Thursday was a tough night for both Bison basketball teams, the NDSU men losing at the buzzer to Oral Roberts in Tulsa in overtime, while the women let a twelve point lead evaporate at home before falling to the Golden Eagles.
The NDSU men now stand at 4-6 in league play, in a three way tie for fourth place with Denver and Oral Roberts. They have four league games remaining, with three of them on the road. It’s hard to get a gauge on this team, they have moments where they look impressive (the win at South Dakota in early January was the high water mark for this team) and other games where they look lost (home games to UND and the first half against USD).
The biggest mystery to me has been the play of AJ Jacobson. Jacobson had a stretch where he had no points, five and five points. He scored 16 Thursday in the loss against ORU, but the inconsistency has been head scratching, especially during his senior season. Dylan Miller, who started 19 games last season, didn’t play a minute last night and has seen his playing time drop since the first of the year. Head coach Dave Richman said that Miller is “just not in the rotation right now.” Fans were hopeful that Deng Geu would take the next step forward in his sophomore year and while there have been flashes this season, there’s nothing consistent.
You can point to youth and inexperience, ten of the fourteen players on NDSU’s roster are freshmen and sophomores. But outside of Paul Miller, none of the upperclassmen have been reliable this season. Richman is counting on his young players to become great and Tyson Ward is on his way to that status. Cam Hunter has shown flashes of being really good, but has been plagued with turnovers and typical of what happens to a redshirt freshman.
I’m curious to how this season ends. NDSU’s last two seasons have had great starts and then tailed off at the end, including a 7-1 conference start last year to a 4-4 finish. If the Bison pick it up over the last five games and make a run in Sioux Falls, we can erase this blog and give credit to where its due. But right now things are rough for the Bison men.
I have always been of the mindset that NDSU should never fall out of the top three in the Summit League standings. Resources and talent alone should have the Bison there. They’ll need some work to get there this season.
As far as the Bison women’s basketball team, plenty has been written in this spot about the struggles of this team. NDSU starts today 1-9 in conference play, with games against Denver, Omaha, Western Illinois and Omaha remaining. I have been at the last two home games for NDSU against SDSU and Oral Roberts. The Bison were outclassed by the Jacks, but many teams have been made to look silly by SDSU, but the talent disparity is alarming. Thursday though has to be more head scratching, NDSU started the game on a 12-0 run and looked in fine form. Over the final 35 minutes ORU outscored NDSU by a 64-45 margin and dominated the game.
Maren Walseth is nearing the end of her fourth year and is staring at another single digit win season. Yes the Bison have won more games this season, but three of them were against NAIA teams and another is against Fort Wayne, who’s only won four games. The improvement that many were hoping to see this season has not happened, and to me there are questions about lineups and who’s playing. Taylor Thunstedt, the school’s record holder in three-pointers made, is now coming off the bench. Kennedy Childers, who had played well in spots, is no longer on the team. I am not privy to lineup rotations or why a certain player is playing when, but there are reasonable questions that can be asked about what’s the status of the team and where things are going. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the women’s team and it’s unfortunate is this: Does anyone care?