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Preseason Preview: North Dakota

Jamal Cain

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 18-19 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: North Dakota Fighting Hawks
17-18 Record: 12-20 (6-12 Big Sky)
Postseason?: None
17-18 KenPom: 239
Date: December 18, 2018
Location: Fiserv Forum
Coach: Brian Jones (13th season)
Projected KenPom Range: 225-275
Projected Conference Finish: 7/9 in the Summit

Departures from 17-18
Geno Crandall: Starting PG: 33.4 mpg, 16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 3.3 tpg, .503 FG%, .417 3P% (Grad transferred to Gonzaga)
Dale Jones: Starting PF: 26.1 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.6 tpg, ..435 FG%, .376 3P% (Graduated)
Tray Buchannan: 3rd Man off the Bench: 12.0 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .346 FG%, .316 3P% (Transferred to Des Moines Area Community College)
Jafar Kinsey: 4th Man off the Bench: 10.0 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 tpg, .288 FG%, .121 3P% (Grad transferred to Central Missouri)
Jaqwan McCauley: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 2 games (Left team for personal reasons)
Garrett Franken: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 12 games (Transferred to Dordt College)
Josh Collins: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 0 games (Transferred to Minnesota-Crookston)
45% of scoring, 41% of rebounding, 43% of assists, 47% of steals, 29% of blocks, 64% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Jal Bijiek: 3-star FR PF, ranked #306 by 247Sports Internal Rankings
Zac Saddler: JUCO PF from Western Texas Junior College
Bentiu Panoam: JUCO PG from Northwest Kansas Technical College
Aanen Moody: 2017 2-star FR SG, unranked by major recruiting services (returns from redshirt)
Marko Coudreau: 2-star FR C, unranked by major recruiting services
Elijah Hazekamp: 2-star FR SF, unranked by major recruiting services
Filip Rebraca: 2-star FR C, unranked by major recruiting services
Lucas Schmidt: 2-star FR C, unranked by major recruiting services
Carter Brooks: Transfer SF from D2 Concorida-St. Paul
Ethan Igbanugo: Walk-on PG (returns from redshirt)
Davids Atelbauers: Walk-on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Marlon Stewart: 6’3” 200 lb RSJR: 28.1 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .432 FG%, .303 3P%
SG: Billy Brown: 6’3” 190 lb JR: 21.8 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .355 FG%, .320 3P%
SF: Cortez Seales: 6’4” 190 lb SR: 33.0 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.2 tpg, .481 FG%, .235 3P%
PF: Conner Avants: 6’7” 235 lb SR: 28.6 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 tpg, .569 FG%, .000 3P%
C: Jal Bijiek: 6’7” 165 lb FR: 3-star FR PF, ranked #306 by 247Sports

Probable Bench:
Kienan Walter: 6’9” 195 lb JR PF
Zac Saddler: 6’7” 210 lb RSSO PF
Bentiu Panoam: 6’2” 150 lb SO PG
Aanen Moody: 6’3” 175 lb RSFR SG
Marko Coudreau: 6’9” 220 lb FR C

Probable Benchwarmers:
Elijah Hazekamp: 6’6” 205 lb FR SF
Filip Rebraca: 6’9” 210 lb FR C
Lucas Schmidt: 6’10” 235 lb FR C
Carter Brooks: 6’7” 210 lb RSSO SF
Ethan Igbanugo: 6’2” 185 lb RSFR PG
Davids Atelbauers: 6’1” 170 lb FR PG

Notes:
• At the end of last season, it looked like North Dakota might be heading for a bounceback season after a disappointing 12-20 campaign. They were only losing one senior to graduation and bringing in a solid recruiting class (by North Dakota standards). Then the transfers happened. The Fighting Hawks lost four players to transfer, most notably their star Geno Crandall. Crandall will be lacing them up for the Zags next season, that alone is proof of how good of a player North Dakota lost. So instead of rebounding, North Dakota looks like they will be spend another seasons stalled in the 200-300 range of KenPom.
• North Dakota lost its star to a top program and may turn to a transfer from a top program to take his place. Marlon Stewart started his career as a Creighton Blue Jay. He may have aimed a little too high as he only managed 40 minutes total his freshman year. He transferred to North Dakota for more playing time and found plenty of it. He was Crandall’s running mate in the backcourt and played the role of second lead guard in the two point offense. His specialty is the drive and kick. He has enough slashing ability to get the hoop and good enough passing to punish defenses when they collapse. He’s sneaky on defense as well, his steal% was top ten in the Big Sky.
• The other star for the Fighting Hawks is big man Conner Avants. He is a traditional back to the basket big man though he is a bit undersized at 6’7”. He doesn’t have any range beyond 10 feet but he doesn’t need it. He shot an elite 57% inside the arc often going against much bigger competition. He has an unlimited motor and was one of the conference leaders in offensive rebounding. Seeing him go against Ed Morrow should be an interesting matchup to watch.
• Last season, North Dakota ran an inverted offense with Crandall and Stewart weaving inside the arc before passing out to sharpshooting center Dale Jones for open threes. Jones is gone but they may have found an instant replacement in a very talented but overlooked true freshman. Jal Bijiek is a rim running forward with a 7’1” wingspan and ability to knock down jumpshots. His 247 ranking of 306 is very humble but may undersell what the Iowa native has to offer. Biljiek was recruited by several top programs including LSU, Oklahoma, Wichita State, and Texas Tech. An injury sidelined him for much of the evaluation period and schools were very cautious with him. North Dakota was one of the first to offer him and stayed on him consistently, even after the injury. They should reap the benefits now as Bijiek is supposedly 100% healthy and ready to showcase why he was getting high major offers.
• Outside shooting is going to be a major concern for the Mountain Hawks. They lose three of their top four snipers from last season. Of the three remaining who had at least 5 3PMs last season, none were particularly accurate. To complicate things further, none of their incoming recruits are known as lights out shooters. If they don’t address their range challenge, opponents will be able to flood the paint and take away the space that players like Avants and Stewart need to operate.
• North Dakota switched conferences over the summer. They are upgrading from the Big Sky to the Summit conference. It is a much more natural fit for them as they will get to play longtime rivals such as South Dakota, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State. The move also is an upgrade in the level of competition. The Mountain Hawks were towards the bottom of the Big Sky. It may mean a season or two in the basement of the Summit.

Prediction:
• North Dakota has its moments and Bijiek even throws down a rim rattling dunk or two but its not near enough. Howard spends all game reminding Stewart why he needed to transfer out of the Big East and ends with 20 points on his own. Marquette ends with a margin of victory somewhere between 15-25.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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