With the plans of building a new Scheels Center at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex leaving the North Dakota State basketball program without the use of its original home, the school announced Wednesday that it has agreed to a two-year deal with Scheels Arena to play its games there during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Scheels Arena is a 5,000-seat off-campus facility, and in addition to every men’s team home game the women’s team will play three games there during the 2014-15 season.
“We are extremely excited and very appreciative of the opportunity to partner with Scheels Arena,” head men’s basketball coach David Richman said in the release. “There is no doubt that it will provide a first-class atmosphere for our fans and our student-athletes.”
This sets up for an interesting period for the North Dakota State program, with Richman being in his first season as head coach and the Bison looking to build on a season that featured the school’s first NCAA tournament victory. Richman will have to account for the departure of three of the team’s top four scorers, as Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright are all out of eligibility.
However Lawrence Alexander, who averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 assists per game last season, returns as does fellow guard (and starter) Kory Brown (7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.