, Indiana Associate Head Coach Steve McClain said North Dakota State is similar to Bo Ryan's Wisconsin teams.
"For our fans to watch," McClain commented, according to IUhoosiers.com, "they are a team that plays the gaps on defense and they want you to settle for the jump shot. They do not want to give up penetration to the paint. So we have to make sure that we take our time and get the shot that we want. Bo Ryan's son is on their staff and they have a Wisconsin flavor to them in how they play offense and defense."
North Dakota State opened its season with a 93-47 thrashing of Valley City State on Nov. 9. Reserve Mike Felt led the charge, netting a career-high 23 points off the bench. Felt shot 8 of 12 from the floor, including 6 for 9 from the 3-point line. Braun dropped in 19 points, and Chris Kading and Bjorklund added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Bison -- who picked up exhibition wins over Concordia Moorhead (86-57) and Minnesota State Moorhead (72-67 in overtime) -- are scheduled to play Minnesota later this season. North Dakota State suffered a hard-fought 63-59 loss at Williams Arena a year ago. In that contest, the Bison jumped out to a 14-2 lead but were unable to hold off the Gophers despite seizing a 38-29 edge on the glass.
During the Summit League media day, Phillips had this to say about getting the chance to play the Hoosiers, according to thesummitleague.org: "It is a historic moment for this program, to play a No. 1 team in the nation and hasn't been done before. I look at it as you're walking in there and have a chance to do something really special. The reality of it is they're big, they're strong, they're fast. They have a terrific team. We played Kansas in the NCAA tournament four years back on a neutral court and this is going into Indiana, this is a tall task. I know one thing, our guys are excited about it and it is a great moment for our program just from the standpoint to play the No. 1-ranked team in the nation doesn't come along very often."
Indiana, 7-0 all-time against Summit League teams, is taking the floor just three days after its 43-point win over Bryant. Seven Hoosiers scored at least nine points in the victory, with no one logging more than 30 minutes of playing time. Senior Christian Watford spearheaded the charge with 15 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. Sophomore Cody Zeller, a unanimous National Player of the Year selection by numerous publications, doubled up with 18 points and 10 boards.
Bryant at Indiana Highlights (via IUAthletics)
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell left quite an impression in his much-anticipated debut. Ferrell racked up 10 points, seven assists (to two turnovers) and five rebounds, exhibiting play-making ability and a control of the offense. Ferrell was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his effort.
The Hoosiers -- winners of 23 straight non-conference home games (last loss: Kentucky, 2009) -- showcased their depth, getting 40 points from the bench. Sophomore Remy Abell and freshman Jeremy Hollowell scored 12 points apiece, with Abell needing just two shot attempts score his 12 points. Sophomore Will Sheehey chipped in with 10 points.
Senior Jordan Hulls, who hit 3 of 5 3-point tries against Bryant on his way to nine points, is 21 points away from reaching the 1,000-point club. He'd be the 44th member in school history.
Following tonight's contest, the Hoosiers have one more tune-up game -- at home against Sam Houston State on Thursday -- before heading to the Barclays Center (Brooklyn, N.Y.) to face off against Georgia and either UCLA or Georgetown.
Around the Big Ten: Things don't get any easier for No. 21 Michigan State. After falling to Connecticut in their opener, the Spartans take on No. 7 Kansas Tuesday night in a matchup of powerhouse programs. The game is part of a two-game showcase at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with No. 3 Kentucky and No. 9 Duke clashing in the other contest. ... No. 22 Wisconsin travels to Gainesville to meet up with No. 10 Florida on Wednesday night. ... Penn State gets a rare non-conference home game against an elite team when No. 6 North Carolina State comes to University Park on Thursday. ... Also on Thursday, Purdue hosts Villanova. ... Illinois makes the long journey to Hawaii on Saturday for a meeting with the Warriors. It's a chance for the Illini to get their feet wet in Hawaii before opening play in the Maui Classic next week against USC.