|NC Central aims to set up all-Durham battle with Duke|
North Carolina Central knows this part of the NCAA Tournament quite well.
The Eagles are entered in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, for the third year in a row. The opponent is North Dakota State for Wednesday night's game at University of Dayton Arena.
The Bison are accustomed to playing in the NCAA Tournament, so that part of it makes it intriguing when the teams meet for the right to take on No. 1 overall seed Duke.
Both NC Central and North Dakota State emerged from their conference tournaments as the fourth seeds, and have been in scramble mode to try to extend their seasons since the outset of March.
"We've come a long way," North Dakota State coach Dave Richman said. "We've stayed the course through the good and the bad."
NC Central (18-15) was a surprise winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, knocking off top-seeded Norfolk State in Sunday's title game in Norfolk, Va.
The Eagles have shown a certain resolve in recent conference tournaments and hope to carry that into the NCAA Tournament.
"If you want something in life, you must fight for it," NC Central coach LeVelle Moton said. "It's nothing I can draw on the board."
The Eagles became the first MEAC team to win three championships in a row since the 1980s. They've shown the ability to rise to the occasion in March.
"This is what we do it for," Moton said of the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
North Dakota State (18-15) won the Summit League tournament, defeating Omaha in the final, after heavily favored South Dakota State lost to No. 8 seed Western Illinois.
North Dakota State knows the NCAA Tournament routine well with its fourth appearance in 11 years. This is the third time in a six-season stretch for the Bison.
At this stage of the season, it's when special moments occur and the Bison would like some more.
"To help these young men to realize their dreams," Richman said. "That's what March is all about, a couple of possessions here and there. ... A bunch of guys stick together. We start 2-7 and it tests you in a low of ways."
The Bison are the last Summit League team to record an NCAA Tournament victory, upsetting Oklahoma in 2014.
North Dakota State is the first team from the Summit League to be sent to a First Four game, though Oakland played in this round in Dayton in 2005 when the league was known as the Mid-Continent Conference.
North Dakota State junior guard Vinnie Shahid was the tournament Most Valuable Player. He's a junior college transfer from Western Nebraska Community College.
"When Vinnie Shahid walked on campus, things changed," Richman said of the players attitude and enthusiasm.
NC Central has a major post presence with redshirt senior center Raasean Davis, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the MEAC tournament.
NC Central and North Dakota State have crossed paths before. That was in November 2007 when NC Central was making a transition to Division I. North Dakoka State won that game 104-51 in Fargo, N.D.
Wednesday's winner goes on to meet Zion Williamson and the mighty Blue Devils in the first round Friday night in Columbia, S.C. If it's NC Central, it will be an all-Durham N.C., matchup as both teams reside in that city.
--Field Level Media