#131 North Dakota Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

North Dakota Fighting Hawks
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #131
Conference Rank: #2 Big Sky
North Dakota returns seven of the eight players who average double digits in minutes last year. That was a young team in 2015-2016, but they managed to win 17 games and reach the CIT. In fact, the Fighting Hawks were really close to a special season. They fell to Weber State in the Big Sky semifinals in overtime and then lost their opener in the CIT to UC Irvine in overtime. Those are the types of games North Dakota should be able to win this year with a more experienced squad. Speaking of experience and leadership, Quinton Hooker provides both for UND. The 6-0 senior guard is coming off a season in which he averaged 20.1 points, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals. Hooker can score from anywhere on the floor and has his hand in everything this team does on both ends of the floor.
2015-16 Record: 17-16, 10-8
2015-16 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Brian Jones
Coach Record: 124-168 at North Dakota, 124-168 overall
Who’s Out:
Justin Hobaugh and Shane Benton are gone, but Adam McDermott is the only departure of a player who was in the regular rotation last season. McDermott earned just one start, but averaged nearly 23 minutes per game during his lone season with UND. McDermott averaged 6.7 points per game, with just about all of those points coming from beyond the arc. Like one would expect from a McDermott, he is transferring to Northern Iowa.
Who’s In:
With just about the entire regular rotation returning, not much will be asked of the newcomers. However, Jafar Kinsey and Solomon Tyson-Rolls are both junior college transfers who could fill a couple holes on the roster. Kinsey, who spent a season at Robert Morris before heading to the junior college ranks, is a versatile 6-2 guard who can score some points. He is not going to shoot like McDermott, but he can provide a spark off of the bench. Tyson-Rolls adds needed depth to the frontcourt. At 6-8 and 200 pounds, he is big, but he is also athletic. Tyson-Rolls will not likely add too much to the offense, but he can come in off of the bench, play tough and grab some boards. Incoming freshmen Kienan Walter, a 6-8 forward, and Billy Brown, a 6-3 guard, will have trouble cracking the regular rotation this year.
Who to Watch:
With Hooker, there are seven returning players on North Dakota’s roster who could be starting. Geno Crandall will start beside Hooker after averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 assists as a freshman. Coming off of such a productive freshman campaign, the expectations are high for Crandall. His outside shooting needs to improve and a year of starting experience should help him cut down on the turnovers. Corey Baldwin was a regular starter last year and averaged 7.8 points per game. Because Baldwin is mostly a shooter and UND lost their shooter off of the bench, Baldwin could be relegated to the bench. Cortez Seals would be the guy to step into the starting role. He had a very promising freshman campaign and averaged 7.5 points per game. Seales is not a shooter, but he is a player who can create some offense and get to the basket. Drick Bernstine, Carson Shanks and Conner Avants all earned starts in the frontcourt in 2015-2016. Bernstine, a 6-8, 220 pound junior, will start at power forward. He is the team’s top interior scorer and easily the best rebounder on the squad. That was especially true during conference action, where Bernstine averaged 10.9 points per game during conference games. Shanks is a seven-footer who can swat away a few shots and help out on the glass. At 6-7 and 230 pounds, Avants is not nearly as big as Shanks, but he is a better scoring option.
Final Projection:
Regardless of who starts, North Dakota has seven players who are proven contributors to this team. With the newcomers and players like Bryce Cashman, Coach Brian Jones should have little trouble filling out the rotation. The Big Sky should be pretty tough at the top, but this is a North Dakota team that has the talent and experience to compete with the more traditional conference powers and perhaps make a strong run towards an NCAA Tournament berth.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Quinton Hooker, Senior, Guard, 20.1 points per game
Geno Crandall, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Corey Baldwin, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Drick Bernstine, Junior, Forward, 9.7 points per game
Carson Shanks, Junior, Center, 5.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.0 (135th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.7 (167, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.5 (96, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.8 (192, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.2 (262, 11)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.9 (119, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (240, 9)
Rebound Margin: 0.4 (175, 5)
Assists Per Game: 13.3 (177, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2 (225, 8)