Countdown to Tip-Off: North Dakota State Men

Countdown to Tip-Off: North Dakota State Men

2012-13 COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF // // @summithoops


2011-12 REVIEW

Overall Record: 17-14
Summit League Record (Finish): 9-9 (t-4th)
Postseason: Lost in Summit Quarterfinal, College Basketball Invitational participant

Head Coach (Season): Saul Phillips (6th)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 8/3
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/1
Key Returnees:

Taylor Braun

  • All-Summit League first team pick
  • Among the league's top five returning scorers and rebounders after leading NDSU with 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year
  • Seven games with at least 20 points last year including a career-high 30 at IUPUI.

Lawrence Alexander

  • Last year's Summit League Newcomer of the Year and a Mid-Major Freshman All-American
  • The league's top returning freshman scorer and assist man
  • Averaged 12.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and ranked fourth overall in the league with 4.6 assists per game.

Marshall Bjorklund

  • Preseason pick for the All-Summit League second team
  • Led the league in field-goal shooting for the second straight year at 67.1 percent, second best in NDSU single-season history
  • Averaged 11.6 points and ranked eighth overall in the league with 5.9 rebounds per game.

Web Page:
Twitter: @SaulPhillips

Position: 2nd
All-League Selections: Taylor Braun (1st), Lawrence Alexander (2nd), Marshall Bjorklund (2nd)

Forecast: 2nd
Analysis Excerpts:  Who's going to step up and challenge South Dakota State for Summit League supremacy this year?

How about North Dakota State, the other team to finish at least .500 in the Summit race? The Bison welcome back their top five scorers from a team that qualified for the CBI. Alas, they're the top five scorers from a team that ruined a 15-7 start with a 2-7 finish.

"We've got a lot to prove," said sixth-year coach Saul Phillips. "We've got a lot of guys back, but a lot of growing up to do. Lack of maturity got the best of us at times. We like our talent, but we've got to keep growing."

Fortunately for North Dakota State, there are enough older players to suggest the Bison ought to be mature and experienced enough to make a run at the title.

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 or by calling 877-807-4857.

Athlon Sports: 3rd
Lindy's Sports: 2nd
USA Today: 4th
Yahoo! Sports: 2nd

courtesy NDSU Sports Information

Judging by the results of the last three years, North Dakota State might just be knocking on the door for another NCAA tournament appearance this March.

After losing four starters from its 2009 NCAA squad, the Bison have been steadily progressing the past three years with 11 wins, 14 wins and a 17-win season last year culminating with an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational.

But even with the consistent steps forward, NDSU wasn't completely satisfied with last year.  The Bison started 6-0 and 13-4 before losing 10 of their last 14 games.

"It was just an odd season all around," said sixth-year NDSU head coach Saul Phillips.  "I think some of that was relative immaturity within the team.  We were young.  We looked young, and we played young."

NDSU returns its top five scorers from last year's squad – all of whom are sophomores and juniors – including All-Summit League first team pick Taylor Braun and reigning Newcomer of the Year Lawrence Alexander.

"We're very similar to the spot that we were two years before we made the NCAA tournament," Phillips said.  "That doesn't guarantee that you'll make that progress and get to that point, but athletically, with the players we have, we've got a chance to do something special."

Braun, a 6-foot-7 junior, is considered one of the best wing players in The Summit League.  He led the Bison with 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season and was one of the top 10 shooters in the league at 52.0 percent overall and 77.3 percent from the foul line.

Alexander, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, returns as the point guard after averaging 12.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last year.  He was named to the Mid-Major Freshman All-America team.

The Summit League's leader in field goal percentage the past two years returns on the frontline for the Bison.  Junior Marshall Bjorklund averaged 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds last year while shooting 67.1 percent from the floor – second best in school history.

Junior forwards TrayVonn Wright and Jordan Aaberg give the Bison a pair of shot-blocking threats up front.  Wright averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds last year with a team-high 36 blocks, and Aaberg averaged 3.9 points off the bench and was second on the team with 24 blocks.

On the perimeter, junior shooting guard Mike Felt was one of the nation's best 3-point threats last year in his role off the bench.  Felt connected on 78 of 181 attempts for 43.1 percent, which ranked 14th in the NCAA.

Rounding out the backcourt are sophomore Joel Lindberg, who played about 15 minutes a game off the bench as a true freshman, and the only senior on this year's club, Nate Zastrow.

Walk-on guard Fred Newell is back for a third season and 6-8 forward Chris Kading is coming off a redshirt year.  Also joining the Bison are 6-4 freshman guard Kory Brown out of Elgin High School in Illinois, Kading's former high school teammate Brett VandenBergh, a 6-5 forward from De Pere, Wis., and 6-6 forward Dexter Werner of Bismarck, N.D., who is expected to redshirt.

North Dakota State opens its season at home Nov. 9 against NAIA Valley City State before taking on preseason No. 1-ranked Indiana in the Progressive Legends Classic on Nov. 12.

The Bison also have a road game at Minnesota and a home-and-home series with 2009 and 2011 NCAA tournament participant Morehead State to highlight the non-conference schedule.