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Kevin Schnepf, Published March 15 2009

NDSU's NCAA tournament venue is in focus: Many bracket experts believe NDSU will play in Minneapolis after field is announced today.

For North Dakota State fans, where their men’s basketball team will be playing may be more important than who they are playing in their first NCAA tournament.

“The folks in Minneapolis would love for us to be there,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor.

Three of the four major Web sites that predict the brackets for the tournament have NDSU playing in Minneapolis – which is one of eight sites for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament which begins Thursday.

But, as Taylor and college basketball experts point out, the NCAA tournament selection committee does not bracket teams according to geographic location. In the 65-team tournament, it’s all based on seeding the qualifiers 1 through 16 for each of the four regions.

NDSU will find out today at 5 p.m. where and who they will play when the selection committee announces the official tournament bracket on CBS-TV.

“In some NCAA tournaments like volleyball, they will pair teams regionally to limit travel expense,” Taylor said. “They won’t be doing that in this tournament. They basically seed it to how they think it will best benefit the tournament. They won’t worry about … ‘Oh my gosh, let’s keep NDSU in Minneapolis.’ ”

Joel Welser, who has been writing about college basketball for five years for collegehoops.net, says the selection committee usually tries to keep the top four seeds close to home. After that, he says, it’s anybody’s guess.

“If say a team like American University is put in Philadelphia, they might as well as play a North Dakota State in Minneapolis,” Welser said. “Minneapolis would be a nice place for them to go. But the selection committee has said they are not making pairings based on economic reasons. Who knows what they will do?”

College basketball experts agree that NDSU will more than likely get a 13 or 14 seed – meaning they would play a team that is seeded third or fourth.

“Traditionally, a Summit League team has gotten a 13, 14 or 15 seed,” said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.

“I see them as probably a 13 seed but maybe they could bump up to 12,” Welser said.

As of Saturday, Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com projected the No. 13 Bison playing No. 4 Washington in Portland. He has No. 5 Xavier playing No. 12 St. Mary’s in the other first-round game in that portion of the bracket.

But three other Web sites, as of Saturday, have NDSU playing a first-round game in the Metrodome in Minneapolis:

E David Mihm of bracketography.com based in Portland has the No. 14 seed Bison playing No. 3 Missouri in Minneapolis. He has No. 11 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Utah in the other first-round game.

E Sports Illustrated’s insidecollegebasketball.com also has the No. 14 Bison playing No. 3 Missouri in the Metrodome. It has No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 Maryland in the other first-round game.

E Jerry Palm, who has been projecting the NCAA tournament brackets for the last 16 years for collegerpi.com, projects the No. 14 Bison playing No. 3 Syracuse in the Metrodome. He has No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Dayton in the other first-round game.

Palm said the Bison have more of a chance playing in Minneapolis as a 14 seed, because he anticipates more No. 3 seeds being bracketed at Midwest sites like Minneapolis or Kansas City. He said if the Bison are a 13 seed, they will more than likely play in Boise, Idaho, or Portland.

The other four first-round sites are Greensboro, N.C.; Philadelphia; Dayton, Ohio and Miami, Fla.

“Now there have been times when the selection committee has dropped a team to a lower seed to keep them closer to home,” Palm said. “But most of the time, a lower seed like North Dakota State really doesn’t have much say in where it is going to play.”

Thursday, NDSU head coach Saul Phillips he didn’t start thinking about all the seeding possibilities until Wednesday night while he was watching Syracuse’s six-overtime win over Connecticut in The Big East tournament. He’s also been keeping an eye on the small-conference tournaments.

“The more low seeds that win a smaller conference tournament, the higher we move up,” Phillips said. “It’s just impossible to tell until ‘Selection Sunday.’ All I know is we should be a 13 or 14 seed. I would be shocked if we were a 15.”

Whatever the seed, Welser thinks the Bison are capable of pulling out a first-round win.

“They are pretty good and very efficient at most everything they do,” Welser said of the Bison.

Bilas, who first heard of this Bison team when they won at Wisconsin three years ago, said he was impressed with how well the Bison executed without calling a timeout when Ben Woodside hit a game-winning shot Tuesday night to claim a Summit League tournament championship over Oakland University.

“That was a sign of a very mature team,” Bilas said. “But I don’t think people would quarrel with the fact that if they play somebody from one of the top four seed lines, they would have to play an extraordinary game to win. Now maybe if a team takes them lightly, their chances get a little better for pulling off an upset.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be

found at www.areavoices.com