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November 12, 2012

Badger like Bison next up

Tonight Indiana plays game two and opens the four game Progressive Legends Classic at home against North Dakota State. The Bison should bear a lot of resemblance to the Badgers of Wisconsin. Get the skinny on the Summit League team in our game preview.

Opponent: North Dakota State
Location: Fargo, North Dakota
Conference: Summit League
Current Record: 1-0
2011-12 Season Record: 17-14 (9-9 in Summit League)
Final Sagarin Rating: 158
Key Returnees: 6'7 Taylor Braun (15.4 ppg), 6'3 Lawrence Alexander (12.8 ppg), 6'8 Marshall Bjorklund (11.6 ppg)
Significant losses: G Dylan Hale (4.5 ppg), F Eric Carlson (5.3 ppg)
Head coach: Saul Phillips, entering sixth season


North Dakota State had a solid season going through early February last year before sputtering down the stretch, losing seven of the last nine games to finish just three games above .500 and an even 9-9 in the Summit League. Coach Saul Phillips and company return all five of the team's top scorers and hopes are high for the Bison to return to the NCAA tournament. NDSU won both the Summit League regular season and postseason tourney in 2009 to make the school's first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. Since then the program has had to rebuild but the direction is upward, having won 11, 14 and 17 over the last three seasons.

In last month's preseason poll among the nine Summit League coaches, the Bison were picked to finish second behind defending tournament champion South Dakota State. 6-foot-7 junior guard Taylor Braun was voted to the preseason first all-league team while and 6-foot-8 forward Marshall Bjorklund and 6-foot-3 guard Lawrence Alexander were given spots on the second team.

The Bison opened the season last week with a 93-47 blowout over Valley City State. 6-foot-3 guard Mike Felt came off the bench to lead all scorers with 23 points, a new career high for the junior. Braun added 19 points while 6-foot-8, 220-pound freshman Chris Kading impressed with 11 points in his debut. Valley City State is just an NAIA program so it will be a gigantic step up tonight for the visitors.

"They return four veteran starters from a team that went to postseason play last year (CBI)," said Tom Crean. "If you look at the history of their program, they are a program that redshirts kids and gives kids that extra year of growth and development. They have had some big wins over the years on the road against BCS schools, so they are a team that isn't afraid to walk into a tough environment and compete."

Like Crean, Phillips has coaching roots to the state of Wisconsin. He coaches under Bo Ryan at UW-Milwaukee and served as Ryan's Director of Basketball Operations at Wisconsin for three seasons before jumping to NDSU in 2004 as an assistant under Tim Miles, now the head coach of Nebraska.

"Bo Ryan's (Wisconsin head coach) son is on their staff and they have a Wisconsin flavor to them in how they play offense and defense," said Crean.

"They are a team that plays the gaps on defense and they want you to settle for the jump shot. They do not want to give up penetration to the paint. So we have to make sure that we take our time and get the shot that we want."

The 7 p.m. ET tip at Assembly Hall is the first of four games that Indiana will play as part of the Progressive Legends Classic. On Thursday the Hoosiers will host Sam Houston State and complete the event next Monday and Tuesday in Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center. There Indiana will open with Georgia and play either UCLA or Georgetown on Tuesday night.

"Just like last year, we have the opportunity to play home games as part of being in an exempt tournament," said Crean. "I think that is very attractive to our program and fans. We are looking forward to this experience the next nine days."

For more on the North Dakota State, check out the Hoosier Game Day page.

Expected starters and key reserves with last year's stats:


Pos. # Player Ht Wt Year Home PPG Other
G 12 Lawrence Alexander 6-3 175 Sophomore Peoria, Ill. 12.8 4.0 rpg
G 22 Kory Brown 6-3 185 Junior Redwood Falls, Minn. 9.6 1.5 rpg
G 24 Taylor Braun 6-7 205 Junior Newberg, Ore. 15.4 6.6 rpg
F 32 TrayVonn Wright 6-7 180 Junior Waterloo, Ia. 7.7 4.8 rpg
F 42 Marshall Bjorklund 6-8 240 Junior Arlington, Minn. 11.6 5.9 rpg

Key reserves:

Pos. # Player Ht Wt Year Home PPG Other
G 3 Mike Felt 6-3 185 Junior Redwood Falls, Minn. 9.6 1.5 rpg
1 G Nate Zastrow 6-3 185 Junior Manitowoc, Wisc. 0.9 0.6 apg
34 F Chris Kading 6-8 220 Freshman De Pere, Wisc. N/A N/A
14 F Brett Vandenbergh 6-5 210 Freshman De Pere, Wisc. N/A N/A


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