UND opens men's basketball season at K-StateGRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s core group of juniors, which includes four starters, has accomplished quite a bit in its first two seasons with the men’s basketball program — including back-to-back appearances in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s core group of juniors, which includes four starters, has accomplished quite a bit in its first two seasons with the men’s basketball program — including back-to-back appearances in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
One missing accomplishment, however, is glaring. North Dakota hasn’t won a non-conference road game since March of 2009 against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
The Green and White face a big obstacle in breaking that streak when they open the season at 8:15 p.m. tonight against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. More important, however, is that UND coach Brian Jones wants to see improvement.
“Our guys are excited and grateful for this opportunity,” Jones said. “Especially for our upperclassmen, it’s an opportunity to compete against the best and a chance to show they’ve grown from last year.
“This group has yet to win a non-conference road game and it starts (today) with that opportunity.”
This is the fifth straight season UND has played at least one Big 12 opponent. UND is still in search of its first win against the league after losing to Texas A&M and Iowa State twice, while dropping one game each to Nebraska and Kansas.
UND played Kansas in legendary Allen Fieldhouse last New Year’s Eve in Lawrence.
“Our guys are used to that atmosphere,” Jones said. “Our program has played legit BCS programs year in and year out. This is no different.”
Kansas State’s Bramlage Coliseum, nicknamed the Octagon of Doom, is expected to have an electric atmosphere. The game marks the regular-season opener as well as the Wildcat head coaching debut of Bruce Weber, a former Illinois head coach.
The Wildcats return four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament a season ago, losing to No. 1 Syracuse.
Kansas State is led by guard Rodney McGruder, who was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Jones said. “They’re extremely big and rebound at a high level on both ends. I’m impressed with them defensively, which is typical of a coach Weber team. They’re physical and really make it tough on you to run your stuff.”
Still waiting on NCAA
UND has four starters essentially locked in as the season begins with junior returners Jamal Webb, Aaron Anderson, Troy Huff and Brandon Brekke.
Jaron Nash, a transfer from Texas Tech, was expected to round out the starting five.
However, the NCAA has yet to rule on a transfer waiver request from the school. Nash is seeking a waiver as his father is ill and Nash wants to move closer to family in Waterloo, Iowa.
“As of right now, we don’t know,” Jones said Wednesday. “We hope to hear (Wednesday) or (Thursday). We feel good about the situation, but we want the NCAA to take their time and make the right decision. It’s a big decision for the young man. We expect to hear very soon.”
Despite the Nash ruling, UND will be getting its first live look at a number of newcomers. North Dakota didn’t participate in any exhibition games but did take part in two closed scrimmages.
Most noteworthy of the newcomers will be junior college transfers Alonzo Traylor and Ryan Salmonson.
“They have to be on that fast learning curve,” Jones said. “They’re talented enough and work hard enough to do it. They’ll be thrown to the fire early. They’ll be tested, and we want to see them from a competitive standpoint.”