Monday, November 25, 2013

Beatdown Of The Bison-What We Learned

*In one of the biggest basketball games EVER in the state of North Dakota, the Betty was rocking as UND knocked off rival NDSU, 95-77. Here are a couple of exclamation points.

Troy Huff landing the final punch to the Bison
Jaron Nash landing on the runway after taking flight
*Herald sports writer Tom Miller had an article not to long ago warning fans to get comfortable at the Betty. He was right. With the new way college basketball is being called with the hand checking fouls, we saw 57 fouls yesterday. 57!! Although the fans are groaning, UND was 33-41 from the charity stripe. Anytime you can sink 33 free throws, you put yourself in the drivers seat to win.
*As I pointed to in my last blog entry, the game was about free throws and the players who were fouling. NDSU coach Saul Phillips saw four of his players foul out making the Bison go deep into their bench. At the end, they didn't have the horses. The UND bench was sensational scoring 27 points and giving rest to the starters. Coach Jones hit on this saying it was nice having his starters go 26, 27 minutes as opposed to 32, 33. As any basketball coach will tell you, this does wonders for your team.
*Something else coach Jones liked? His team having a 14-9 assist to turnover ratio while holding NDSU to a 4-11 assist to turnover ratio. Although that stat might be skewed by the offense the Bison were running in the second half (Letting Taylor Braun go one on five which was very efficient) that makes has to make a coach pleased.
*I thought Troy Huff might have a down game but the hot shooting from the senior continued. The line on the scorers sheet is beautiful: 8-12 from the field, 3-6 from three, 13-17 from the line, 32 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes.
*We knew that Huff would have a great season but he is off to a sensational start. He is sixth in all of Division I in scoring at an even 29 points per ball game. Not bad going up against Wisconsin and NDSU, two teams expected to make The Dance.
*The great citizens of North Dakota now know who Jaron Nash is, if they didn't before. The TT transfer took flight for three dunks against the Bison making the Betty rock.
*The fans are going to drool over Huff and Nash and rightfully so. But the team's rock might be Aaron Anderson. When I think of Anderson, I think of this scene from Rudy. You're five feet nothing, A hundred and nothing. You know what else I see? A great point guard. Anderson's statline was also a thing of beauty, 3-4 from the field, 2-2 from deep, and 10-12 from the line. Anderson knows when to break, slow it down, and run the offense. Huff and Nash might be the transmission and the motor but Anderson is the driver.
*Looking at the tape, I was impressed with Jamal Webb playing the one spot. He also took command of the UND offense when they were forced to go half court. Despite going 1-5 from the field and not getting to the foul line, Webb had five assists and directed the offense well when he was at point. Nice to know UND can go Anderson, Webb, and freshman Quinton Hooker at the point.
*Give credit to the UND big men for battling. The strength of the NDSU team is down low and despite being over matched, Salmonson, Calcaterra, and Traylor played great. Between the three, 6-12 from the field, 9-10 from the line and 21 points. Nothing sexy but UND fans will take it.
*I thought the atmosphere at the Betty was great. The place was packed and although whistle after whistle halted play, the place was rocking. Not every home game for UND is going to have such high stakes but I hope the fans who pack the Ralph every weekend will help pack the Betty because this team is GOOD.
*I stand by my prediction of UND making the NCAA Tournament and yesterday only boosted my confidence. Wouldn't it be a treat if BOTH teams from the Peace Garden State made the Dance? 
*With the men's hockey team struggles in the early going, is UND basketball getting more buzz around Grand Forks than the hockey team? If so, has that ever happened?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

UND-NDSU preview

*Well, here we go! In probably the biggest game EVER between the men's basketball teams of North Dakota and North Dakota State, we are set to see a dandy. Sure, these two have had some big games in the past but nothing can compare to this one. Why? Both programs are now DI...BOTH have a realistic shot at making "The Dance"
*The atmosphere will be fantastic tonight at the Betty..It might not register as the biggest crowd to ever see a game in the gym but it will be sold out and it will be the LOUDEST the building has ever reached.
*Bison fans will chant, "Let's play football." UND fans will chant, "Let's play hockey." How about we just play basketball.
*UND is coming off a strong showing against nationally-ranked Wisconsin and NDSU snapped a two-game skid when they knocked off Western Michigan. Both teams have momentum going into the matchup.
*I think this game goes down to the wire and with the new rule everyone at the coffee shop has been chatting about, this game could come down to free throws.
*We know UND has the guards..we know NDSU has the posts...and we know both teams are veteran.
*UND is going to try and attack off the dribble. If they can get Braun and Bjorklund in foul trouble early, that helps the green and white. Same goes for NDSU. If Braun and Bjorklund can get UND's big men in trouble, the Bison will see success.
*That being said, how are the refs going to call the game? Due to it being a heated rivalry, will we see a lot of fouls? I hope not. As Coach Boone said in 'Remember The Titans', "Let 'Em Play."
*Troy Huff was absolutely sensational in his return to Wisconsin. Sometimes after a great shooting performance like that, we see the player struggle the next game. If Huff is shooting like he did at the Kohl Center, it might be a long night for the Bison defense.
*Braun and Bjorklund might combine for 50 points tonight. If UND can keep them around 35-40 combined, they have a good shot.
*Game will come down to who shoots better from the line and what players get in foul trouble.
*My prediction: UND-69 NDSU-66 in a thriller.
*See you at the Betty!

Friday, November 22, 2013

TGIF Tidbits

*Greetings and Happy Friday!

*It is sad to see the high school football season end, as always, but what a year it was. It was a blast covering all the area teams and I hope everyone enjoyed the new show DAZ Football Friday. The show allowed us to make it to games where we never would of made it before and cover small schools, that in the past, may not of received as much coverage.

*One of those teams was the Bearcats of Kittson County Central. As part of the "8 In 8" promotion, KCC was put on the map and #BearcatNation did not disappoint. KCC had a great year. Here are some pictures of me and the KCC fans along the way.
 In the FargoDome after KCC knocked off Win-E-Mac with my own sign and fathead.
 In Bemidji as KCC beat Ada-Borup in a Winter Wonderland (Usually instead of "The Man" it's "The Idiot"
At the KCC pep rally I was invited to speak at. It was a blast.

*I never could of imagined a fan base actually making multiple signs with my name on it and a fathead of me but Bearcat Nation did. Trust me KCC fans, it was just as much fun covering you guys as you enjoyed the coverage. That goes for all the small towns we were able to cover throughout the year. I could spend 50 years in this business and I don't know if I will ever see more love from a fan base than that of KCC's.

*Last week, Cavalier tore through Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn in the Dakota Bowl 9-man championship, winning 54-6. Tornado senior quarterback Ryan Chrest had a Dakota Bowl record 377 rushing yards and one of the most impressive runs you will see. Filthy at the 2:00 mark.

*On Tuesday, the East Grand Forks girls hockey team beat Warroad for the first time EVER. The powerhouse that is Warroad is now 1-3. Uffda. The Green Wave are now a perfect 4-0. Could this be the year someone OTHER than the Warriors win Section 8A? It should be a fun year!
                                  *Doesn't ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ this look fun?

*On Sunday, UND and NDSU square off in men's basketball in what is sure to be a great one at the Betty(preview coming tomorrow) I fully expect to see some Bison fans with 'Better Call Saul' shirts in tribute to NDSU head coach Saul Phillips.

*I'm off to talk to the UND men's basketball team and we will have a preview tonight on WDAZ. Blog preview comes tomorrow! Have a good weekend all and stay warm!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wisconsin: What We Learned

*There is no such thing as a moral victory in sports, especially at the Division I level. But if you're the North Dakota men's basketball team, you have to be feeling pretty good after the 103-85 loss to Wisconsin.
*UND hung around early and actually led midway thru the first half. Troy Huff was absolutely on fire scoring 26 points in the first half en route to a career-high 37. But Huff was outdone by the seven-footer Frank Kaminsky. "Frank The Tank" was trending on Twitter and the top story on SportsCenter after dropping a school-record 43 against UND. "Kaminsky The UND Killa" could not miss. You figured with UND's lack of post play that the Badger big man could have a big game. No one saw him having a career game. Although the defense was not what coach Jones wanted, to hang around all game with a guy having a career game, UND had to feel pretty good on the bus ride back to Grand Forks.
*Although the defense was in mid-November form, the offense looked like it was March ready. Sure, Huff going off from deep helped open up the offense, but UND was able to drive in on Wisconsin and get baskets in the lane. We knew the strength of UND was driving to the basket and Tuesday night only encouraged that speculation. With UND's backcourt that Big Ten guards were having a tough time guarding, you can expect the UND guards to get to the basket at will in the Big Sky. This might mean a lot of trips to the free throw line, which is just fine for UND.
*Teams always talk about the "x-factor"-UND has one and his name is Jaron Nash. Nash did have some difficulty guarding Sam Dekker but that might be the best player he will guard all season. Nash was still able to get to the basket and score the ball. You could tell one thing right away when Nash "came off the bench" early on-Number one can play with the "big boys." Nash had 19 points in 24 minutes. Yes, the four turnovers are something that need to be addressed. But the athletic Nash looks like he has found his place with the team.
*More on Troy Huff. In a game that saw him play in front of about 20 family members and his mother and father, the guy went absolutely off. In maybe one of the most impressive performances EVER by a UND basketball player. 15-22 from the field, 4-6 from deep, and nine rebounds. Even Norm Dale would be tickled. After the game, Huff seemed very upbeat about the performance and where his team is headed.
*UND has the Bison on Sunday in what is going to be an absolutely great game in a great atmosphere at the Betty. Preview in a later blog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why UND can beat Wisconsin

*No one just waltzes into the Kohl Center and wins, especially when you're a Big Sky team and I'm not saying UND is going to beat Wisconsin tonight..but there is a chance. So you're telling me there's a chance. Yes, Mr. Christmas, although the Big Ten Network will probably refer to North Dakota as NDSU or the "Fighting Sioux" five times tonight, UND has a shot at the Badgers. Here is why-
*Veteran Leadership: UND is a veteran squad, the muscle of the team. Between Troy Huff, Aaron Anderson, Jamal Webb, Josh Schuler, the green and white should not be rattled by the Kohl Center crowd of 17,000. They have been to Madison before, losing their freshman year. They have been to the Octagon of Doom. They have seen "big time" crowds. Now they must play well in front of one.
*Newcomer Nash: This is a big night for Texas Tech transfer Jaron Nash. If I had to guess, he will be the one guarding 6-7 sophomore Sam Dekker. Dekker should be All-Big Ten this season and probably an All-American by the time he steps off the Wisconsin campus. Nash is 6-8 and athletic meaning he might be the one who is called upon to shut down the Badgers best scorer. The Waterloo East grad showcased his skills at the Betty when he threw down multiple dunks. UND needs some of those tonight. If Nash can limit Dekker and score some buckets of his own, this gives UND a great shot.
*Three Point Threat: Speaking of shots, UND has proven they can shoot the three. They need to tonight. Wisconsin has held its opponents to just 22% from long range, giving up only an average of only three long-range shots a game. The way UND is built (very guard-oriented), they need to knock down 10-plus against the Badgers. If UND shoots well, they will stay in it. If not, it could get ugly..and fast.
*Style Of Play: UND needs to play their style of basketball...the old Wooden strategy comes into play here in concentrating on what you're doing, not what the other team is doing. Wisconsin will want to play half-court all night. If they do that, Wisconsin will win by 25. If UND can get out and run, they have a great shot to keep this thing close. To do that, they will have to play good defense to force missed Wisconsin shots. Rebounds lead to fast breaks, fast breaks for UND, leads to points. UND will probably need 70 to win.
*Drive The Ball: UND is great at driving to the hoop. They need to do that well tonight. Why? They (A) Need to get to the free throw line and (B) get the 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky in foul trouble. Kaminsky is having a breakout year and has the potential to be all-conference. UND has limited numbers in the post and has to get, has to get Wisconsin in foul trouble.
This begins a brutal stretch of tough opponents for UND-Wisconsin, NDSU, the Oregon Tournament, at Butler. Uff-da! This is a great chance for coach Brian Jones to see where his team is and a nice little appetizer for NDSU!
*My prediction is in the ballpark of Wisconsin-75 UND-61.