Game Preview: Vanderbilt vs. Northern State

Vanderbilt's men's basketball team opens the season Thursday night with an exhibition game with the Northern State (N.D.), a team coached by ex-Lipscomb coach Don Meyer. The Commodores take on the Wolves at 7 pm CT. VeeMan, VandyMania's resident hoops expert, breaks down the Wolves and offers a prediction.

The Northern State (N.D.) Wolves are a lower-division NCAA team coached by Don Meyer, the noted coach for over 20 years of Nashville's Lipscomb University Bisons. Vanderbilt played the Wolves in an exhibition game before the 2001-02 season and won 72-59.

The Wolves had a record of 20-9 last year, 15-3 in NSIC Conference games. From that team they lost two starters-- leading scorer and rebounder Sundance Wicks, as well as Nick Schroeder, a good three-point shooter.

The Wolves return three double-digit scorers in 6-6 sophomore center-forward Aaron Busack (12.2 ppg), 6-2 junior guard Jarod Obering (11.5 ppg), and 6-4 junior forward Dustin Hjelmeland (10.2 ppg). Obering was second in assists and hit 38.6% of his three-pointers (171-66). Busack was second in rebounds (4.7 per game). All three were starters. Busack has plenty of muscle (240 lbs), and Hjelmeland is not slender (215 lbs). Hjelmeland connected on 47.2% of his three pointers last season (89-42).

6-2 senior guard Steve Smiley is the point guard. He averaged almost five assists per game and was third leading rebounder, but scored only 4.1 ppg. 6-5 sophomore Adam Grant, a 220 pounder, scored 6.9 ppg and is likely to be the fifth starter. If so, the Wolves will have no one taller than 6-6 in the starting lineup.

However, there is considerable height in two freshmen. 7-0 Bjoern Schoo played club ball with the USC Freiburg (Germany) semi-pro team, and weighs 240 lbs. 6-10 Dan Magrino is from Pembroke Pines, Fla. There are four other freshman: Craig Nelson (5-11), Kyle Schwan (6-1), Chris Wachs (5-9), and Luke Wicks (6-3).

Other returnees who may play are 6-3 junior Tony Birmingham, 6-5 sophomore Taite Plaas, 6-3 sophomore Matt Hammer, and 6-4 senior Del Mims. Hammer saw considerable action last season and scored 5.7 ppg, but the others were bench-warmers.

The Wolves are obviously outmanned by Vanderbilt, but they can be counted on for good team play and discipline. They averaged almost 80 points per game in 2002-03, while giving up just 70.5 ppg. They made 18.5 assists per game and turned the ball over just 13.9 times.

Vanderbilt should win handily, although experimentation with different player combinations may hold the score down. Top Stories