RENO, Nev.-UND joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012. When it comes to the league's postseason tournament, however, there was no learning curve for the Fighting Hawks.
The Hawks have been productive in all three of their Big Sky tournament appearances, reaching the semifinals twice and advancing to the championship game in 2014.
Will that trend continue Thursday when top-seeded UND plays No. 8 seed Portland State in a quarterfinal game?
Hard to say. But UND has had its fair share of postseason tournament success since joining the league.
"It's March; it's what we live for," said UND senior Quinton Hooker. "This is what we've been working for all year."
UND (19-9) won the league's regular-season title last week. But the tournament winner earns the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
In its three previous Big Sky tournament appearances, UND:
-- Owns a 5-3 record, including a 3-0 mark in quarterfinal games.
-- Has never entered the tournament lower than a No. 5 seed.
-- Defeated Idaho State by 34 points in last year's quarterfinal round, the largest margin of victory in the history of the league tournament.
-- Saw junior forward Drick Bernstine haul in a tournament-record 21 rebounds against Idaho State last year.
But parity has been the one constant in the Big Sky. UND beat Portland State 82-73 last week to win the regular-season title but lost 99-62 to the Vikings back in December.
For UND coach Brian Jones, the tournament is centered around proper preparation.
"We do a great job of preparing our team the right way," said Jones, the league's coach of the year. "We don't give them too much or too little.
"Across the country, there have been so many upsets; that's the nature of college basketball in March. For us, it's more about preparing our guys and getting them to be confident."
Portland State (15-15) downed Northern Arizona 80-67 in Tuesday's first round of the tournament.
The Vikings mirror UND. Both teams are athletic; both prefer the transition game; and both are guard-dominated.
The Vikings are led by De'Sean Parsons (14.7 ppg), Deontae North (13.4) and Calaen Robinson (13.1). They also prefer to use a pressure defense, but UND handled that effectively in their meeting last week.
"It's going to be a bear of a game," said Jones. "They could win this thing because of the talent they have. We just have to continue to do what we've been doing well."
The Hawks have relied on the scoring of Hooker (19.0) and Geno Crandall (15.6) but lately UND has received big minutes and points from reserve Cortez Seales, who has averaged 13.8 points in UND's past seven games.
UND committed 22 turnovers against Portland State last week, yet survived at home. In an expected up-tempo game Thursday, turnovers could be the key statistic.
"The big thing for us is that we have to value the basketball," said Jones.