Friday in Spokane: the lull between the NCAA storms

Friday in Spokane: the lull between the NCAA storms

Marshall Bjorklund, left, and Taylor Braun at the Friday NCAA press conference

SPOKANE, Wash.

It was the off day in the NCAA West Regional, a day when players and coaches talk about Thursday’s second round and look ahead to Saturday’s third round. A few notes and observations:

  • After San Diego State’s win over New Mexico State late Thursday, Fisher went into a sermon chiding the NCAA for immediately sending teams home on a charter plane. He came to the defense of NMSU on the fact the Aggies had to go back to the team’s hotel, pack its bags, and head to the airport, probably eventually getting home in the middle of the night if not around 5 a.m. “For the billions of dollars that we have here, for them not to find a way to accommodate these kids, I shouldn’t have to call the NCAA, and I did today, to say why? I am not a guy that looks for things to complain about, but this is not right.” Fisher was asked to explain further at his Friday press conference, but said he only wanted to talk about the NDSU game.
  • NDSU is making its tournament splash with viewer ratings up. Thursday’s NCAA coverage received a 6.0 viewer rating — the highest rating for a Thursday round of games in 23 years, according to a CBS release. It probably didn’t hurt there were four overtime games including NDSU’s win over Oklahoma.
  • It’s going to be a physical game with San Diego State, no doubt about it, said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. The Aztecs are second nationally in scoring defense giving up just 56.6 points per game and eighth in field goal percentage defense. The Bison, meanwhile, lead the country in field goal percentage and will think nothing of milking the shot clock to under 10 seconds before taking a shot.
  • Guard Xavier Thames makes San Diego State tick. The Mountain West Conference Player of the Year averaged 16.8 points and 3.2 assists while leading the conference in steals. “He tells us what to do,” said San Diego State forward J.J. O’Brien.
  • The San Diego State players were asked on more than one occasion about the under-the-radar status of NDSU. The Aztecs lost in this game last year to a similar program in Florida Gulf Coast and the players said they learned their lesson. “In my eyes, it’s like last year all over again,” said forward Winston Shepard. “So nobody in our locker room is taking them lightly.” Said O’Brien: “I think that’s been the theme of the tournament this year, is to not take people lightly because there have been so many upsets already. We have known they are a good team and we’re going to prepare for them like they’re the best team we have ever played.”
  • Phillips and Gene Taylor will be among the guests Saturday morning on Kolpack & Izzo 9-11 a.m. CST on WDAY-AM 970. Saul is scheduled for 10:35 a.m.
  • It’s becoming obvious Spokane in general is hopping on the Bison bandwagon. The owner of a restaurant we ate this noon — a former hockey player who once played against UND long ago — said his patrons have expressed as much. As the Oklahoma game wore on, Spokane Arena became more of a home game for NDSU. Fisher joked he hopes Michigan State fans will root for his team because his wife is a Spartan graduate and he and Tom Izzo are good buddies.

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