With it being 2015, the University is legally allowed to have a new nickname, and discussions as to how the nickname will be selected have already begun.
The fanbase seems to be split into three camps: those in favor of changing the nickname, those who would prefer it stay due to the history and tradition associated with it, and those who militantly want it to stay regardless of anyone else’s feelings (and scapegoating political correctness when called out on it). Read more…
The UND men’s basketball team comes into the Sioux State showdown against ndsu at just 3-5 on the season after getting smashed at Minnesota. They really only have one bad loss on the season, however, a 70-60 loss to Texas-Pan American over Thanksgiving weekend. Read more…
North Dakota begins the post Troy Huff (and Aaron Anderson, and Jamal Webb, etc) era with a tough test at Northern Iowa. The Panthers, who finished third in the Missouri Valley last season, return everybody who played at least 20 minutes per game, including Senior Seth Tuttle, who is a darkhorse conference player of the year candidate. Read more…
As an analytics nerd, KenPom preseason ranking day is like a national holiday. Unfortunately, said preseason rankings echo my preseason preview, and don’t reflect well on North Dakota. The rankings have UND ranked 315th nationally (out of 351 teams) and 10th in the Big Sky (out of 12 teams). The full methodology (or the important parts) can be seen here, and a full listing of the Big Sky team’s rankings is after the jump: Read more…
After North Dakota made the conference tournament championship game last year, optimism that UND were a game from the NCAA tournament was quickly replaced by the reality that all five starters off last year’s team are gone, and they’ll again have to build up their talent base.
As an alum of both the University of North Dakota and the University of Kansas, I get both sides of the college basketball spectrum. Kansas lost two of the top three picks in this past NBA Draft, but were able to reload with a pair of consensus top 10 recruits, as well as a fast rising point guard just because. North Dakota, meanwhile, did not lose anyone nearly as good as those two, but who they lost was arguably more valuable. Troy Huff was 18th in usage rate and 22nd in shots taken. Nationally. He was also relatively efficient in taking that many shots, which combined with the fact that UND can’t pull in elite recruits, means that losing Huff is a low blow to the Sioux.
The lone bit of good news for UND fans is that Jaron Nash was granted another year of eligibility. He shot 57% from two last year and was a very good rebounder. He’s also a power 5 type athlete playing at a Big Sky school, which is always cause for optimism.
That’s about where it ends, however. One quick and dirty way to see what everyone has returning is to plot a four quadrant graph of a team’s returning minutes compared to how good they were last year. This doesn’t measure impactful recruiting, but in a league where the level of recruits is fairly even across the board, this is less important.
Normally in these charts you want to be in the top right, but because the better your team the lower your KenPom rank, the bottom right is where you want to be.
UND ends up about where we’d expect. They retain among the fewest amount of minutes in the Big Sky from a middle of the pack team, KenPom wise. It’s a recipe for a down year.
But looking at the chart, a pretty obvious (to me) favorite emerged. While Weber State was picked by both the coaches and the media to win the league, I think Eastern Washington is set up to take the title. My friend Jon Reed had them pegged to finish 5th in the league in his early rankings, and told me he would probably have them fourth in his final rankings. (you can read his Big Sky preview at ESPN here)
Eastern Washington was not much worse than Montana or Weber State last year, return everybody, and has the early favorite for Big Sky player of the year in Junior Tyler Harvey, who played more minutes than all but 5 people in the country, and shot very efficiently. They’ll have to grab some bench minutes from somewhere, but this looks like the best team in the league to me, barring any injuries.
Back to North Dakota. They get a pair of interesting transfers in Carson Shanks, a transfer from Utah State who will be eligible once the fall semester ends, and Terrel de Rouen, a transfer from New Mexico State who will be, I believe, eligible immediately.
De Rouen struggled a bit for New Mexico St as a Freshman in 2012-13, playing under 20 minutes per game, shooting just 43% from two, and posting a higher turnover rate than assist rate. He also had some off the court problems and injury problems. He’s a pretty high risk transfer, but UND will be very thin in the backcourt so it makes a bit of sense.
Shanks, meanwhile, posted decent numbers as a high schooler in Minnesota, and left Utah State after just a semester to be closer to home.
UND also has a pair of recruits this year. Geno Crandall is a 6’2″ point guard out of Minneapolis who won a 3A state title this year. He reportedly passes the ball well and has a high basketball IQ, so it’s a possibility he can see some big minutes right away at point guard. Bryce Cashman helped tiny West Platte HS become one of the best high school programs in Missouri. I’m also intrigued by walk on Kraig Shields, who was named first team all district in high school in Kyle, Texas.
This year will likely be a building year for UND. There isn’t enough talent returning to Grand Forks to make a serious run at a Big Sky title or tournament title, but the good news is that they look to be setting up for another run at a NCAA tournament berth in a couple years.
For the third straight year, North Dakota will take part in the Collegeinsiders.com Tournament (CIT) and, while it will still be a bit of an uphill battle, this is their most winnable game in postseason play.
UND’s opponent, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, finished sixth in the Summit League but could not take part in the conference tournament due to having just moved up to Division 1. The Mavericks are favored by 9 and have a 76% chance to win according to KenPom, but hopefully fans won’t be turning out much for the CIT, which would lessen the home court advantage a bit. Read more…
UND went to Pocatello last night and took down Idaho State in what would normally be a fairly nondescript conference win. However, this one was big for two reasons: first, UND actually won a road game and second, it was their first ever Big Sky win.
Idaho State is the worst team in the league, so take all stats with a grain of salt, but they did allow Idaho State to score only .84 points per possession. However, that is a bit of fools gold as Idaho State shot 56% from two and only turned it over on 14% of their possessions. Their problems stemmed from taking too many threes, and making just 2 of them. Because teams who shoot a lot of threes tend to have a problem with offensive rebounds, Idaho State only rebounded 9% of their misses. That allowed UND to withstand Idaho State’s excellent shooting day inside.
Offensively, UND benefitted most from grabbing 40% of their misses. They have been a terrible offensive rebounding team (mostly because they send everyone back on defense to slow the pace down) in every year they’ve been a D1 program, so this was more of a one game anomaly helped by the fact that Idaho State ranks 325th nationally in defensive rebounding. I wouldn’t expect it to continue, so it’s imperative that they hit a few more shots, especially from three where they have been disappointing this year.
Individually UND got a big boost from Troy Huff. I’ve been critical of Huff in his time at UND because of his terrible efficiency, but he was 5-9 from two last night and has to take a lot of tough shots. If he did that every night we would see UND’s offense start to look a lot better. Speaking of looking better, Aaron Anderson was 3-6 from three last night, raising his season percentage to 37.7%. Given how he has shot it from beyond the arc so far in his college career, he needs to shoot it every time he gets an open look.
Congrats to UND for their first ever Big Sky win last night, and any road win is a good road win, but given how bad Idaho State was and how (relatively) well they were able to stop UND I still have the same questions I did heading into Big Sky play.