North Dakota State comes to town this evening to play the University of Akron men’s basketball team in an ESPN BracketBuster game. These contests are designed to give strong programs with lesser national profiles a chance to grab a win that may help propel them into the NCAA tournament next month.
Ideally, the stakes would attract a full house to James A. Rhodes Arena, UA students, in particular, attending in large numbers, building on the enthusiasm, the big, noisy crowds on hand as the Zips downed Buffalo, Ohio and Bowling Green.
The team, now 21-4, is going for its 18th straight victory, the longest winning streak in the country. Yet it isn’t just this string that has been compelling, or the undefeated run (so far) through the Mid-American Conference. Keith Dambrot, in his ninth year as head coach, is pursuing something special, the UA program looking to become one of those mid-majors that edge into the national conversation about men’s basketball.
His record already deserves boisterous support, 20 wins and more each season, a regular place in the MAC title game, a gritty, smart, entertaining brand of basketball. He has been wooed, and chosen to stay. The coach recently shared with Marla Ridenour of the Beacon Journal his envy of the buzz around the stellar UA men’s soccer program. In their way, Dambrot and his players are chasing the same, sustained excellence.