2012-13 COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF // thesummitleague.org // @summithoops
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE JACKRABBITS
Overall Record: 27-8
Summit League Record (Finish): 15-3 (2nd)
Postseason: Won Summit Tournament, Lost in NCAA 2nd Round
2012-13 QUICK GLANCE
Head Coach (Season): Scott Nagy (18th)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 8/2
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
SUMMIT LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL
All-League Selections: Nate Wolters (Player of the Year, 1st), Jordan Dykstra (2nd)
BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE BASKETBALL YEARBOOK
Analysis Excerpts: South Dakota State's breakthrough came a lot earlier than anyone thought.
Coach Scott Nagy knew it was coming. He knew his team had the talent to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. But, honestly, he was thinking 2013.
The Jackrabbits messed up the plan, winning the Summit League tournament and earning an NCAA berth, the first in the school's Division I history.
"We were picked third [in the Summit] and thought that was about where we should be picked," Nagy said. "It just felt like going to the NCAA was a year ahead of schedule, but certainly we'll take it.
"This year, we have a better basketball team. Whether or not you can win 27 games, I don't know if you can count on that any year. We just had so many things fall in place last year. In terms of talent and experience, it's as high a level of both of those that we've ever had here."
The good news for Nagy is that the best player in the league is back for his senior season. Nate Wolters (21.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.7 apg), a 6-4 guard, is in elite company when it comes to stat stuffing. He came within one assist of becoming just the fifth player in NCAA history to average at least 20 points, six assists and five rebounds in a season. He led the Summit in assists (and was 19th nationally) and was second in the league in scoring (and eighth in the nation).
Still, Nagy sees a chance for Wolters to improve, especially with his shooting. Wolters, who often had to toss up the ball as the shot clock was about to expire, hit 45 percent from the field and 24 percent of his three-pointers.
Last year's NCAA tournament berth did wonders for South Dakota State's profile. It opened recruiting doors that Nagy had never entered before. And he no longer had to explain the tale of the Jackrabbits.
"Your university can't buy exposure like that," Nagy said. "We put ourselves in a position where people recognize us now."
Nagy's team goes from hunter to hunted. The Jackrabbits won't be able to sneak attack anybody in the Summit. Or in nonconference games either. Win 27 games and you gain a target.
South Dakota State is a heavy favorite to win the Summit.
Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the "bible" of preseason preview publications, is now in its 32nd printing. To see the complete version of this story, as well as 344 other profiles of Division I schools, order the 400-page 2012-13 edition at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or by calling 877-807-4857.
OTHER PRESEASON PROJECTIONS
Athlon Sports: 1st
Lindy's Sports: 1st
USA Today: 1st
Yahoo! Sports: 1st
courtesy SDSU Sports Information
In its fifth year in The Summit League, and after four years of full Division I eligibility, South Dakota State finally reached its goal of winning the league championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament, something the Jackrabbits would like to repeat in 2012-13.
"We reached one of our goals last year in reaching the NCAA Tournament, but just getting there doesn't mean that we accomplished every goal we set," South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy said. "We can't rest on our laurels, especially if we want to get back to the tournament."
The Jackrabbits lose just one starter from the team that tied a school-record with 27 wins last year, and return a total of eight letterwinners, including all-Summit League first team selection Nate Wolters.
The only player in NCAA Division I ranks to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last year, Wolters led the Jackrabbits with 21.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in 2011-12, setting the SDSU junior scoring record with 721 points in the process.
A St. Cloud, Minn., native, Wolters enters his senior season with 1,628 career points and 476 assists, which puts him on pace to break the school's all-time scoring mark of 1,931 points and the all-time assists mark of 605.
In addition to Wolters, the Jackrabbits return all-league second team selection Jordan Dykstra, who overcame an early season injury to average 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Now a junior, the 6-8 forward from Rock Valley, Iowa, can score from anywhere on the floor, which he proved during a three game stretch in February, when he set an SDSU record by making 11 consecutive three-pointers.
Senior forward Tony Fiegen and junior guard Brayden Carlson also return to the starting lineup, and even though they combined for 20 double-digit scoring performances in 2011-12, they do the dirty work on defense for the Jackrabbits.
"We think Tony is one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the league," Nagy said. "The work that he and Brayden do night in and night out doesn't always show up in the box score, but they both make teams earn every point they get, and we need that again this year."
The Jackrabbits need that defense to fill the role of Griffan Callahan, the lone starter lost and the lone senior from the 2011-12 squad. In addition to his defense, the Jacks need to replace Callahan's 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Junior Chad White and sophomore Taévaunn Prince enter the season as the front-runners to fill the void left by Callahan. White averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last year, while Prince averaged 6.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in his first season as a Jackrabbit.
"I'm not worried about scoring points, I know we can do that," Nagy said. "We need guys to step into that leadership role and we need guys to play defense and rebound the basketball, stuff Griff did for this team every night."