#116 North Dakota State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

North Dakota State Bison

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #116
Conference Rank: #2 Summit League

North Dakota State Team Page#116 North Dakota State Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy North Dakota State Basketball Tickets

When two-time Summit League Coach of the Year Saul Phillips booked NDSU for Ohio after the 2013-14 season, many thought it was the end of an era for the Bison. The 2014-15 team boasted a lot of talent, but rookie head coach David Richman didn’t have the experience to take them back to the NCAA Tournament….right? Wrong. Richman not only kept the Bison over .500 (both overall and in-conference) but he guided the Bison back to the NCAA Tournament. Losing long time stud Lawrence Alexander is going to hurt the Bison, but with a couple incoming recruits and enough returning talent, they are once again one of the three best teams in the Summit league going into 2015-2016.

2014-15 Record: 23-10, 12-4
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA Tournament
Coach: David Richman
Coach Record: 23-10 at NDSU, 23-10 overall

Who’s Out:
Out of the seven double digit MPG players from last season, only one of them is leaving for the Bison. Normally, this would be a celebratory affair. But, when said player averaged over 38 minutes, 18 points, 4 rebounds, and shot 44.1% from the field? The celebration ends rather quickly. The player leaving is Lawrence Alexander, a three year starter from Peoria, Illinois. Needless to say, Alexander (the Summit League Player of the Year in 2014-15) was easily one of the best mid-major players in the nation last year. Offensively, he was borderline unstoppable with a deadly jumper (44.1%) a tough first step to the basket (4.3 free throw attempts per game) and a great midrange game (43%). He wasn’t quite as sharp on the defensive end, but he was obviously above-average if he played over 38 minutes per game for the Bison. However, what really made Alexander special was his ability to simply take over games when his coach needed him to. His seemingly endless motor and drive to be the best made him such a tough player to stop once he got in his groove. Losing one player certainly isn’t a horrible thing, but when it’s someone as good as Alexander, it’s hard to stay happy for too long.

Who’s In:
Although David Richman’s on-court work was impressive last season, his recruiting (at least on paper) is a few steps behind. He has a lot of new faces coming in, which is good, but not a single one of the six is unranked. Of course, at the mid-major level, this doesn’t mean they won’t necessarily be effective. Khy Kabellis is an incoming freshman point guard from Escondido, California. Kabellis is an interesting point guard. He’s tall for the position (6-3) but pretty slim (160 pounds). He’s a capable shooter, but definitely prefers to do his damage by letting his teammates do the majority of the work. He’s a pass first guard that knows the game well. Deng Geu is an incoming freshman power forward from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Geu is a guy that is not afraid to go in there, do the dirty work and get out. That means he doesn’t mind battling for rebounds, defending the bigs, or getting buckets based solely off of pure hustle. He’s a solid athlete, but is still very raw on the offensive end. His midrange jumper leaves a lot to be desired, while his post moves are improving, but still not up to par. He should get minutes based purely on hustle next season, but it’ll be a couple years until he’s a real force to be reckoned with. Dylan Miller is a freshman power forward from Hillsboro, Illinois. Miller is bigger than incoming wing Trey Miller, but he’s still undersized at the PF position. He’ll have to rely on his shooting more than anything to do damage at the next level.

Trey Miller is a versatile small forward from Kenmore, Washington. Miller redshirted last season, but seems poised to make an impact this year. At 6-7 and 195 pounds, Miller is not at a disadvantage size-wise. Talent-wise, however, Miller still has a ways to go before he can match up against some of the other players in the Summit League. He relied on his size a little too much in high school. Not a lot of high school small forwards are 6-7, 195, so Miller often times got easy buckets inside. That won’t happen in D-1 ball. He’s going to have to become more dangerous from outside if he hopes to become prominent at some point in his career. Spencer Eliason is another redshirt freshman from Chadron, Nebraska. At 6-8 and 220 pounds, Eliason is already a physical specimen down low. He’s a bully down there, easily outmuscling his high school opponents and averaging a double-double (16.2 ppg, 10 rpg) in his senior season. His defense is solid, but he’ll need to get even better if he hopes to start for defensive minded coach David Richman.

The final recruit, junior college transfer shooting guard Malik Clemens (a sophomore), is also the one with the most potential. He may be unranked, but he is a potentially dangerous wing because of his silky smooth jumper, killer handles, and just intense nature. He has a killer instinct and thinks he’s always the best player on the floor; much like departed wing Lawrence Alexander. Clemens won’t get to NDSU next season and average 19 points per game, but he’s a potentially double digit scorer next season who should only get better as time goes on.

Who to Watch:
There are really three big names to watch here on next year’s team. The first is rising sophomore small forward AJ Jacobson. Nobody is going to replace Alexander for next season, but Jacobson might just be the closest to doing that. Jacobson, another wing, actually has a similar playing style to Alexander’s. He’s a lights out shooter (40% three point) that can also drive (3.2 free throw attempts per game). However, the biggest difference between Jacobson and Alexander is their respective midrange games. Alexander was dominant from the midrange. Jacobson, although still capable from 15-20 feet, definitely isn’t as comfortable. Also, it should be noted that his defense, although still good, isn’t quite as good as Alexander’s either. Jacobson will lead this team in scoring next season, but that number most likely won’t be higher than 15-16 a game. The next big returner is junior forward Dexter Werner. Werner’s numbers didn’t blow away anyone last season (8.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) but it’s his per-40 stats that should really be looked at. He averaged 16.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, truly stunning numbers. The talent is there, now it’s time for Werner to start staying on the floor. He averaged only 2.3 fouls per game last season, not a horrible number; however, it was his iffy motor that held him back. He’s not particularly tall (6-6) but is large (245 pounds). He’ll need to get in a little better shape for next season if he hopes to see a jump in his stats. The final notable returner is senior shooting guard Kory Brown (8.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg). Brown isn’t as talented as Jacobson or Werner, but he’s one of two seniors on next year’s roster and has been around for three years already. Those types of players are invaluable, and Brown will likely have a larger role than he did in last year’s rotation (26 mpg).

Final Projection:
Losing a guy like Lawrence Alexander is tough. He wasn’t only one of the best mid-major players in the nation, but he was also a leader that could be relied on for help both on the floor and in the locker room. NDSU has a great young coach in David Richman and enough returning talent to make a run for the Summit League title yet again, but they’ll need a guy like Jacobson to step up big time.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Carlin Dupree, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Kory Brown, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
AJ Jacobson, Sophomore, Forward, 11.6 points per game
Dexter Werner, Junior, Forward, 8.4 points per game
Chris Kading, Senior, Forward, 5.3 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 64.9 (235th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.3 (62, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.4 (178, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (121, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (101, 4)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.3 (36, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.2 (172, 7)
Rebound Margin: 1.7 (117, 3)
Assists Per Game: 9.5 (330, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.8 (9, 1)


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