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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 04 2013

NDSU to play at Akron in ESPN BracketBuster game on ESPN2

FARGO – North Dakota State will be back on ESPN2, only this time it’s men’s basketball rather than football.

The Bison will play at the University of Akron (Ohio) on Feb. 22 as part of the ESPN BracketBuster series, a collection of 13 games made up mostly of mid-major programs hoping to impress the NCAA selection committee.

“It’s unbelievable of the national exposure we’re going to get,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “ESPN2 reaches a lot of homes. We haven’t been able to get one of those BracketBuster TV games and to get it is a big step forward for our program.”

The 6 p.m. tipoff will be NDSU’s first ESPN appearance since playing at Iowa State in January of 2010 and first appearance on ESPN2 since the Summit League title game in 2009.

The value, Phillips said, is the national stage that includes recruiting.

An email will be going out today to potential NDSU recruits notifying them of the game.

“And make sure you tune in,” Phillips said. “It gives you national credibility. It’s the difference between mid-majors that are household names and other mid-majors. TV is a big factor in that. Teams that are on TV regularly tend to raise their profile and that’s what we’re trying to get done.”

In the Zips, the Bison will get a 17-3 Mid-America Conference team that has won 13 straight games, the longest active unbeaten streak in Division I. They are 42nd in the power rankings as opposed to NDSU’s No. 61 standing.

“It’s neat people can see this team play because it’s a special group,” Phillips said. “It’s good to get this group on a national stage.”

The Summit League also got a nice matchup with South Dakota State traveling to Murray State (Ky.) on Feb. 23. Also, future Summit member Denver University, which is leaving the Western Athletic Conference after this season, will play at Missouri Valley Conference member Northern Iowa.

The Missouri Valley has the most teams with four.

The 26 BracketBuster teams are from 13 conferences with 17 of those teams earning an NCAA tournament berth last season. Of those 17, five won at least one game. NDSU has a 2-0 BracketBuster record winning 77-69 at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009 and 86-73 at home against MAC member Western Michigan last year.

Neither of those games were televised by a ESPN network.

Phillips said it’s “highly improbable” that leading scorer Taylor Braun will be back from his broken foot by the Akron game.

The University of North Dakota plays Nebraska-Omaha of the Summit League in a untelevised BracketBuster matchup.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia