North Dakota State’s basketball teams begin new seasons tonight as the NCAA moved up the start date of the season three days to gain some more exposure. After a lost winter for each squad last season, there are plenty of questions surrounding each basketball team.
Dave Richman doesn’t have a senior on his roster and that presents a challenge in itself. He re-tooled the team in the offseason, six players left either from graduation or looking to play somewhere else and he added six players, four of them freshmen.
Jaxon Knotek, Sam Griesel, Jarius Cook and Odell Wilson IV are the freshmen, joined by junior college point guard Vinnie Shahid and Siena transfer Jordan Horn, who was ruled eligible by the NCAA last week. Shahid provides some instant leadership on the court, he’s a junior by eligibility standards and comes from high school powerhouse Hopkins. The addition of Horn to this year’s roster is a big bonus, who averaged eight points a game as a true freshman for the Saints, who play in the MAAC.
Griesel looks the part. He was impressive in NDSU’s exhibition win over Concordia, the 6’6 forward looks like he can be a player right out of the chute for Richman. Tyree Eady redshirted last season, he brings some length to the guard position at 6’5, he joins Cameron Hunter, who’s now a sophomore and junior Tyson Ward, who seemed poised to breakthrough last season, but it never really happened.
The other player to watch is Deng Geu. Geu had a great summer with the Ugandan national team, where he got to play against pro players for nearly a month. Geu is the great question mark, he has untapped potential and we saw that briefly at the end of the season. If he takes the next step, NDSU can move into the top half of the league.
NDSU was picked fifth in the preseason poll, but if things come together for Richman’s team, the Bison can move into the three or four spot. South Dakota State and South Dakota are still the top two teams in the league, but the Bison have the talent to knock off some teams. The non-conference is going to be tough, road trips to Gonzaga and East Tennessee State are not going to do them any favors.
This is Richman’s final year of his original contract. There are expectations to be better and get back into the top three of the league.
The youngest team in the Summit League is a year older, but still has just one senior in Marina Fernandez. Any optimism from fans on the outside may be shot after last Tuesday’s loss to Division 2 Minnesota-Duluth.
Maren Walseth is in her fifth year and we’ll see what kind of talent she has. Reilly Jacobson really started to develop over the last half of last season, she’s NDSU’s most dependable scorer. Sarah Jacobson is now a junior and will be counted on to score more. Walseth has brought in a couple of international players with experience, Michelle Gaislerova has a good outside shot and needs to continue to develop that.
The inside presence is a major question mark with Macey Kvilvang and Danneka Voegeli. Each are sophomores, who need to be strong under the basket to contend with some of the best players in the Summit League.
Frankly, I’m not sure how much better this team will be this winter. NDSU won nine games last season and that might be exactly what they win this year. South Dakota State, South Dakota and Western Illinois aren’t going anywhere, with the addition of North Dakota, pressure is on for the Bison to get back into the mix. I don’t know if that’s going to happen this season.