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One Week In March

by Dan Gunderson

Next Monday, the North Dakota State University men’s basketball team will play the first of what they hope is two Summit League Tournament games. For this year’s edition of the Bison men’s basketball team, a second place finish is not acceptable.

Just like in 2008-09, this year’s collection of six seniors was made for a run at the NCAA tournament. It will be a disappointment if they do not make the tournament. It has become that way for many mid-major programs; build up for one run.

NDSU has built their roster up to have one, maybe two, real possible chances at the NCAA tournament every four to five years. That tends to make what team’s do in the regular season obsolete. Sure, win 20 games in the Summit League. It will not get you an at-large bid for the tournament.

So has become the life of the mid-major school. Your conference tournament is the biggest time of the year. Everybody forgets that stumble you had in December, or the fact you lost to a less talented University of North Dakota team by 18. You made the NCAA tournament!

It changes career paths for coaches and assistants at mid-major programs. It changes programs entirely. Think of what a mid-major like Gonzaga University did with a couple NCAA berths. It can also change the careers of players on mid-major programs.

Think a guy like Nate Wolters still receives the type of national attention he did without two NCAA tournament appearances? It can make or break so many hopes and aspirations. Now, NDSU has positioned itself for a chance to make the NCAA tournament for a second time in school history.

It is a tremendous amount of pressure. But, what would March in college basketball be without pressure? And, to this point, NDSU has done just fine handling all the challenges this season. With just two games separating them between just another 20-win team and a ticket to the big dance, we get to find out if they can handle the heat.

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.