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Hate To Say It...

by Dan Gunderson

I hate to break this to fans of North Dakota State University athletics but what the men’s basketball team is attempting to do, make the NCAA tournament, is a bigger deal than what the football team does.

I am going to hit you with that statement and then preference it by saying nationally, it is a bigger deal. Locally, well, you can’t really hold a candle to what the football team has done for the school, community and region. However, national attention was hardly given to the football team until their third season of a three year title run.

The basketball team back in 2008-09 put the school on the map with their exciting 66-64 victory over Oakland University in the Summit League championship game. The team was featured as the lead-in to ESPN’s Sportscenter for much of that night and well into the next morning.

The fact that NDSU had tens of thousands of fans show up at the Metrodome in Minneapolis for the NCAA tournament game only enhanced the attention for the team. If only NDSU had pulled off the upset over reigning champions Kansas University. That happens and NDSU is forever known as one of the Cinderella’s of the Big Dance.

It didn’t and NDSU’s basketball team faded back into obscurity while the football team dominated the consciousness of all NDSU fans for the next four years. All was right with the sports world.

Now, in a year when both programs can help out the school tremendously, Bison fans are forgetting what got the school to this point. It wasn’t the three national titles that made Bison Nation a relevant story nationally but the basketball program.

If NDSU is to get back to the Big Dance, the ratings will be greater for the basketball team than it will be for the football team’s national championship game. In 2013, the ratings for the FCS national title game were 0.8. It was five times that number for a second round game in the NCAA tournament last season.

I also can argue about the nostalgia factor that March Madness brings to the consciousness of America. Ever heard of Gonzaga? Of course you have because of their basketball team. How about Bryce Drew at Valparaiso? Hook and ladder for three ring a bell?

You also have teams like Butler and Virginia Commonwealth University. How about George Mason? All of those teams made significant runs in the NCAA basketball tournament. Do we know anything about their football teams?

Unfortunately, because NDSU’s football team plays at the FCS level, they won’t be getting much national attention. That is just the facts. The basketball team creates more national exposure by just playing in a NCAA tournament. They don’t even have to win a second round game and they will have already given NDSU as much exposure nationally as the football team has in three years.

I’m afraid that because football reigns supreme around this region, and forever will mind you that fans of NDSU are tending to just write off the basketball team as a nice little story.

They are good! That is neat! When does football start?

Don’t believe for a second that the football team is more important to national attention than the basketball team. In that regard, Saul Phillips and his men’s team carries the torch. And, if they are so inclined to make the NCAA tournament, don’t write that off as some cute story. It is a bigger deal than you think.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.