As the New Year begins and we transition away from one sport to another, I can’t help but be reminded of my time in college when I’d go watch my team play. It would usually start with getting people organized and going to watch the game, but as I got closer to my Senior year, and inevitably Graduate School, it involved meeting up with my sister, who would gladly hang out with big brother on a Friday or Saturday night. With my school still Division II at that time, it was always a double header each game night.
The early game featured our women’s team, who struggled during my time there, and usually resulted in sparse crowds. The featured game was our men’s team who had been successful at that time.
Due to these small crowds for the women’s game, this is when my sister and I had to be there so we could get our preferred seats – or at least my preference. We didn’t normally sit in the student only section; we’d sit center court in the bleacher section about 12 rows up. The players’ friends and family, rather than the raucous student section, surrounded us. I didn’t care. I wanted to be able to see everything that was going on the court and be able to see the three-point lines and out of bounds with ease.
We cheered our teams on, I yelled at the refs, we got to see some great college basketball and I have fond memories of time with my sister.
I’m sure many of you have fond memories of Bison basketball, especially with the recent success of the program. This season starts a new chapter in those memories with a new coach, new key players, and, for now, a new home.
The Bison Sports Arena is being renovated, so the men’s and women’s basketball teams have found separate homes in Scheels Arena and the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse, for the next two seasons. It may not be their normal home court but these will be memories for the players and fans that future teams won’t have.
The key in these memories is to continue the positive wave that has been overflowing in the Bison community. Last season marked the second time the men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA tournament by winning the Summit League tournament.
During the NCAA Tournament we saw the Bison upset Oklahoma in the first round before falling to San Diego State. It was a great season for the program, but now the team is young and will need time to grow together. With only one senior and two juniors on the team, this team will grow together for the next few years while adding talent.
Head coach Dave Richman is the man in charge after being promoted to the position after Saul Phillips left for Ohio University. Don’t worry, Bison fans, let’s look at what happened last time a successful coach left the program.
Phillips took over for Tim Miles, who had a 58 percent winning percentage (99-71) in six seasons with the Herd. Phillips took the helm and guided the team to a 61 percent winning percentage (134-84) in seven seasons. That’s 35 more wins in only one extra season, and also, two NCAA tournament appearances!
The future for the Bison men’s basketball team is looking very bright.
With new facilities on the way, an established system in place that keeps consistency in the program with the promotion of Richman, the willingness to schedule big time opponents, and young talent to develop into a mid-major power.
Be thankful, Bison fans, Scheel’s Arena may be cool with the ice under the court, but the Herd is just getting warmed up!