Big League Clew’s Road Trip Continues! This week he traveled from South Dakota all the way to Tennessee to take a look at two more Mid-Major contenders.
Season’s greetings from America’s heartland, where the true sports fans live. Whether they follow college or professional sports, the sports fans from the Great Plains are some of the most die hard fans in the country. Win or Lose, these people follow their teams to the end, and boy do they love their hoops. My first stop this week was in the prairies of South Dakota, where I took closer look at the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits.
South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (10-4, 2-0, 1st in the Summit League)
Previous game results: Defeated Washington, 92-73 – 12/18
Next game: vs. IPFW (Indiana-Purdue University- Fort Wayne) Mastadons – 12/28
Welcome to Jackrabbit basketball people! The SDSU Jackrabbits boast Junior PG Nate Wolters, one of the most talented point guards in the Summit League. While South Dakota State has, for the most part, been non-existent in the NBA scouting world, bur Wolters (who was voted Pre-Season 1st team All Conference), is doing his best to change the opinions of NBA scouts. Is he this year’s version of BYU’s Jimmer Fredette? Despite SDSU’s disappointing finish (19-12),Wolters put together some of the most well-rounded statistics in the nation during the 2010-2011 season. He averaged 19.5 ppg and 6.1 assists while shooting nearly 41% from three-point range. Coming from a non-traditional basketball school (and playing in the small conference Summit league), Wolters will likely have an uphill battle to prove he can play at an elite level of competition, but he is gaining a lot of national attention.
Is this Team a Contender or a Pretender?
One of the team’s bright spots this year has been their offense, where their ability to score points has them ranked 36th in the country. The rest of their game still needs a lot of work, but with Wolters contributing in both offense and defense, look for the Jackrabbits to contend for the summit league championship. If they do make it to the big dance, however, they probably won’t stick around for that long.
Key Players: G Nate Wolters (21.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.1 rpg), G Griffin Callahan (11.5 ppg, 5.9 rpb, 40% 3 pt shooter)
I next hit the road and headed to another Mid-Major powerhouse. This time the road led to Tennessee, as I checked out the Sun Belt Conference and got a good look at Middle Tennessee State.
Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders (11-2)
Previous game results: Beat Ole Miss 68-56 – 12/21
Next game: vs. Florida Intl. – 12/29
Everyone has probably heard of this team, since we all see their scores on that ESPN sports ticker, and I am sure a lot of you have wondered… “who the hell cares about Middle Tennessee State, and where on earth is it even located?!” Well, I care, that’s who!! Actually, until recently, the Blue Raiders had no importance in the athletic world. That is, until this year’s men’s basketball program stepped onto the court. With a ballsy win against UCLA early on this season in the Maui Invitational, the Blue Raiders established themselves as a power house in the Sun Belt Conference. They might not be the flashiest team, and they might not be able to grab 40+ boards a game, but they do all of the intangibles. They are ranked first in the country in Field Goal pct and 38th in assists. MTSU will need to continue their trend of coming out strong with hot hands as they head into conference play, and hopefully build off of these last few victories, in order to contend. The Blue Raiders are shooting 53% from the field and 41% from behind the three-point line this season. This team clearly has the ability to score a ton of points and, although they lack the presence of rebounding (185th in the country. Yeesh!), they still find ways to make shots and win ball games. Oh by the way, for those of you who were left hanging in limbo as to the whereabouts of MTSU (Tennessee’s largest state university), it is in the great city of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Which also was the capitol of Tennessee until 1826. (Jobu’s Note: Who says you can’t learn anything from this blog!?!)
Is this Team a Contender or Pretender?
It has been a while since the Blue Raiders have been relevant in the realm of college basketball, and with conference play around the corner, it will be interesting to see how this team stacks up against their rivals (especially since other schools in the conference boast better rebounding programs). However, some of these smaller schools can be dangerous in conference play, so I wouldn’t overlook any of them if I were the Blue Raiders. Overall I think they should be able to hold their own in the conference and make a run to the big dance, where (depending on seeding) they could make a sweet 16 run.
Key Players: C LaRon Dendy (14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg), G Marcos Knight (13.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F J.T. Sulton (12.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Wolters image courtesy of: South Dakota State University
Dendy image courtesy of: http://www.zimbio.com
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