North Dakota has a nice little stake in college basketball’s March Madness this year.
Killdeer High School graduate Austin Dufault and the Colorado Buffaloes, one day removed from upsetting the Pac-12 applecart and inexplicably winning a conference title in their first season in the league, got a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region and will take on No. 20 UNLV on Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M. Dufault, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, is averaging a career-best 10.9 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field this season. He has also set the Colorado school record for games played (134) with the Buffs’ 53-51 win over Arizona on Saturday.
North Dakota State thought its season was over after bowing out of the Summit League Tournament. That was until Sunday night when the Bison received a bid to the College Basketball Invitational Tournament, a secondary tournament for teams who don’t receive bids to the Big Dance or the NIT. The Bison (17-13) will visit Wyoming (20-11) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Speaking of the ‘Pokes down in Laramie, one of their top players is a North Dakotan. Luke Martinez, a 2008 Mr. Basketball candidate and graduate of Bismarck High School, is having a solid season after missing most of his junior season with an injury. Martinez, now a redshirt junior, averages 12.2 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Cowboys. He has made a team-high 79 3-pointers.
When the University of North Dakota won its second straight Great West Conference title on Saturday in Chicago (in front of approximately 150 fans, AP sports writer Rick Gano wrote in his story, the Sioux knew they would be getting into one of the lower-tier postseason tournaments. UND (17-14) will visit Drake in Des Moines, Iowa, at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday.
While he’s not a native North Dakotan (Doland, S.D., is where he calls home), Tim Miles spent enough time here that we pretty much adopted him. Now, he’s a Colorado boy. The former University of Mary standout turned Mayville State and North Dakota State head coach has been the head coach at Colorado State for five seasons. Now, after two seasons of the CBI and the NIT, the Rams (20-11) are in dancing. And boy are they in for a challenge. Colorado State drew a No. 11 seed in the West Region and face No. 10-ranked Murray State (30-1) at 10:15 a.m. Thursday in Louisville, Ky.
Update: I completely forgot about former Dickinson State Blue Hawk standout Jayden Olson, a Beulah native, who is Colorado State’s director of basketball operations.