The Herd should be in for a fun season
Expectations are tricky things. This year, they are firmly planted on the shoulders of the North Dakota State men’s basketball team.
Last year, the main thought was along the lines of “the Bison are a year away.” That thought carried through the first half of the season as struggles ensued.
Then things clicked, the team got hot at the right time and found themselves in the Big Dance. After a First Four victory, NDSU gave Duke, a team with multiple NBA draft picks including No. 1 Zion Williamson, a hard time for most of the game.
For a team that had zero seniors, that was not a bad season.
Now, onto the next.
NDSU took home 23 of 34 first-place votes in the Summit League preseason poll, heavily favored to win the league. The Bison have not been preseason No. 1 since 2013-14. That year, NDSU notched the biggest win in the D-I era, an 80-75 OT victory in a March matchup with Oklahoma.
Is it too early to throw that expectation on the 2019-20 team? Yes, but there is some expectation here.
This is a team that lost not a single starter. In fact, the only loss from last year was the spark plug sixth man Deng Geu. Geu transferred to North Texas last spring.
But the main men are back. Vinnie Shahid was selected to the Preseason All-Summit League First Team. Last season’s conference Newcomer of the Year averaged 13.1 points per game and his return from injury was one of the key differences for NDSU down the stretch.
Tyson Ward joined Shahid on a Preseason All-League team, getting selected to the second team. The senior from Tampa, Florida notched 12.6 ppg last year.
That pair is joined by the other four players that started over 10 games last season in Jared Samuelson, Rocky Kreuser, Sam Griesel and Tyree Eady.
Off the bench, the Bison can pull on the likes of Cameron Hunter and Chris Quayle. Quayle is the fourth senior on the team, joining Shahid, Ward and Samuelson.
The continuation of the cohesion from last year’s squad is going to be tested early. After a home exhibition against Dickinson State, NDSU hit the road and head to Big 12 Kansas State.
The K-State game is one of two marquee matchups in the non-conference, with a trip to Marquette in December the other.
Inside the Summit, the landscape has drastically changed, thanks in part to two departures and one departure that didn’t happen.
South Dakota State, last season’s favorite, will be without the services of Mike Daum for the first time in four years. The big man is currently playing in Spain. Also gone is David Jenkins, with the junior and former All-Summit League first-teamer off to UNLV. UNLV also acquired the services of SDSU coach TJ Oztelberger, leaving the Jacks in the hands of Eric Henderson.
Those departures have tilted the balance of power to the red side of South Dakota. USD managed to keep forward Stanley Umude in Vermillion, despite interest in Arizona in the off-season. Umude averaged a double-double last year (14.4 ppg, 14 apg) and is the preseason player of the year.
The Coyotes placed three players on the All-Summit League teams. NDSU hosts USD January 15.
Until then, the Bison will have eight home games, starting with Dickinson State on October 30 at 7 p.m. at the SHAC.