Projected Conference Wins: 4 to 10
Projected Regular Season Finish: 4th to 7th
Key returning players: Billy Brown (Sr), Aenen Moody (So), Filip Rebraca (So), Marlon Stewart (Sr), Kienan Walter (Sr)
If so much of this stuff is based on what these teams have coming back versus what they have coming in and how they performed last season, why did the Fighting Hawks land themselves at 8th in the preseason rankings?
To be fair, I have a pretty big range for North Dakota between 4 and 10 wins, maybe because part of me felt so threatened by them in the first round of the Summit League tournament, and the guys who left the program weren’t even really factors in that game.
I actually don’t feel so good about this ranking.
The biggest question for North Dakota is probably the fact that their coaching staff is brand new. Paul Sather takes over a team who finished 7th in the conference last season. He came from division 2 Northern State, where he was the NSIC Coach of the Year for the last 2 seasons, and was 85-19 over the last 2 seasons. If North Dakota were to finish 4th in the conference this season, I think Sather as Summit League Coach of the Year would be a safe bet.
Sather did mention how impressed he was by the team’s chemistry, something that the previous coaching staff was apparently trying to build. Sather also mentioned that his style of play won’t be much different from what North Dakota played last season, so there won’t be a huge adjustment on the court for players.
There was an awkward moment at the Summit League Media Day when he was asked if there was anyone on the roster he was impressed by when first meeting the team, and it took him a few seconds to come up with his answer: not really…
Sather did eventually mention he was impressed by redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens, and thought he was a future star in the conference. Allen-Eikens is a 6’6″ 212lb guard, who had over 20 division one scholarship offers before committing to North Dakota.
Man, I really don’t know how I got so high on this team. Oh well, none of this matters anyway.
So what’s good?
There isn’t a ton of experience on the roster, but they are returning 69% (4th in the Summit League) of their scoring and 68% (4th) of their rebounding. Also, the team made 139 threes in the conference last season, and they’re returning 130 of those threes. The Fighting Hawks do have the 4th highest amount of division one games played on their roster, but the 7th most division one starts on their roster.
Senior guard Marlon Stewart will be leading this team on the offensive end. He did have more assists last season in the Summit League, out of all returning players. Stewart was also playing through injuries last season, and is the healthiest he has ever been, according to Sather.
Sather noted that the offense will be based on three point shots, and all I can remember right now is guard Aenen Moody hitting clutch threes on Omaha in Sioux Falls, and I get scared. Seriously, every time I thought the Mavericks had control of the game, Moody hit a damn three to upset me. Moody had the 3rd most threes made in the Summit League last season as a freshman. Billy Brown had the 5th highest three point field goal percentage in the conference last season.
In addition to Stewart, Moody, and Brown, the Fighting Hawks will round out their starting lineup with 6’9″ senior forward Kienan Walter and 6’9″ sophomore forward Filip Rebraca, who combined for 11 rebounds per game in the Summit League last season.
If you watched the Summit League media day, I highly doubt you did, every coach mentioned how important the three is in the conference. It might surprise you, but North Dakota was best at defending the three point line in the conference. However, they had the worst overall defensive field goal percentage in the league. So that’s weird.
If they can actually improve their defense, they could potentially be a threat to anyone.
Actually, I after typing all of this out, I no longer feel good about North Dakota at 5th. Mentally, you should drop them down to 7th. That Summit League tournament game just warped my mind a bit.
My trivial preseason Summit League rankings
5th North Dakota
6th Western Illinois
7th Fort Wayne