North Dakota (17-16) at Nebraska Omaha (16-14)

The Sports NetworkMarch 19, 2014 

GAME NOTES: Back in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the fourth year in a row, North Dakota heads to Nebraska tonight to tangle with a familiar foe in the Omaha Mavericks in the first round of the event.

North Dakota, which now operates as a member of the Big Sky Conference, may be the most seasoned program in this event in its short existence, but in each of the previous years the squad has been one-and-done. In 2011, the squad was sent packing by Air Force (77-67), a year later it was Drake (79-64) that prevailed, and last season another member of the Missouri Valley Conference did the deed as Northern Iowa secured a 77-67 in the first round.

In terms of the 2013-14 campaign, UND had a chance to take part in the NCAA Tournament after surviving against Sacramento State and Portland State in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament, respectively. But in the finals versus Weber State, the team was no match for the Wildcats in an 88-67 setback.

As for the Mavericks, still transitioning to Division I status while they operate in the Summit League, they produced an overall record of 16-14, but in conference play the mark was only 5-9, leaving them sixth in the league standings. Omaha did not take part in the Summit League Tournament, which means the last time the team took the floor was March 1 when it lost in overtime to IUPU-Ft Wayne, 96-95.

Unlike many of the matchups in the first round of this event, these two teams have faced off against each other quite often, with North Dakota owning a 54-35 advantage between the former foes from the North Central Conference. The squads last met in this facility just last season as Omaha pulled off an 83-75 victory.

The survivor of the meeting will head to the second round of the tourney later this week against an opponent to be determined.

All one needs to know about North Dakota is the fact that Troy Huff is still on campus for the squad. Huff, who needs just seven points to reach 2,000 for his career, has been a one-man wrecking crew for UND again this season, earning unanimous All-Big Sky First Team honors for the season year in a row. Huff is the only player in Big Sky to rank in top five in scoring (19.4 ppg; 2nd), rebounding (6.8 rpg; 5th) and steals (2.3 spg; 1st), setting a new single-season steals record at UND in the process. However, as great as Huff may be, the fact is he cannot get this team further into the postseason without help, which is where Aaron Anderson and Jaron Nash come in. Anderson is second on the unit in both scoring (11.0 ppg) and assists (91), while Nash (10.8 ppg) is shooting an impressive 52.2 percent from the floor, but a dismal 35.6 percent at the free-throw line.

Just getting their feet wet in the Summit, the Mavericks were able to gain some measure of recognition with John Karhoff and CJ Carter both finding a spot on the All-Summit Honorable Mention squad this season. Carter not only leads the team in scoring with 13.9 ppg, shooting a decent 35.3 percent from 3-point range where he has knocked down a team-best 48 attempts, he is also first on the unit in assists as well with 100. Karhoff is following close behind in the scoring department with 13.1 ppg, although his average could be even higher if not for the fact that he often found himself in foul trouble. The same goes for Mike Rostampour (9.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg), the top man on the glass who fouled out of 11 games.

The Mavericks are in for a long growth process and jumping over North Dakota is not something that should be on their radar right now. Perhaps once Huff has moved on, but for now, UND still has the advantage.

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