Bison Highlights

General information

NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Summit
Past Conferences: Summit and Ind
City: Fargo, North Dakota
Stadium: Scheels Center
NCAA Tournaments: 1971*, 1974*, 1981*, 1983*, 1994*, 1995*, 1996*, 1997*, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2019
*Indicates appearances at the Division II level


National Championships: None
Conference Titles: 5

Team History

The North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team has a distinctive history that has led it to its current status as a Division I program. A winning record wasn’t posted until the 1900-01 season when the school played its first game in 1897-98.

The development of the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball program required a significant amount of time, spanning several decades and, in some cases, over a century. The school went through multiple coaching changes to establish the foundation of the program. However, after the 1926 season, historical records of the program’s progress have become difficult to come across.

However, before transitioning to the Division I level, the team competed in Division II ranks while showcasing areas of success during their run. The Division II NCAA Tournament is set up differently compared to its Division I counterpart. In 1971, the Bisons secured their first-ever invitation to the NCAA Division II Tournament, where they finished 1-1. They lost in the regional semifinals to Northeast Missouri State but managed to secure a victory in a close-fought victory battle in the Regional 3rd place game against Saint Olaf.

Based on odds and statistics, the 1995 season was the team’s most successful in terms of post-season performance. The Bison kept finding success versus Mesa State by cruising past the opposition in the Regional Quarterfinals for consecutive seasons.

Transition to the Division I Rank

As a result, the squad finished 2-1 in the tournament after defeating Regis in the Regional 3rd-place game. The school would compete in the Division II tournament a few more times before transitioning to the Division I rank.

For the first three years, the school was considered a non-major school from the years 2005 to 2008. Head coach Saul Phillips was the first coach in the school’s history to guide the team to achieve national recognition in the NCAA Tournament. The transition was not seamless as they went up against the Kentucky Wildcats, a well-established powerhouse team; surprisingly the team only lost by a 10-point margin.

Before attaining a second opportunity in the dance, the team received back-to-back invitations to the CBI in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, both invites resulted in narrow defeats; both game differentials were determined by one possession.

Although the Bison did not have the most successful regular season in their history, they made history in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The team overcame a significant challenge by defeating the Oklahoma Sooners in the opening round (second round) in overtime before essentially having no answer against the San Diego State Aztecs’ potent offensive and defensive abilities, according to the North Dakota State team stats.

After a successful tenure with the program, coach Saul Phillips left the program to lead the Ohio Bobcats. David Richman would be next in line with the ambition to continue the trend. Unfortunately, the Gonzaga Bulldogs proved to be a tough opponent in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

In the 2019 season, the team won against the North Carolina Central Eagles during their last appearance in the dance. Their potential run ended immediately because they ran into the Duke Blue Devils in the first round. Despite qualifying for the 2020 NCAA tournament, the tourney was canceled due to the global pandemic.

Head coach David Richman is entering his ninth season with the program. The team is facing long NCAAB odds to win the Summit League due to its poor start to begin the regular season.


All-Time Records

  • Points Scored

    • Lawrence Alexander 1,755
    • Paul Miller 1,719
    • Rocky Kreuser 1,675
  • Rebounds

    • Rocky Kreuser 831
    • Tyson Ward 729
    • Marshall Bjorklund 682
  • Assists

    • Lawrence Alexander 408
    • Taylor Braun 338
    • Tyson Ward 283
  • Steals

    • Taylor Braun 153
    • Kory Brown 136
    • Lawrence Alexander 130


What is the highest win total in program history?

Throughout its history, the program has reached the 26-win milestone on two occasions, in the 2009 and 2014 seasons. In both seasons, the team recorded the same regular season record of 26-7. The fundamental distinction between the two seasons was the team’s conference play record.

Who is the winningest coach in program history?

Coach David Richman has a strong case for being the most successful coach in the program’s history, as he has a record of 166-108. However, another argument could be made for Coach Saul Phillips, who has a slightly higher win percentage with a record of 134-84. Both coaches have led the Bison to two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

What was the worst season in program history?

When the program first began, the team had a winless start with a record of 0-6, although the number of games played in that season was not significant. This season; however, could potentially be the worst start in program history, since the team has a win percentage below .400. (Results could change after the conclusion of the regular season.

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