I’ve had this discussion too many times.
It starts out simple enough. A question of “Who is the better team? The 2008-09 version or 2013-14 version of the North Dakota State University men’s basketball team.” We all should have stopped, had a nice laugh about the question and continued to watch basketball.
Instead, a group of us will try to wade our way through a discussion that should have never been approached. I’ve been dumb enough myself to ask the question and come out of the argument feeling as if nothing had been accomplished.
There is no comparison to the two teams at this point, especially after the 12-seeded Bison upset the number 5-seeded University of Oklahoma 80-75 in overtime on Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Their styles of basketball are completely different. The 08-09 team was a better offensively, had more outside shooters and players that were better in one-on-one situations. The 13-14 team is a better defensively, more efficient with their possessions and is not reliant on one player in order to win a game.
I think we can all safely say that after last night, the 13-14 Bison have firmly moved out of the shadow of the 08-09 team. It wasn’t so easily distinguishable going into the Bison’s matchup with the Sooners last night. As sad as it is to say, their legacy was very much in the balance going into their second round game.
In the eyes of Bison fans, don’t win that game and you are just another team that made the NCAA tournament. In fact, I don’t think people would have given the credit deserved to this group of Bison players had they lost, still remembering how amazing Brett Winkelman and Ben Woodside were. And they were amazing, the two best in Bison basketball history.
This collection of Bison is just as spectacular and now more decorated as a team.
Instead of trying to have the discussion of what team was better, a more appropriate question is, “Does NDSU ever get to this point in their basketball program if it wasn’t for the 08-09 team?” The answer to that one is simple; NO.
If Woodside does not hit the game-winner against Oakland University, he doesn’t become the lead story on ESPN’s Sportscenter. Head coach Saul Phillips is not on every national radio show from New York to LA.
Players like Taylor Braun and TrayVonn Wright decide to go somewhere else to pursue their college careers instead of playing in some rust bucket like the Bison Sports Arena for five years.
What NDSU is doing now, is laying the foundation for what they might be able to accomplish in five years. Just like the team in 08-09 put down the foundation to allow this group of players to accomplish an unprecedented run in Bison basketball history.
The shot Lawrence Alexander hit last night to send the Bison into overtime with the Sooners will be replayed and relived in the minds of not only Bison fans, but basketball fans, for years to come. Arguably the biggest shot in Bison basketball history.
I say arguable because, again, Woodside’s two-pointer is the reason I am even writing this.
So, I am done comparing the two teams. I am just going to sit back and start enjoying.
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.