Dragon Hoops Preview
Today marks the first day of practices for the Dragons Basketball teams so what better time than now to take a look at the squads. Last year, Moorhead State arguably had the second best Basketball team in the area and I would say the most successful one. I'm referring to the lady Dragons as they come back from a 23 win season that saw them have winning streaks of five and 16 games. Highlighted by a win over the then #12 ranked Northern State Wolves it was a season that will be difficult to equal, much less surpass. The task becomes all the taller because of the graduation of current international pro Drew Sannes. So that's a bit of back story about the women, but what about the men?
The fellas will also look to come back better without one of their best players from last season - Tanner Kretchman. In contrast to their feminine counterparts, the guys struggled through most of the year to the tune of a 22 loss season.
So each team will have hurdles to overcome this year, specifically learning how to play in new or expanded roles with each other. It could be that ever team faces that, every year, but I'm only talking about the Dragons right now.
Enough pre-talk though, let's get into the meat of the preview.
Lead by their sole senior Jacky Volkert, the young lady Dragons will have seven games out of the shoot to work out some of the kinks. Six of those seven will be away and the one at home is an exhibition. It seems to me that it will be a trial by fire. With six freshmen in the fold I don't think that's a stretch of an assumption. After that run they'll get three more away games to start their conference season.
So in other words, they won't have much time to mess around if they want to keep the door open to compete for the Northern Sun title this year. They'll have to overcome what appears to be a steep learning curve but I think they're actually well setup up to do just that. Even with the loss of one of their best players the roster going forward is similar to last years. Three of the four front line fill-ins are juniors so they should be able to make up for the production that's left the building. Beyond them it may get dicey some nights, especially early but the backcourt has the benefit of the teams leader which will help the curve.
But what about the guys side?
They have a good mix of seniors and freshman with a couple guys in between to bridge the gap. I expect that Johnny Beeninga will serve as the face of the team over his next two seasons while some of those many freshman get up to speed. If I were to put a pin in one that may be the standout this year it would be brief NDSU commit Jake Mertens but there are one or two others that I think could carve out playing time roles this season. It's purely speculative since I'm not inside their building but on paper it seems like Walthall and his staff have taken an approach that could succeed in the short term and for years to come.
All to improve on a season that frankly I don't think could have gone much worse for the men's team. So plenty of room for improvement! They get the added benefit of spending the first few weeks of the season at home before busting out their passports and traveling north for four days of play in Vancouver.
Considering what I've seen from some of the local players that are going to suit up for MSUM this year I'm optimistic about their chances to improve. But then again, it's a low bar to clear. So this is far from comprehensive but it's hard to preview a pair of teams with unknowns at so many spots. It wouldn't be a preview if I didn't make predictions for how their seasons could go.
They're lightly educated but here are my guesses:
Men 15 - 15
Women 19 - 9
If there's one game that I would recommend attending for each team it's Northern State on December 19 for the men and Augustana on January 19 for the women. NSU came within one score of winning the national title a year ago and Auggie was the top finisher out of the conference in the women's division two tournament. If you want to see the best that will come to Moorhead, those are the games to see. If you want to see wins by the home team, go watch the men against Concordia on November 13 and the ladies against the four win Beavers on the 11th of January, best guesses with no additional evidence right now