The Football team's conference schedule has barely begun but it's time to start talking about the Basketball teams. Yes, that's plural, as in both. I'm going to hit on both of the teams in one shot. As is always the case, both teams feature some new faces on the bench and one is tasked with overcoming the loss of a couple long time, occasionally special, contributors.
Raquel Terrer van Gool
Those are the three new members of the women's Basketball team. With only one senior on the roster there is once again room for some optimism with this half of the program. Expectations should remain tempered as long as SDSU is in the league but one dominant team can't singularly keep them from finishing in the top half of the conference or from getting a win in Sioux Falls. Those are the goals. That may seem lowly but it's about baby steps, just trying to return to relevance.
If the ladies are to make that progress this season it will rest heavily on their four juniors. Sarah Jacobson, Rylee Nudell, Tyrah Spencer and Reilly Jacobson are the ones that will be responsible for the key plays, to help lead the way that they play game in and game out. Whether they're up to the task will be the big question for this season. If none of them are able to step up then it will be another long & disappointing season. A far cry from the old days that they are trying to reestablish.
They aren't the only ones looking to turn back the clock to better days though.
AJ Jacobson & Paul Miller never really lived up to the promise that each of them showed during their early days in North Fargo. They were good players but neither one proved to be as great as some thought they would be during their freshman & sophomore years. In addition to those two graduates, Dylan Miller decided to step away from the program a year early. So as with the women, the men will look to establish something new.
The youth movement extends beyond those four but they are the ones to make the posted roster. Before the calendar flips to 2019 maybe one or two of the others will have broken through but I'm going with the information as it's presented.
This portion of the Basketball program is also light on seniors, ringing in at precisely 0. Another of the new players comes in as a junior. It's a lot to ask a guy to jump in and be a leader but that's part of the role that Vinnie Shahid is facing this season. The other part of the transfer tandem is sophomore Jordan Horn. Bringing in guys that have played collegiately but have years remaining will prove to be good additions by the coaching staff I think.
So without a senior but with a third of the roster checking in as juniors it's hard to know how the team will do in pressure situations. Tyson Ward seems like the most likely candidate to step up when the game is on the line but I would hope to see more consistent production from Deng Geu as the season wears on. In the biggest games over the last two years he's been a guy to show flashes of greatness, he just needs to do it on a game by game basis - even if on a lesser level, just constistency.
But if not Ward as time is running out, it would be great to see Cameron Hunter show that he can fill that role. But there's a lot more to consider than just crunch time. From the first time that it was pointed out to me several years ago through last season I've never been fond of the offense that is employed. The simplicity of it just doesn't sit well with me. I won't claim to be a Basketball offense savant but mixing up the sets and the looks can only help the team put up points. I know that for the coaches it starts with the defensive end of the court. I don't want that to be neglected but winning games is made a lot easier the more points that a team can score.
So both the women and the men find themselves in a similar position. Almost like they are mirror images of each other. There's a lot of unknown, a lot that has to be proven and each one has an early season test against a high profile team. For the women it's a trip to Madison, WI in mid November while the men hook Gonzaga & Iowa State on consecutive Monday nights in late November & early December respectively.
As if that weren't enough, the old rivals to the north are back in the mix as conference foes. Each roster has people from North Dakota or Minnesota so what was old may quickly be renewed if the players can show that they're up for it. Like I said, it's about taking small steps in the right direction for both of these teams. If either or both can play well enough to be in the top half of the tournaments seedings then that would be a success year. There are a lot of hurdles to jump to even make it that high and I don't see how either team would be able to do better than top 4.
Men: 16 - 14
Women: 13 - 16
I would like to be more optimistic about both team's chances but I'm not there yet. A key game for the men will be November 24th against East Tennessee State. If they compete and keep it close, much less win, then maybe they'll be able to get closer to the 20 win mark.
As for the ladies, beyond the Wisconsin game I don't know which team on the schedule may be a quality test. It could be New Mexico State, Creighton or New Hampshire, Valparaiso or San Francisco or any of the other non - conference match ups that they're set to be a part of. Steal a win or two or three or four from those teams and 13 wins may be too low but again, I have to see it - and would be glad to be wrong with both of those guesses.
There is reason to be optimistic about the season ahead for both of the squads and whatever progress they make will be all the better for the 19/20 season but I'm trying to be realistic about both team's chances this year.
So there you go, a brief but not too brief look at the Bison Basketball program. How do you think the team's will do this year? Make your predictions on the Facebook page and say whatever else you have on your mind regarding them!