Trojans Looking to Upset No. 1 Seed for NSAA Championship Berth: Game Preview – Dakota State vs Bellevue

The Trojan Men’s Basketball team (17-12 overall, 6-6 NSAA) is on the road for their Semifinal matchup in the North Star Athletic Association Postseason Tournament against the Bellevue Bruins.


The Bruins (13-15 overall, 8-4 NSAA) comes into this game off a first round bye after claiming the regular season conference title. Bellevue is coming from what will be an eight day layoff since their last game. The last time this team went that long with playing a game was on Dec. 29 after an 11 day break. They had one their previous game (like they have heading into this game), but dropped the game against Mount Marty that day after the layoff, 77-72.

Though it’ll be tough to knock off a team that has begun to roll the way Bellevue did in conference play and as of late. They’ve won four of their last five games and haven’t lost at home since Dec. 30 against Doane, which was just the second time they dropped back-to-back home games. Since the turn of the calendar, the Bruins have yet to lose at home. Going 6-0 at home in conference.

Leading the Bruins in scoring is TJ Fritz with 13.8 points per game. Along with one more player in double figures, that being Jerome Bynum with 10.6 a game. For the year, the Bruins average 69.9 points per game on 45.7% from the field. They allow defenses just 66.9 a game through 28 games.

Dakota State

The Trojans enter this game coming off an impressive Quarterfinal win over Viterbo, where they got back to playing like themselves from top to bottom. Which even came with a season-high 15 made threes after struggling in the back half of conference play from deep. DSU hasn’t won in Bellevue since before every member of the team was born. Dakota State’s last win in Bellevue was Dec. 11, 1999.

Some DSU Trojans are nearing some single-season marks coming into this game. Brayden Pankonen is just five made threes away from tying Blake Hyde (2004-05) for 10th place at 69 3PM in a season. Emmanuel Akpan is seven blocks away from tying Brian Bolen (2007-08) & Mark Haines (1992-93) from ninth all-time in single season blocks for DSU.

Dakota State has the ability to come out on top in this game. These Bruins have learned themselves during NSAA play and have established their dominance at home in 2024. They have plenty of guys with ability, but the Trojan losses previously have been them getting in their own way. The only one who shoots in well from deep is Fritz, everyone else just takes advantage of their open looks. They’re a very beatable team, but not unless you shake their confidence early. They have an unparalleled confidence at home.

Leading in scoring for DSU is Mison Coilton with 14.4 points per game on 48.9% from the field and 42.3% from beyond the arc. He is followed in scoring by Akpan with 10.1 a game. The Trojans are posting 75.4 points per game on 44.4% from the field and 35% from deep. They have allowed opponents 72.2 points a game this year through 29 games.

DSU is looking for just their fifth trip to the NSAA Championship game since the conference began in the 2013-14 season. The Trojans haven’t claimed the NSAA title since 2016. Which was their second title in as many years after capturing it in 2015 as well. Dakota State has never won a postseason matchup in Bellevue.

The Bruins are 2-0 in postseason play against the Trojans. A win for DSU would make head coach Darren Tighe the sole leader in wins for a first year head coach with 18. He is currently tied with Ed Harter (1963-64) with 17 wins.

Tipoff is set for 1pm in Bellevue, Neb with the pregame beginning at 12:45pm on Jammin Country 103.

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