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Jason Miller, Published March 16 2009

Miller: Kansas provides dream matchup

When North Dakota State’s Fab Four seniors came to The Forum to get their pictures taken late last week, each said they’d like to play in Minneapolis in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Drawing the defending champs was not part of the conversations.

It wasn’t a matter of who, it was more a matter of where, the fifth-year players said.

Who would’ve imagined when the Bison were behind by 12 points to Oakland in the second half of the Summit League finals that things would unfold like this?

First, it was the jaw-dropping comeback to earn the NCAA tournament berth.

Second, that wish for a first-round game in Minneapolis happened.

And, finally, a matchup against college basketball’s elite, the Kansas Jayhawks, was in the cards.

Things fell into place for the Bison more smoothly than guard Ben Woodside’s last-second jumper fell through the net in the win over Oakland in Sioux Falls, S.D.

If you’re NDSU, you couldn’t dream this stuff up.

University of North Dakota fans will talk about national hockey championships.

Others will talk about the successes of the Bison football team or the Moorhead boys hockey team.

But nothing that’s happened in sports around these parts can top what’s happening right now at little old North Dakota State.

A co-worker winced Sunday when he was told the Bison drew Kansas.

I say it’s a great draw.

With nothing to lose, a shot against one of the best programs in the country on one of the nation’s largest stages is perfect for this team.

Go big or go home, right?

Forget Missouri, Gonzaga or anyone else that NDSU could’ve ended up facing in the first round.

A game against the defending national champs will do more for this team than any matchup imaginable.

Just think about what will happen if the Bison keep it close.

Local CBS stations will run the game in its entirety, but picture the CBS crew taking all its national viewers to the NDSU-Kansas game in the second half if it’s a close contest.

A loss could end up meaning more to the school than any victory ever has.

Regular-season victories over nationally ranked Wisconsin and Marquette were one thing.

The Bison football team’s victory over the Minnesota Gophers was also a great accomplishment.

But seeing Saul Phillips and his players in high definition on a CBS segment Sunday shows this achievement is on a whole different level.

A strong showing against the Jayhawks could leave the Bison as excited about who they’re playing as they were about where.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Jason Miller at jmiller@forumcomm.com or (701) 451-5651