Summit League Preview: South Dakota State Men Host North Dakota State, South Dakota
Sometimes 'new' takes a little getting used to.
Case in point, the South Dakota State men's basketball team. The Jackrabbits, under first-year head coach TJ Otzelberger, and with an influx of new faces on their roster, began the year 1-6 while trying to find the right formula for success.
Things began to click in late November, about the time SDSU set a starting five of Mike Daum, Reed Tellinghuisen, AJ Hess, Tevin King, and Sergio El Darwish. That group has posted a 6-2 mark in their time together as starters, pushing the Jacks to within a game of .500 (7-8) as Summit League play begins this week.
Daum, a pre-season all-conference first teamer, has been the focus of opposing defenses, but has still managed to play some of his best basketball over the past few weeks, averaging 28 points per game, while shooting 56 percent from the floor, and going 38-of-39 from the free throw line in SDSU's last four games. He leads the league in scoring, averaging 22 points per game during the non-conference schedule.
The Jackrabbits are still looking to establish some depth off the bench. Junior guard Andre Wallace has played in all 15 games, averaging six points a game.
Conference play starts Wednesday night with North Dakota State. The Bison (8-5) return a veteran group led by senior Dexter Werner, one of the top post players in the Summit. Werner, who's been coming off the bench the last three games, is averaging 10 points per game and hitting an impressive 67 percent of his shots. He's also in the top five in the league in offensive rebounding and blocked shots.
Junior guard AJ Jacobson is the second most accurate three-point shooter in the Summit. Guard Paul Miller leads the team in scoring (13 points a game), while guards Khy Kabellis and Carlin Dupree both average around ten points a game.
The Bison are also very stingy on defense. Thru 13 games, they have allowed the fewest points per game (65) and the second lowest opponents field goal percentage (41%) in the league.
Tipoff is 7:00 PM in Brookings Wednesday. Either the Jackrabbits of Bison have represented the conference in the NCCA Tournament each of the last five years.
Week one of the Summit League schedule continues Saturday afternoon as South Dakota State hosts South Dakota.
The Coyotes (9-6) are also trying to work in some new players on their roster this season and Air Force transfer Matt Mooney has been making the biggest impact so far, scoring in double figures in 12 of 15 games, while leading the team with 15 points per game.
Iowa transfer Trey Dickerson, Colorado State transfer Carlton Hurst, and Northern Idaho transfer Trey Burch-Manning are all new faces in the starting lineup.
The one veteran returner for coach Craig Smith is center Tyler Flack, the team's lone senior. Flack is leading the league in offensive rebounding.
The Coyotes have been very balanced on offense, with eight different players leading them in scoring so far. USD is off to its best start at the Division I level.
Tipoff is 1:00 PM at Frost Arena Saturday.
I talked with South Dakota State head coach TJ Otzelberger about the week one match-ups: