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VIRG FOSS: Winter sports winding down at a frantic pace

I took my dog, Lena, out for a walk Thursday afternoon.

With her at my side, I didn’t need the start of the March Madness basketball tournament dominating the TV channels to tell me that the winter sports seasons are winding down at a frantic pace.

By wading through every puddle of water and muddy patch of roadway she could find, Lena did her best to live up to the “Mud Pie” nickname she earned shortly after she was adopted a year ago.

She provided evidence that while college hockey and basketball tournaments are in full bloom for the next few weeks, we’re about to escape from this brutal winter. We can all say amen to that.

While little Lena paddled along in the slop and goo, literally soaking it all up, we sports fans are enjoying the closing weeks of winter sports.

Most of us in the Grand Forks area are UND hockey fans. The focus for us is on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament in Minneapolis ending today.

We harbor big dreams that UND will be one of the 16 teams chosen for the NCAA tournament when the selections are announced on Sunday.

I’d bet old “Mud Pie” dreams of warm spring days and getting back to the cabin and the lake. She has visions of romps in the woods, of rides on the ATV, of chasing squirrels and playing in the lake on hot days.

We sports fans dream of one more big win for our teams, one more big tournament, perhaps one more national title.

I’ve never been one to follow college basketball much at the national level. That’s mainly because for much of my life, my hours at the newspaper were often consumed with reporting on Fighting Sioux hockey, the ultimate dream job.

But I tuned in Thursday night to watch North Dakota State beat Oklahoma in the NCAA men’s hoops tournament.

Good for the Bison. They are an excellent team, under a humble coach you can like a lot in Saul Phillips, take note, Craig Bohl.

It wasn’t a shocking upset. Lots of people picked NDSU in their office pool, so it wasn’t like Miracle on Ice, Part II.

But somehow NDSU President Dean Bresciani must have thought so. “The entire country will now see North Dakota as a basketball state,” he was quoted as saying.

Wow. Really? Many in the country now see North Dakota as an oil-rich state, while others don’t see us at all. There’s a lot of people out there who aren’t even sure where we are on the map, what we do here — or why we stay here in this bone-chilling cold.

We do have the UND women’s basketball team in the Big Dance Sunday night at Texas A&M, a first for the school. That’s on national TV, too, and I’ll be watching, cheering for coach Travis Brewster and his remarkable team.

We win national team titles up here in North Dakota. We’ve won seven of them at the Division I level in hockey. We’ve won them at a lower Division I level in football, in various sports at the Division II level in the past.

So while our state may be remote and invisible to some, what we do, we do very well.

So like little Lena, happily splashing through the mud puddles and dreaming of summer days, we’re soaking up our last few weeks of winter sports with our teams making a splash on the big stage, no less.

Fun, isn’t it?

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.