Friday, January 18, 2013

Ramblings... (1/18/2013)

Manti Te'o
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has had quite the week.
Senior Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has been the center of probably the most bizarre story I've ever heard of.

The story is supposedly that the death of his girlfriend, reported on during the week leading up to Notre Dame's game against Michigan State, ended up be a hoax.

Go ahead and Google Manti Te'o girlfriend. I hope you have nothing to do for the next eight weeks because it will take you that long to read all the stories on this subject.

Frankly, who cares? Does anybody really think this matters when it comes to the guys career? He will play in the NFL and probably be pretty good. Think of guys like Adam "Pacman" Jones, Mike Vick or even Ray Lewis. Those players had worse errors in judgment and all three still play.

In the end, whether Te'o was tricked or playing up a story, the guy will still wear an NFL uniform come September.

Bison Answer Questions... Sort Of
Last night, the Bison men's basketball team crushed Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis by the final score of 78-40. This was a significant win because they did it without the services of junior guard and leading scorer Taylor Braun.

The only problem I have with it is that it came against an extremely weak Jaguar team. IUPUI came into the game 6-14, 1-5 in the Summit League. By the end of the night, they were thoroughly embarrassed as their starters combined to score 11 of the teams 40 points.

Now, if NDSU has the same performance this Saturday at Western Illinois, who is coming off their first league loss, than I'm satisfied. Until then, I'm going to remain skeptical.

NFL Playoffs
At the beginning of the year, my brother and I made predictions on the NFL season. Of the 12 teams that make the playoffs, we each picked seven correctly. Our picks for the Super Bowl were Baltimore and San Francisco. I'm not deviating from the original pick.

I think the 49ers, with Colin Kaepernick, are going to beat up an Atlanta team that has had trouble to run all season long. Meanwhile, I think the Ravens are a team of destiny with Ray Lewis retiring at the end of the season. What better way to send off the future Hall of Famer than with a shot at the title.

Final Note: Tune into 790 AM KFGO tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. to hear me host the "Front Row" show. I have some great guests lined up for this show including Scott Miller to talk Bison basketball and Paul Allen to talk about the NFL playoffs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Things Versus IUPUI & Western Illinois

Here are three things to look for as the North Dakota State University men's basketball team takes to the road this weekend to play against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Western Illinois University.
The Bison men's basketball team is on the road this weekend
to take on IUPUI and Western Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Gunderson)

No Taylor Braun
The Bison's leading scorere, junior guard Taylor Braun, left the second half of last Saturday's game against Oakland University with what appeared to be an ankle injury. After being taken to the hospital for x-rays, it was revealed that he had broken a bone in his right foot and would be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks.

The hope is that he will be back in time for the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. come March 9. In the meantime, NDSU is going to have to learn to play without him. So, who is going to play where and how is the bench going to be effected?

Here is what I would hope head coach Saul Phillips will do. Option one, play senior Nate Zastrow at the point guard, move Lawrence Alexander to the two, Kory Brown the three and TrayVonn Wright and Marshall Bjorklund would be the four and five respectively.

This still allows for you to bring Mike Felt and Chris Kading off the bench, giving your bench more offensive depth.

Option two, play Mike Felt at the two and move Kory Brown up to the three. Zastrow would still spell LA when needed, but I don't like this option as much because I think Felt is more effective off the bench instead of starting.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out with the starting line-up going forward.

Brett VandenBergh
The freshman from De Pere, Wisconsin will now get increased minutes because of the injury to Braun. What he does with it will be another story. It was never a question that he was going to see time this season, but an early season injurie and illness have caused him to only now start seeing an increase in playing time.

The injury forces coach Phillips to go deeper in his bench but it isn't as scary as it has been in years past. He finally has the added luxury of depth and could go as far as putting in Jordan Aaberg to help at the forward/center positions in case Chris Kading and/or Marshall Bjorklund get into foul trouble.

Coach Phillips said at the press conference follwing the Oakland game that there was a spot for him in the rotation regarless of what went on. Now, his oppurtunity is here and we will see how he reacts. For NDSU, they hope he can score anywhere between 5 and 8 points a game to help balance the loss of Braun.

How good is Western Illinois?
Western Illinois comes into this weekend's set of games with a 14-3 overall record, 6-0 in the Summit League. They will take on South Dakota State Thursday night and follow that up with NDSU Saturday. The two toughest home games of the year for them.

Those games will either legitamize the Leathernecks as one of the top three teams in the league or pretenders that thrived off a weak non-conference and conference schedule. Defensively, WIU is one of the best in the country, allowing only 52 points per game, which is fourth best in the nation.

Offensively, the only average 62 points per game, which is 273rd in the nation and last in the Summit League. They only get up about 46 shots per game. They obviously rely on the idea that defense wins games. What happens if they can't defend NDSU?

They'll have two-time Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, Ceola Clark, on Alexander while Terell Parks will match-up with Bjorklund. I think that it is advantage Bison in this regard because who guards Felt and Wright? Not only that, NDSU will be taking on WIU after SDSU had just played them on Thursday.

Predictions: NDSU 70 IUPUI 55
                     NDSU 60 WIU 56

They've proven they can win on the road this year and I think they come up with the sweep despite missing the services of Taylor Braun.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ramblings... (01/11/13)

Bison Men Win 67-55 Over Fort Wayne
NDSU's Taylor Braun goes up for a dunk
Thursday night against Fort Wayne at the
Bison Sports Arena. The Bison won the
game 67-55 over the Mastodons.
(Photo by Daniel Gunderson)
The Bison men's basketball team used a balanced attack to defeat the Fort Wayne Mastodons 67-55 Thursday, January 10 at the Bison Sports Arena.

Sophomore guard Lawrence Alexander had 12 points and a career-high 10 boards while junior Taylor Braun lead the team with 16 points.

Marshall Bjorklund had 14 points on 7-8 shooting to increase his nation leading field goal percentage to 71 percent.

The Mastodons' leading scorer, Frank Gaines, came in averaging nearly 20 points a game but was held to 12 by a staunch NDSU defense.

As far as the crowd energy was concerned, it was lacking energy for most of the game until junior forward TrayVonn Wright threw down a couple monster dunks.

Blame it on the weather or possibly a football hangover, it was a disappointing showing crowd wise considering NDSU is one of the best mid-majors in the country.

With the win, Bison move to 14-3 overall and 5-0 in the Summit League. Next up is Oakland University at 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 12. The Golden Grizzlies come in with a record of 7-11 overall and 2-2 in the Summit League. Oakland is coming off a 81-74 loss to South Dakota State University.

Jack Reacher
I went and saw this movie earlier this week and I have to say it was a good choice. I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan but he crushes it in his portrayal of this character.

The movie, which is based off a novel written by Lee Child called One Shot, takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The murdering of five innocent people by a sniper brings fear to the city.

When he is captured, he says nothing to the cops except to ask for Jack Reacher. When Reacher shows up, he begins to find clues that led him to believe it was the man accused of the crime but someone else. Perhaps an inside job.

Great action scenes, especially a car the car chase scene. Robert Duvall's appearance is great and I thought the story itself was interesting. It is a definite one to see in theaters.

Winter Weather Activities
It is getting treacherous out there with the rain we've had for the last day turning to ice on the ground and snow in the sky. Chances are I will be inside for the next 48 hours and need things to do. Everybody has different ways of getting by. For me, it is very simple.

*Watch Movies
*Play Video Games
*Read Books
*Watch Sports
*Go Crazy From Boredom

See. Five simple ways to endure the oncoming weather. Enjoy the weekend everybody!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Things Versus Fort Wayne

In a new twist on the wildly successful "Pinto's Preview" videos, I am going to give my three points to look for in the North Dakota State University's men's basketball team upcoming game. Reason to do this instead of a video is that the basketball team plays more often.

Time wise, this is just quicker for me to type out three things to look for two or three times a week instead of putting up a video that often. Don't worry, the videos will be back next season. For now, we all just have to make due.

Moving past the explanation and on to the "Three Things" blog post.

Preview: Fort Wayne, originally Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW), comes into this game with a record of 8-9 overall, 1-2 in Summit League play. North Dakota State University (NDSU) is 13-3 overall and 4-0 in league play. NDSU is in second place in the league while Fort Wayne is in sixth place.

1. How will Fort Wayne play on the road?
The Mastodons come in with a record of 8-9 overall, but 1-8 on the road so far this year. They already have an 0-2 record on the road in league play with losses to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Western Illinois.

A couple key stats is the Mastodons propensity to turn the ball over, they average about 15 a game on the road, and their strong rebounding, they lead the league in rebounding at 37.6 per game.

If they can continue their domination on the boards and cut down the turnovers to 11 in this game, than you might see Fort Wayne pull out the victory.

2. Can NDSU's continue to play strong?
Last week I said that a road weekend in league play for the Bison was important to see how they reacted after getting a big victory over South Dakota State University at home. Well, after crushing the University of South Dakota 92-66 on Thursday and beating up Kansas City 63-44 on Saturday, I would have to say they reacted well.

Now, can they keep this consistency up? Last year, the Bison started the season 13-4 overall and 6-2 in league play. They ended the season on a 4-10 streak, losing 7 of their last 10 conferences games.

If NDSU wants to avoid the kind of decline that they had last season, they need to keep feeding the post and working the offense from the inside out and playing strong defense.

3. How do you stop Frank Gaines?
I love watching how NDSU schemes to stop a team's best offensive threat. With Nate Wolters of SDSU, it was freshman Kory Brown on him most of the night. When he got in foul trouble, they switched to junior Taylor Braun. It helped a little but Wolters was still able to score 26 points in the 65-62 loss.

This game, it is the Mastodons' senior guard Frank Gaines who will be the key focus for the Bison defense. Brown has become the designated stopper for this team and it is obvious he has bought into that role.

He is an aggressive player which can hurt him at times as he leads the team with 42 fouls so far this year but he rarely shoots the ball, averaging just under three shot attempts per game. It will be his duty to stop the league's third best scorer in Gaines, who averages 19.2 points per game.

His two worst games this year came on the road. He had seven points against Notre Dame on 2-14 shooting and only eight against Western Illinois on 2-13 shooting. He does lead the league in getting to the free throw line, averaging nearly nine attempts per game, so he will get his points there.

However, I think the team defense of NDSU will be too much for him to handle. I look for him to get only 13 points tonight.

Prediction: NDSU 76 Fort Wayne 64
I don't see anybody on the Fort Wayne roster that would be able to stop Marshall Bjorklund. He has been amazing down in the post, averaging 13 points a game along with shooting a nations best 70 percent from the floor.

Forward Mario Hines for Fort Wayne has not been consistent enough to offer any hopes in the way of stopping Bjorklund. Couple that with how it seems every player on the Bison becoming comfortable with their role, it is tough to see the Mastodons walking away with a victory.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Football is Over. Now What?

With the football season being over for not only the North Dakota State University Bison but also for the Minnesota Vikings, the question becomes what now.

For sports fans, it is the long wait until Fall camp begins and the predictions come rolling in. For now, here are five things you can look forward to in the immediate future.

I am going to rank these from the most obvious (5) to the one you really didn't think of (1).

5. NFL Playoffs
This one is an obviously the one sports fans will fall back on. Saturdays and Sundays will be taken up by people watching teams that don't matter to them fight it out for a berth in the Super Bowl XLVII.

The Super Bowl will be the last hurrah for football fans as they wait for the middle of the Summer when all media outlets begin to over report on NFL and college training camps.

4. Super Bowl
Speaking of that last hurrah. Since this comes after the playoffs, it must be number four. Everyone will be watching this game and about half of them are only going to be concerned about the commercials.

I have the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers for the big game, but it really doesn't matter to me. My team, the Dallas Cowboys, were out of it by the time they decided to pin their hopes on Tony Romo.

3. NHL Hockey
May not be a popular choice, but let us take a moment to think about it. On a large scale, a 48-game schedule, which is what is being proposed, means better hockey from teams that see the end of the season much closer.

In a regional sense, we finally get a chance to see the Minnesota Wild play after putting together a great roster during the off-season. Even I can get on board with that one.

2. College Basketball
I'm not looking at March Madness in specific, but more looking at teams regionally. The Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team is in the top 25 and play in the nation's toughest conference.

The South Dakota State University Jackrabbits are the Summit League favorites to repeat as conference champions and represent the conference in the Big Dance.

Meanwhile, NDSU and their men's basketball team is off to a 4-0 start in league play and is currently ranked 11th in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 poll. That is all very impressive but not quite as impressive as what the SDSU women's team is trying to do.

Every year since being eligible to make the NCAA Tournament in 2009, the Jackrabbits women's basketball team has made it. This year appears to be no different. Men's or women's basketball, that is impressive.

1. High School Basketball
In the state of North Dakota, Class B Boy's basketball always has a dedicated local following. To me, however, it is the East Region of Class A that I am watching closely this winter. Shanley, West Fargo, Fargo Davies, Red River and even Fargo South are my teams to watch.

Four of those teams are well within a five minute drive for me and contain some serious talent. I got hooked last year watching Shanley games and will be continuing to go back this season when the opportunity arises.

There you have it. Five options to keep you sports fans busy immediately. This way, you can skip out on the household chores by saying that you've been waiting all week to watch this game. Reality is, you've just been looking for an excuse.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ramblings... (01/04/13)

This is a post I'm going to comment on several different topics instead of using several posts to discuss each individual topics. I'll try & to put up a Ramblings lost at least once a week.

As I travel in a car with two others on our way to the FCS National Championship, I started to think about what would Frisco look like.

In my mind, it looks like a sprawling metropolis in the middle of a desert. Great buildings rising up on the horizon. Food of any kind, as much as I can eat. Great arenas where sports are played & champions are crowned. Where the booze flows...

Okay, maybe not flowing but you get the point. I'm expecting something unreal to appear. Not sure why that thought is stuck in my head. We will see how disappointed I am in a couple hours.

NDSU AD Gene Taylor made mention of the fact he doesn't believe Western Carolina will honor their contract & play the NDSU football team come September 21 of next season.

That leaves them with an open on the schedule to fill. Guess who else has an open that date? The University of North Dakota. I'm not concerned about the odds of this happening.

What I'm wondering is if the discussion even happens between both Athletic Directors. It should & it should become a home & home series. See the amount of fans that show up for that one.

It would probably be the most fans at the Alerus Center in YEARS & the most UND fans to actually come to Fargo instead of just passing through on their way to the Twin Cities.

Big win for the men last night with a 92-66 win in Vermillion, S.D. over the University of South Dakota. Reason?

A road conference victory was hard to come by last year. Of their 9 road losses last year, 5 of them were in conference.

With a big win last Saturday against Summit League favorite South Dakota State University at home, they need to prove they can sustain their success throughout the season.

If they win Saturday night against Kansas City, it will complete the road weekend sweep and up their record to 13-3 overall, 4-0 in the Summit League.

As promised, here is an update from I-35 South. Obviously, not driving right now. Tries to upload video to web but computer died just prior to doing it. So, Pinto's Preview will be later tonight.

Gas prices extremely consistent through trip & so are the MPG with the car. I'm excited to get to Norman, Oklahoma. Also, the snow has stopped & grass has finally appeared.

Check my Twitter, @pintoKFGO, for a pictures of our stop in Norman.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Grant Olson?

Yesterday, Bison head coach Craig Bohl accepted an eight-year contract extension that runs from 2013 to 2021. NDSU held a press conference to announce the signing of this contract later that day but that wasn't what most people were curious about.

Reports had been flying around the Twitter world that junior linebacker Grant Olson had a recent visit to the hospital for issues with his appendix. When asked, Bohl said that Olson will be traveling with the team and is probably for Saturday's game against Sam Houston State.

Before the question was answered, I started to wonder what NDSU would be losing at the middle linebacker position and who would replace him.

A First Team All-Conference player this year, has been unbelievable this season. He is one of the four captains and has been part of a group of linebackers that has had the same three starters since game one.

His stats overall read like this: 146 tackles, 50 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

In the playoffs, he has averaged 15.6 tacklers per game, including a 29 tackle performance against Wofford College in the quarterfinals.

That is a lot to be missing in the year's biggest game. Because he has been so solid, his backup, junior Antonio Rodgers, has barely seen the field this season. He's participated in all 14 games, but only has 16 tackles this year.

The other linebackers, sophomores Travis Beck and Carlton Littlejohn, have been just as solid. Beck is second on the team with 93 tackles while Littlejohn is third with 75. Their backup, sophomore Esley Thorton backs up both players, only has 15 tackles this season. You might know him better as the third string quarterback.

There would definitely be a major shift at that position if Olson were not able to go on Saturday. I would expect Beck to move over to the middle backer position and have Thorton play at the outside linebacker position.

The simple fact that not one of the three starters have missed a start due to injury is a mixture of luck and good health. My guess is that even if Olson is at 75 percent health wise, that is better than having one of the backups play against the Bearkats.