The Start of the March to Madness
We are officially over half way through October and that means, among other things, that college Basketball is very close to it's initiation. In my opinion NDSU's men's team took a marked step backward last year. 20 wins is the benchmark for a successful regular season and they were one game shy of that but I think that they've reached a point of being judged beyond merely regular season record. Getting blown out in the first round of the SLT should not sit well with any program backers.
That the team then lost a guy that may get taken in the second round of the NBA draft and even if not, Khy Kabellis showed over his first two years that he has many of the characteristics of a guy that may be able to sniff the NBA. And it's only an isolated incident in that Carlin Dupree changed his mind about leaving the year before. So that's two key players who at least announced leaving the program. That should be a caution flag, if not a full blown red flag yet.
And don't get me wrong, Coach Richman knows more about Basketball then I ever will but he's the third best coach of the division 1 era for NDSU. Even with the losses of Dexter Werner, Dupree and Kabellis the team will have Paul Miller & A.J. Jacobson to lean on. Hopefully those two can be enough of a foundation to expand the offenses' complexity this year. Maybe the overwhelming youth of the roster will prevent that early but I would be glad to see a more complex ball movement based offense, while maintaining the same level of defense that they have been known for in the past.
One look at the schedule & roster and it may be accurate to think that the program has returned to the days of a large recruiting class that builds up for the years to peak as Juniors and Seniors to get into the tournament. After LA's senior year dominance and some of the international league pros that have come out of the program (such as Werner & Dupree) I thought it may have grown beyond that pattern. Who knows, maybe the youngsters that the coaching staff have brought in will be able to make an impact from day one but with only the two seniors and two juniors, and three games against major conference schools this year it reminds me of the Ben Woodside & Taylor Braun years. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.
Of the five sophomores on the roster, Deng Geu may have the highest upside but Tyson Ward and Jared Samuelson will have to step up in order to compete at a Summit League Championship game level. At this stage I can't bring myself to say they'll get through the Sioux Falls gauntlet, not with Mike Daum making his final push for tournament glory and NBA attention but I sure would like to not have another first round exit down there!
The schedule has them facing off 31 times before the end of February. I'd like to be able to predict a 20 - 11 record, if not better but I think they'll be close to the 17 win threshold once it's all said and done.
I wish I could be more positive about things because I am excited about Basketball being back and the better the product on the court is, the better for everybody. But I won't go positive just for the sake it, no matter what, not if I don't think it's deserved and truthful!
But what do you think? Am I under selling this year's teams potential? What number of wins do you think they'll manage to reach this year? Who might step up or shine brighter in the absence of the grads?
Let me know in the chat section!