Tomorrow when WMU travels to South Dakota State to take on the Jackrabbits, they will kick off a season full of expectations and hope. The "rematch" from last year's thriller will be in Brookings, and will feature a more experienced Bronco squad up against a decent SDSU team.
Unfortunately, I'm not very informed of the Jackrabbits, and have no time to research. Luckily, some mid-major angel sent me Corey from SummitMadness.com to help me out. To see what information I gave him, just click here.
1) Last year the Jackrabbits scored like bunnies mate, fast. After finishing 8th in PPG last year, does this look to continue in 2011-12?
Whether one prefers a traditional stat like points per game or an advanced metric like points per possession, it is true the Jackrabbits had a stellar offense last season. They achieved that largely by picking their shots with care and protecting the ball. In fact, SDSU had the second-lowest turnover rate in the country last year. As shown over at our website, the Jacks' returners have the highest average offensive rating of any group of returners in the Summit League this year. Translation: the offense should once again be potent.
2) Your team has only 3 players over 6-6, we have 7. How nervous does this make you about rebounding, where you guys ranked 152nd last year in the NCAA?
South Dakota State was one of the weaker rebounding teams in the Summit League Last season. Interestingly, coach Scott Nagy opted to move forward with his young core of big men this year instead of bringing in a junior college transfer or a big freshman. Because of that, we should be reasonably confident that Nagy has a lot of faith in his sophomore forward tandem of Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra. Both players reportedly added a bit of muscle in the offseason, which should help Heemstra especially. Dykstra is battle-tested, so he should be able to compete for boards in this match, but WMU has a number of big and experienced rebounders who will undoubtedly test the thin frontline of SDSU.
3) You guys shot 21 3's last year. After seeing the size differential, it looks like that is how you guys run your offense. On a scale of holidays, where 1 is Columbus Day and 10 is Christmas (or Hanukkah for our Jewish friends), how scary is this offense to watch being run against a team with such a large size differential?
The Jacks were a prototypical perimeter-oriented team last year: lots of threes and supreme ball control, but very few offensive rebounds and less-than-stellar ability to get to the free throw line. If the team makes those threes, then they are in good shape. Just about every starter has three-point range, and last year most of them were efficient from that area of the court. I think this year's team will still rely on the three-point shot, but there will likely be an added emphasis on getting the ball to Dykstra in the post and allowing rising sophomore Chad White a chance to create off the dribble. Point guard Nate Wolters will surely help in getting those guys passes to open up more scoring chances in the paint. Some players have to make an expected leap, but the size differential shouldn't cause chest pains this season.
4) You guys finished 5th in the Summit last year. You guys lost 2 seniors, but return 4 of your top 5 scorers and 4 guys who saw starting actions last year. Do you feel a run in the conference and a possible NCAA birth is in the works?
Offensively, South Dakota State is as strong as any team in the Summit League. Where the team needs to show improvement is on the defensive end. Part of that is just getting more experienced and getting bigger in the offseason -- two things that should help the team this season. The Jacks are set at point guard with Wolters and in the post with Dykstra. They need for wingman Chad White to make a leap this season to stay in the top tier of the league. That said, this team has a high ceiling. It will most certainly compete for a championship this year, but it's destiny year might be one year away.
5) After us, you go to Minnesota and Georgia with only a day between each game. Besides that, and a pair of trips to Nebraska and Washington, the non-conference schedule doesn't look that bad. How do you feel about fairly easy non-conference schedule? If you have to school me in these teams that the upper-mid-west hides, please do.
I like this schedule quite a bit. SDSU can hang with all the major conference teams it plays, except perhaps Washington. Most importantly, those games will give Wolters a chance to showcase his talents on a bigger stage, which is important for a program like South Dakota State. Aside from a multi-team event at Mercer, the non-conference schedule is missing one or two more quality mid-major match-ups. Last year the Jacks had WMU, CMU, Nevada, and Milwaukee. You'd like to see maybe one more school like that this year over a non-Division I opponent, but we all know scheduling at this level can be tough, particularly getting opponents at home. That said, this schedule should challenge the Jacks more than they have been in past years. The WMU match will serve as a great benchmark to begin the season.
I'd like to again thank Corey over at SummitMadness for this Q&A, and wish his Jackrabbits well on this season (after the WMU game of course).