South Dakota State Jackrabbits
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #126
Conference Rank: #1 Summit
South Dakota State Team Page
South Dakota State winning the Summit League is as about as much of a sure thing as there is in college basketball. The Jackrabbits boasted a 27-8 overall record and a 15-3 record in the Summit League. They also return four starters, but this is not the same conference it was a year ago. Oral Roberts split for the Southland, leaving the Summit League on a downswing for the now. The Jackrabbits could very, very easily be a better team than the one that lost by just eight points to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, but they will likely have a lower seed barring some big non-conference wins. But this is a team that can beat anybody thanks to senior guard Nate Wolters. Wolters led the squad with 21.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals during the 2011-2012 campaign. He is not a great shooter and Wolters will often use his 6-4 frame to score around the basket, but he will make some three-pointers and even more mid-range jumpers.
2011-12 Record: 27-8, 15-3
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Scott Nagy
Coach Record: 316-198 at South Dakota State, 316-198 overall
The big loss is Griffan Callahan. He averaged 10.4 points per contest and knocked down 40.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during his senior season. He also ranked third on the team with 4.7 rebounds per game. However, Callahan was one of four wing players who shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, so he is certainly replaceable. On a team that generally went six or seven deep however, it remains to be seen if this group will have enough quality depth. Zach Monaghan was a small part of that depth last season, but left the program after his freshman season.
If the Jackrabbits want to play like they did last season, meaning small, they could use some depth from incoming freshmen guards Jake Bittle and Matt Donland. Bittle may be the point guard of the future and Coach Nagy could ease him into things a little bit this season. Donlan is more of the traditional Jackrabbits player…a big wing who can shoot. And South Dakota State can never have too many big wings that can shoot. Conner Devine is the newcomer with size. At 6-9 he has the size this team needs. At 185 pounds, he will not be banging around in the paint very effectively as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
Wolters is obviously the player that makes this team tick, but while defenses overreact to Wolters every move, the point guard will find one of his many shooters. Jordan Dykstra shot 47.3 percent from long range last season. Chad White shot 47.2 percent and Brayden Carlson shot 46.1 percent. Those are some amazing numbers and they will stay amazing. Dykstra is the most consistent and effective of the three sharp-shooters. At 6-8, he is also the tallest player in the starting lineup and will do his part on the glass despite taking nearly half of his shots from beyond the arc. White, who mostly came off of the bench last season, is the more aggressive player getting to the basket. At 6-6 and 213 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to be an even better slasher. Carlson, at 6-4, is the smallest of the shooters, but he is also the backup point guard on those rare occasions when Wolters is out of the game. It is also nice to have somebody else who can handle the ball so Wolters can work off the ball every once in a while. Sophomores Taevaunn Prince and Zach Horstman will compete for playing time off of the bench on the wings.
Tony Fiegen is the one player who stays inside the arc. At 6-7 and 220 pounds, he is smaller than Dykstra, but Fiegen plays a very important role on this team. He is enough of a scoring threat that the opposing defense has to pay a little attention to him. Marcus Heemstra is Fiegen’s primary backup at the five spot, but Dykstra can play there too. Unfortunately, nobody is much of a defensive presence in the paint. The shot blocking numbers are pretty much non-existent. Heemstra is the best shot blocker on the team, but it is unlikely that he will see much more than the 8.9 minutes per game he got in 2011-2012. That leaves South Dakota State extremely vulnerable to bigger, stronger post players. The Jackrabbits do a nice job of preventing interior passes and easy buckets down low, as seen in the NCAA Tournament game against Baylor. And the team’s overall size is certainly not a problem, but the defense can disappear at times. The problem for this season will be the competition in the Summit League. The conference is not going anywhere in the long run with established programs like Oakland and IUPUI and an emerging North Dakota State squad, but South Dakota State could have a pretty low RPI compared to last season. However, this is a team that could knock off a top seeded squad on any given day.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Nate Wolters, Senior, Guard, 19.1 points per game
Brayden Carlson, Junior, Guard, 7.3 points per game
Chad White, Junior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Jordan Dykstra, Junior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Tony Fiegen, Senior, Forward, 7.0 points per game