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On To The Hardcourt

by Dan Gunderson

Now that the 2013 North Dakota State University football season has been put to bed, we now turn our attention to the 11-4 NDSU men’s basketball team. For many football schools, it is not an easy transition.

NDSU has entered the realm of having two sports seasons; football season and not football season. This is unfortunate, especially considering how good the men’s basketball team is this year. Getting people fired up for this team will not be easy, but I am writing this to at least give you some things to ponder.

The first of which is that NDSU is now entering their conference schedule, by far the most entertaining part of a schedule for college basketball. The Summit League appeared to be heading for a down year but the emergence of teams like Fort Wayne, Omaha and South Dakota State University make the league appear tougher than first thought.

You also have an unknown in Denver University, the newest member of the Summit League, and team most likely to challenge NDSU for a Summit League title.

The second thing to ponder is how good NDSU has been so far this year. The Ratings Power Index, or RPI, is a term you are going to hear thrown around a lot when referencing the Bison. This index helps the committee determine where teams should be seeded when it comes to the NCAA tournament.

Currently, the Bison sit at 22nd in the RPI. That puts them ahead of teams like Duke, Louisville and North Carolina. The Bison have a big win on their schedule, an early season victory over Notre Dame University, which has propelled them to such a high ranking.

That ranking most likely drop as the team gets into conference play, considering the Summit League is not the strongest of conferences. However, because of said win over the Fighting Irish, it will stay relatively high if NDSU continues to win basketball games.

The third thing to ponder is the individual talent NDSU possess. I will say, the 2008-09 version of NDSU basketball had better individual players and this version is the better team as a whole. With that being said, guys like Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund are no slouches.

Braun has become extremely aggressive in his offensive game, attacking the rim at will. This has resulted in him averaging 9.3 free throws per game, far and away the best in the Summit League. He is converting an average of 7.2 of those free ones, leading him to be the League’s top scorer at 18.9 points per game.

With Bjorklund, it is consistency that has led him to gain some attention. Bjorklund is shooting 68 percent from the field. That is not only tops in the league, but tied for tops in the entire country.

And just so we can be sure, Bjorklund is not doing this by taking five shots a game. So far this season, he has made 94 of his 138 shots.

You also have one of the best rebounding guards in the league in Lawrence Alexander and shut down defenders in Kory Brown and TrayVonn Wright.

NDSU opens up their conference season with games at Fort Wayne on Thursday and IUPUI on Saturday. I suggest you listen to these games on 790 KFGO and get familiar with this team. They are going to be a fun one to watch as the season moves along.

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.