Editorial: Classical Mechanics

Feeling smart, Bison Illustrated editor Nolan Schmidt takes you back to high school physics to illustrate the growth of the North Dakota State men’s and women’s basketball programs over the past year.

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I never paid much attention during physics class in high school. The study of matter in the scope of space and time is a vast topic. Far too vast for my underdeveloped brain to comprehend.

Also, there was math, and it was my understanding that there would be no math.


However, if there is one thing I recall from that course it’s Newton’s laws of motion. Sir Isaac’s three laws became the foundation for classical mechanics, which studies the motion of objects we can see with our own two eyes. As I sit here, I think about Newton’s first law and its relation to NDSU’s two basketball teams.

“An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force.”

We were taking a break from photos and interviews with the NDSU men’s and women’s basketball teams when I picked up a basketball. I began shooting hoops inside the Scheels Center practice facility (I shot at least 80 percent from mid-range that day on 50 shot attempts, no joke) just to kill time. What I saw around me was a different sort of energy.

Players were smiling, goofing around with one another and oohing and aahing as I sunk another jumper (okay, that didn’t happen), but I saw a visible difference in the demeanor of these two teams compared to last year. Why was that? As I write this, I understand why.

These two groups of people were acted upon by a force in 2018-19. For the Bison men, that exterior force was doubt.

The Bison men sauntered to an uninspiring 2-7 start last year. Upon seeing that, everyone (except themselves) wrote them off. Unfortunately, many failed to see that NDSU played the likes of New Mexico State, Gonzaga, East Tennessee State and Iowa State in that stretch. Each one of those teams made the NCAA Tournament the season before.

When moving at their constant velocity, NDSU went 2-7. After being acted upon by the force of doubt, they went 17-9. Within that stretch, they won the Summit League Tournament, an NCAA Tournament game and put North Dakota State on the biggest platform in sports against Duke.

Now, their role is slightly reversed. Everyone expects the Bison men to be great in 2019-20 and those expectations are their acting force. With how gleaming and giddy the players (and head coach Dave Richman) looked on that day inside the Scheels Center, I’d be hard-pressed to believe they’ll remain inert this year.

On the flip side, NDSU’s women’s program has embodied inertia over the past decade or more. They were remaining at rest or at a constant velocity with little force acting on them. The result? A 112-211 record since Amy Ruley retired in 2008. That is not a knock on anyone either, those are just facts.

There have been great players over the last 11 years and there are great players in the Bison women’s program right now. The issue is the second half of Newton’s law, there was no force. Nothing was there to push those great players to the next level.

I’m here to tell you, fine reader, that Jory Collins is that force. He has already elevated Bison women’s basketball past their constant velocity and he has yet to coach a game. The players have bought in, the new staff has bought in, the administration has bought in. Jory Collins is here to win basketball games. Not next year, not five years down the road, right now, in 2019.

His intensity and passion for the game is evident to his players and is contagious when you’re in a gym with him. Collins is the force Bison women’s basketball needs acting upon it. No longer are they inert, they are gaining momentum by the day.

I suppose Newton was correct in his assessment. All you need is the right force working alongside you…

Or, like another famous eccentric would say, “All it takes is a little push.”

Editorial: Classical Mechanics
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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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