So did you think the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team overachieved or underachieved in 2015-2016? They finished 5th in the Summit League (after being picked 2nd by most people), but they had a fair amount of injuries (maybe even most in the Summit), and they were able to make it to the Summit League championship again.
The Bison are only graduating Kory Brown (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) and Chris Kading (3.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg), so they will be returning 4 starters to their lineup. On top of that they will be returning their top bench player, Dexter Werner, so on paper so far it sounds as if they can be at least good enough to return to the top half of the Summit League.
With three shooting guards committed, the Bison have one scholarship still open; and they are not a basketball program that really seeks out a lot of transfers from bigger schools or junior colleges. After losing Lawrence Alexander, the team really prided themselves on replacing his 19 points per game with the guys they already had on their team. Next Guy Up: I believe was their slogan. Paul Miller boosted himself from 6.7 points per game his freshman season to 15.3 points per game into his second season. Brown increased his scoring by 2 points, AJ Jacobson by 1 point, and the team did add sophomore Malik Clements (okay, I lied he came from a junior college) who averaged 6.3 points per game…so they were able to make up the scoring lost by Alexander.
The team can replace the 13.6 points per game that they are losing easier than they can make up the 19 points per game they lost from the year before. It’s not really about just replacing x amount of points…you cannot just replace Val Kilmer (an average Batman) with George Clooney (terrible Batman) and expect to make a good movie. Not that Batman Forever was great, but it wasn’t Kilmer’s fault. Point is, I think, Brown and Kading did more than just score points. They brought smart play when they needed it. Losing smart players who bring defense and make big shots right when you need them can be a big loss for a team. But…next guy up, I suppose. When the Bison were at Omaha without Paul Miller, and AJ Jacobson was in foul trouble; Chris Kading and Kory Brown took the moment to just do more than scoring.
Chris Kading’s defense was really bothering Tre’Shawn Thurman for a stretch in that game. Kading ended that game with 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks; but also every shot he made were instrumental to mounting a comeback for the Bison. In the second half of the game, Jacobson was brought back in, as was Jake White for Omaha, and Jacobson couldn’t guard White or Thurman. He couldn’t defend anyone driving to the basket, which is what helped Omaha from letting the Bison get the comeback win. For a Bison fan, it was probably as sad as I was watching Batman & Robin.
It sounds as if the Bison are going to attempt to replace Kading’s production with their redshirt freshman Deng Geu. Geu (it’s pronounced GOO) is 6’8″ with a lot of hop. He said that the Bison wanted to add an outside shot to his game, so they are hoping to making him a shot blocking-jump shooting center who can get 2nd chance opportunities on the offensive end, so they want him to be Kading. That’s what is odd, or special, or whatever, about Dave Richman, is that he is going to try and do the exact same thing offensively every single game. Just run this stupid weave offense with the exact same pieces of the puzzle game after game. Okay, it’s a successful plan obviously, but I would think it would get figured out after a few runs through the Summit League.
I thought the Bison were the anomaly of the Summit League this year. Lots of injuries in the off season and regular season. They are a pretty undersized basketball team, and also pretty slow for an undersized basketball team. Malik Clements was listed at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, but he looked more like an unhealthy 230 pounds. Players left the team at semester. Carlin Dupree leaves the team in January over a dispute in playing time, and then comes back a month later just suddenly accepting that Khy Kabellis is better for the team as a starter. They had just a completely unwatchable game against IUPUI in the first round of the Summit League tournament, the way they played, anyone else in the Summit could have beaten them that day. Paul Miller, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended for breaking team rules and could not play in their 2nd round game of the Summit League tournament. Carlin Dupree, the same guy who was pissy about playing time two months ago, got the start to replace Miller against IPFW and scored 22 and 6 rebounds and hits timely shot after timely shot to lead the Bison over the top team in the Summit. Dupree really bothered Max Landis in that game as well, if Paul Miller would have played more minutes in that game over Dupree, the ‘Dons may have actually won that game. They then lost by 8 to South Dakota State, who maybe should not have been in the championship game the way they played against Denver and Oral Roberts, but damn it the Jackrabbits did it and played a really good game against Maryland in the NCAA tournament. After this, the Bison didn’t get a trip the CIT, and I assume turned down a trip to the Vegas Mistaketeen.
All of this is why the Bison will probably be picked in the top 3 in the preseason rankings for the Summit. These weird series of events, and the fact that they will be led next season by Dexter Werner and AJ Jacobson, who are the two most consistent players in the Summit League…though like stated, everything that the Bison do is based on doing the same thing over and over. I’m sure if you played Texas Hold em with Dave Richman, he would be the guy that only bets to get in a hand if he has a pocket pair.