Wednesday my “Hot Mic With Dom Izzo” commentary segment focused on the issues with the Bison women’s basketball team. If you missed it you can watch it here.
This is a story I’ve been working on for some time, speaking with various groups, whether it be NDSU’s administration, to coach Maren Walseth to prominent alums of the program.
For a long time I got a sense that fans of NDSU had grown apathetic towards the program, that no one cared anymore, the losing had just become something they had grown used to it.
Then last Wednesday happened. South Dakota State 86, North Dakota State 33.
We’ve known for a while that SDSU was much better than NDSU, but for some reason this seemed to strike a chord with Bison fans. The reaction on Twitter after that game was fierce.
What is more concerning? Margins of defeat or points scored? You’re a D1 basketball team and you scored 33 points in a game. That 33 points is alarming, as was their 49 against Mayville St.
— Chad Durand (@_Coach_Durand) January 24, 2019
— Toby Kramer (@remarket50) January 24, 2019
This season has been bizarre and it started before the year tipped off. I first reported back in November that junior guard Sarah Jacobson was going to redshirt this season because of “ongoing health issues.” Last year’s team MVP Reilly Jacobson either left or quit the team and has since transferred to Western Michigan. Both of those moves should have raised eyebrows and raise a very basic question, “What’s going on with the women’s basketball team?”
Reilly Jacobson became the eighth player to leave NDSU since Walseth took over in April of 2014. It’s interesting to note two former players, Megan Gamble and Kennedy Childers, are now playing for successful D-2 programs. Childers is at Union University in Tennessee, she’s averaging seven points a game for a team that’s 19-1. Megan Gamble is averaging five points a game for a team that’s 16-2. Maybe that was their best destination, going to a D-2 school, but that begs another question. Why were they recruited to a D-1 school in the first place?
And that brings us to the hottest topic surrounding the women’s program in my mind. Recruiting. The big story a couple of weeks ago was Hawley junior Paige Thompson committing to MSU Moorhead over an offer from NDSU. This is no slight to Thompson, who’s a very good player, but also brings up another issue that I’ve heard for a while. “Why is NDSU looking at/recruiting D-2 players? They need to be recruiting against SDSU, USD and UND.”
This year has a wealth of homegrown talent that are seniors. West Fargo Sheyenne’s Maggie Manson, Mandan’s Megan Zander and Bismarck Century’s Lilly Keplin are all-state players. Each of them signed to play at UND. No one knows if these players will pan out at the next level but to my knowledge, NDSU was not considered by either three. Add in Roseau, Minnesota’s Kacie Borowicz and now you’ve got four players from the immediate area that did not consider NDSU. That’s a major problem for the school.
So where do things go from here? NDSU begins the second half of league play Sunday with a game at Western Illinois, a team they beat in Fargo last month. They sit at 3-5 in league play and in sixth place in the Summit League. It’s an uphill road to finish in the top half of the conference, and NDSU hasn’t won a conference tournament game in a decade. I don’t believe that drought will end this March. What happens next bears watching at NDSU.
The bigger question is what is the administration going to do?