NDSU faces stiff competition in Jory Collins’ first year
After four years of questionable results, there is hope that the North Dakota State women’s basketball team is going to trend in the right direction.
Gone is former head coach Maren Walseth, replaced with Jory Collins. Collins spent the past season as an assistant at Kansas. Before the stop with the Jayhawks, Collins was the head coach at Emporia State for 12 years.
With the Hornets, Collins led the team to six straight D-II Sweet Sixteens between 2012 and 2017. Collins has proven that he can get his teams to win, but the question now shifts to if he can do it with a program that has struggled to win.
Under Walseth, a majority of NDSU victories came against inferior opponents, and rarely against teams with winning records.
Last year was representative of NDSU’s recent struggles. The Bison suffered an exhibition defeat to Minnesota Duluth, three non-conference wins by a total of 14 points, just one away win and just four wins against bottom-half Summit League teams.
NDSU limped into last season’s Summit League tournament losing nine of their last 10 and were quickly dispatched by South Dakota.
Two players graduated out of last year’s squad, Tyrah Spencer and Marina Fernandez.
NDSU does return a good deal of their offense. The three top scorers from last season will be juniors this year, Michelle Gaislerova, Emily Deitz and Sofija Zivaljevic. Senior Rylee Nudell also returns as the fourth leading scorer last season.
Even with the core of the team returning, NDSU still has an uphill battle in the Summit League. NDSU was selected to finish seventh in the preseason poll. The South Dakota schools locked down the top-two spots once again, with the Coyotes leading the Jackrabbits.
For the Bison to avoid a likely matchup in March with those either of those teams, NDSU will need to steal a conference win on the road. The two teams below NDSU in the preseason poll, Omaha and Fort Wayne, represent the best chance to do so. The Bison visit the Mavericks on February 6, one week after a trip to Fort Wayne on January 30.
NDSU starts the season with an exhibition at home against Minnesota Crookston. Including the exhibition, the Bison open the season with three of four games at home, including a Valparaiso team the Bison beat a year ago.
The Bison will also host a pair of Power five teams at the SHAC. Iowa State comes to Fargo on November 22 and the Wisconsin Badgers follow suit on December 8.