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Pinto's Preview: NDSU vs. University Of Denver (Summit League Tournament Edition)

by Dan Gunderson

The North Dakota State University men’s basketball team begins their journey to the NCAA tournament with a Summit League tournament semi-final game against Denver University University of Denver. The Bison are the number one seed in the tournament for the second time in program history and are a perfect 2-0 in Summit League semi-final games.

The Bison are 1-1 against the Pioneers this season. The Bison lost at Denver 67-63 back on February 1 and won at home against Denver 78-68. In the latter, the Pioneers knocked down 15 threes, including 11 in the second half. NDSU countered that by shooting 63 percent from the field.

I am going to give you one reason why NDSU will win this game and one reason why NDSU will lose this game. I will finish off with my game prediction for the first of two Summit League tournament semi-final games.

Why NDSU Will Beat Denver

Denver University University of Denver does not have any inside presence. The Bison have combined for 70 points in the paint against Denver this season. Meanwhile, the Pioneers have only managed 30 in two games, 20 of those coming in their early season victory.

NDSU’s offense flows through Marshall Bjorklund in the post. Expect the senior to get plenty of touches throughout the game. If Bjorklund does get into any foul trouble, Jordan Aaberg will be asked to continue his stellar bench play.

If NDSU is producing from the inside, the defense will crash hard on passes down to the post, which will open up the outside for Lawarence Alexander, Taylor Braun, Mike Felt and TrayVonn Wright.

The Bison averaged five made threes a game during the regular season and if they hit that mark in this game, they are going to win by a significant amount. I just can’t foresee Denver stopping NDSU’s inside game. That is why NDSU will beat Denver.

Why Denver Will Beat NDSU

The Pioneers can shoot you out of the gym. They average eight made three pointers a game. They knocked down 15 against the Bison in the last game of the regular season. If they get hot, look out. There is nothing more disheartening than watching a three pointer go in after you’ve had a mini 4-0 run.

They don’t have just one guy who can shoot the three either. Brett Olson has a team leading 68 made threes this season but Marcus Byrd has hit 53, Jalen Love has 46. Nate Engesser and Bryant Rucker have combined for 57 threes this season, 40 of those coming during Summit League play.

If NDSU’s inside offense is not working, they could find themselves in a shooting match with Denver and you do not want to find yourself in that situation. A perfect example of how a three point shooting team can crush your soul in all of four minutes of game play happened last night in the Denver/University of South Dakota quarterfinal game.

The Coyotes were down five points with less than nine minutes to go. Two minutes later, the ‘Yotes were done as they saw the Pioneers go on a 12-3 run, knocking down back-to-back three pointers. That is scary for any team. This is why Denver will win.


There is some noise being made about NDSU not playing since March 1. That is a long break but it will serve NDSU well since they prefer to get their offense from the interior. A break of this length allows Aaberg and Bjorklund a chance to heal up. If NDSU was a jump shooting team, like Denver, than a break of this length would worry me.

NDSU is not a one-trick pony on offense and that has resulted in them averaging nearly 77 points per game, a full 10 points more on average than Denver. The biggest advantage, however, comes in the rebounding game. NDSU averages 33 boards a game, Denver only 26. In the end, NDSU will have more “one-and-done” on defense and more opportunities at second chance points on offense.

NDSU 82 Denver 75


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.