On November 2, 1889, the State of North Dakota was admitted into the Union.
On March 11, 1903, the state witnessed the birth of Lawrence Welk.
Nearly 106 years to the day of that landmark event, North Dakota watched in glee as significant event No. 2 of its history occured: the North Dakota State Bison qualified for the NCAA tournament with an amazing 66-64 comeback win over Oakland University for the Summit League championship. (One might argue the movie “Fargo” was significant event No. 2, but only the opening scene is actually filmed there.)
In no way is this claim facetious, either. This state had such an identity crisis that a couple years ago they were actually considering changing their name to Dakota so more people would move there. Really.
Anyway, our good friend Thporth reports that in the hours after the Bison’s landmark win, the site Bisonville.com actually crashed because it was being too heavily trafficked. Yeah, that’s right. We know people who go to Bisonville.com.
In all seriousness, though, there is a lot that makes North Dakota State the most unlikely of all the entrants in this year’s field, barring an IU championship run in the Big Ten tournament.
The Bison, who are in their first year of Division I eligibility for the tourney, became the first such team to officially make it to the Big Dance since Long Beach State in 1970. (Unofficially, the last team to accomplish the feat was Louisiana-Lafayette, then known as Southwestern Louisiana — and now trying to pawn itself off as plain old Louisiana to no avail — which made it to the tourney in 1972 but later had to erase it from the record books for cheating of some sort. But it still happened.)
And then there is the matter of the Bison roster, which is, for lack of a better term, the anti-Texas Western. For most of the game against Oakland, NDSU had five white guys on the floor. And they won.
This probably comes as no surprise given that we’re taking about North Dakota. Hockey is the primary sport there, and up until now, the University of North Dakota has been the only school in the state any outsider gave a hoot about because of its successful hockey program, which has produced standouts like Jonathan Toews. I once covered a basketball recruit who went to UND, and after his visit he talked about how nice the hockey facilities were. It wasn’t long before he transfered somewhere else to play hoops.
But just because we’ve already witnessed the greatest day for North Dakota since statehood was declared does not mean there isn’t an even greater one in store. The Bison won at Wisconsin a couple years ago when still transitioning from Division II. And Ben Woodside could be this year’s Stephen Curry — he put up 60 in a game against Stephen F. Austin this season — and SFA is likely to be a tournament team itself.
Sure, South Dakota may have Mount Rushmore. But for this month, North Dakota finally has something to crow about.