Monday, March 23, 2009
I love March Madness! I've always been a college basketball fan, but didn't really have a team to cheer for. I graduated from North Dakota State University which was Division II at that time. We moved to Kansas in 1988, a few months after "Danny and the Miracles" won the national championship under coach Larry Brown. I knew nothing about KU, where it was, or the difference between KU and K-State. Larry Brown moved on to his next job and KU hired an unknown assistant from North Carolina, Roy Williams. I liked him and his drawl, and the way he cared so much about his players that he would cry when they lost a big game. I've cheered for the KU Jayhawks for 20+ years, and last year they rewarded me with another national championship.
Now, back to NDSU. Five years ago the Bison made the switch to Division I athletics. One of the stipulations is that they had to wait five years to be eligible for post-season play. Several players took a red-shirt year, not on the active roster to save a year of eligibility for the first year the team would be eligible for the NCAA tournament. The Bison enjoyed a 26-7 year winning the regular season, and post-season title in the Summit League, claiming an automatic bid to the big dance. Then, on selection Sunday, the brackets were announced, and guess who the Bison got to play.... that's right, the Jayhawks.
Now, I love the Jayhawks. I've been thrilled with their successes, and I've taken their failures hard. But they just won a championship, and 7 players from last year are playing pro ball, in the NBA or Europe. With no starters, and only a couple of players who played many minutes last year, they had a great year. But I don't expect them to go all the way again. And a win in the NCAA tournament would be absolutely huge for NDSU. So, I cheered for the Bison to beat my Jayhawks. They gave it a good run. On the play of senior point guard, Ben Woodside and his 37 points, they gave KU all they wanted. It was a 2 possession game with a couple minutes left before Kansas pulled away, to win by 10.
The Bison made Fargo, and all of North Dakota, proud with their performance. Hopefully this was the first of many appearances in the tournament. As for the Jayhawks, they're young, they've looked inconsistent, but they've survived NDSU and Dayton to advance to the Sweet 16 where they will face Michigan State next Friday. I'll gear up and cheer for KU to go as far as they can. And it will hurt when the season it abruptly over. But it's fun to be a fan, and know there's always next year. And now I have 2 teams to cheer for.